Euthanasia is the act of providing a peaceful passing to a pet in need. This can be due to declining health, sudden severe illness or even behavioral disorders such as aggression. This is often a topic we shy away from or don’t think to discuss until we are faced with making this decision. Fear of the unknown and struggling with the concept of euthanasia are common reasons to avoid this decision. The purpose of this blog is to bring understanding to you as a pet owner about a process that we as veterinary professionals feel is one of the most compassionate and loving decisions you can make should your pet need.
The word euthanasia means ‘good death’- and our purpose in this is to alleviate suffering and bring peace where otherwise an illness or health condition will not allow for this. This decision to step in is an act of love saying that you will not allow further suffering and want your pet to pass with the dignity and comfort they deserve. Pets are very stoic in general about pain and discomfort so it can be very hard to decide it is time for euthanasia but that is something your veterinarian can help you determine.
In cases where this is a planned process we often recommend spending that last day spoiling your pet rotten. This can be done by doing all their favorite things, eating wonderful food they wouldn’t otherwise get and in general celebrating this life that has brought so much joy to a household. That last day can be a great transition ensuring some beautiful memories and reminiscing about their life before letting them go.
How is euthanasia performed?
Euthanasia starts with sedation to help your pet relax and fall asleep. This can be in the form of oral medication or injectable and often done in your presence. Once your pet is asleep, they feel no pain and are not aware of anything around them. When you are ready, we follow that medication with the actual euthanasia solution which stops the heart. This happens over a matter of minutes allowing for a peaceful passing with absolutely no discomfort to your pet.
After your pet passes they can appear to give a breath or gasp- please know this is a reflex of the body letting air leave the lungs and does not always occur. You pet is no longer there and then is simply an effect of the body relaxing. You may also notice that urine or feces leak which is natural and expected.
How can I be part of this process?
There are 3 main options in regards to how you can support your pet through euthanasia. You can be there while your pet is sedated and then leave (at this point they are asleep and do not know that you have left the room), be present throughout the procedure or choose to not be part of this at all.
There has definitely been a big discussion about pets being distressed when their owner leaves and chooses to not be part of the euthanasia. Let me start by saying this is not true. In this situation we let you visit and spend quality time with your pet and when you are ready we come in and take your pet to be with our team. That simple act of us coming in to the room rather than you leaving the room first communicates to your pet that you did not leave them but that our team came to get them. Our nurses and other doctors will often be at your pet’s side and for that brief moment we are their family telling them they are loved and comforting them as they fall asleep. I know without a doubt- our team takes these moments to celebrate that life that often has touched our heart as well. We will always gladly come forward and be there should you choose not to as we know how hard this decision can be. It is a highly personal decision whether or not to be a part of this process but know that all of them are right and in any situation your pet is loved. Our goal is to support you on this hard day and make this process as easy and smooth so that we honor that life that has so touched yours.
We are here for you.
It is an honor to care for you and your pets.
Love, your UVH Family