Making The Decision to put down your beloved Pet
Perhaps the kindest thing you can do for a pet that is so sick or so severely
injured that he or she will never recover normal health is to have your
veterinarian induce its death quietly and humanely through euthanasia. Your
decision to have your pet euthanatized is a serious one and seldom easy to make.
How will I know when?
If your pet can no longer do with you and your family the things he or she once enjoyed, if your pet cannot
respond to you in the usual ways, or if there is more pain than pleasure in his
or her life, you may need to consider euthanasia. Likewise, if your pet is
terminally ill or critically injured, or if the financial or emotional cost of
treatment is beyond your means, euthanasia may be a valid option.
Your veterinarian understands attachment to pets, and can examine and evaluate
your pet's condition, estimate your pet's chances for recovery, and discuss
potential disabilities and long-term problems. He or she can explain the
medical options and possible outcomes. Because your veterinarian cannot make
the euthanasia decision for you, it is important that you fully understand your
pet's condition. If there is any part of the diagnosis or the implications for
your pet's future that you don't understand, ask to have it explained again.
Rarely will the situation require an immediate decision. Usually, you will have
time to review the facts before making your decision.
As you make your decision, you may wish to discuss the care of the remains of your pet's body
with your family and veterinarian. You have several options, and your
veterinarian can provide information about burial, cremation, or other
What should I do?
Your relationship with your pet is special, and you are responsible for its care and welfare.
Eventually, many owners are faced with making life or death decisions for their
pets. Such a decision may become necessary for the welfare of the animal and
for you and your family.
A decision concerning euthanasia may be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make
regarding your pet. Your decision is a personal one, but it need not be a solitary one. Your
veterinarian and your family and friends can assist and support you. Consider
not only what is best for your pet, but also what is best for you and your
family. Quality of life is important for pets and people alike.
What if the animal is healthy?
Euthanasia might be necessary if a pet has become vicious, dangerous, or unmanageable.
However, some undesirable and abnormal behavior can be changed. Economic, emotional, and space
limitations or changes in lifestyle also may force an owner to consider
euthanasia of a pet, but it is better to find another solution or an
alternative home for these pets. Euthanasia should be considered only when
another alternative is not available.
How do I tell my family?
Family members usually are already aware of a pet's problems. However, you should review with
them the information you have received from your veterinarian. Long-term medical care can be a burden that
you and your family may be unable to bear emotionally or financially, and this
should be discussed openly and honestly. Encourage family members to express
their thoughts and feelings. Even if you have reached a decision, it is
important that family members, especially children, have their feelings
Children have special relationships with their pets.
Excluding or protecting children from this decision-making process, because
they are thought to be too young to understand, may only complicate their grieving.
Children respect straightforward, truthful, and simple answers. If they are prepared adequately,
children usually are able to accept a pet's death.
Will it be painless?
Euthanasia is almost always accomplished by injection of a death-inducing drug. Your veterinarian
may administer a tranquilizer first to relax your pet. Following the
death-inducing injection, your pet will immediately go into a quiet and
irreversible deep unconsciousness. Death will come quickly and painlessly.
How can I say goodbye?
The act of saying goodbye is an important step in managing the natural and healthy feelings
of grief, sorrow, and sense of loss. Your pet is an important part of your life and it is natural
to feel you are losing a friend--for you are. Once the decision for euthanasia
has been made, you and other family members may want to say goodbye to your
pet. A last evening with your pet at home or a visit to the pet at the hospital
may be appropriate. Family members who want to be alone with the animal should
be allowed to do so. Farewells are always difficult.
How can I face the loss?
After your pet has died, it is natural and normal to
feel grief and sorrow. The grieving process includes accepting the reality of
your loss, accepting that the loss and accompanying feelings are painful, and
adjusting to your new life that no longer includes your pet.
There are many signs of grief, but not everyone experiences them all, or in the same
order. Even before death has occurred, your reaction may be to deny your pet is
sick or injured when you learn the extent of your pet's illness or injuries.
Anger may follow denial:
This anger can be directed toward people you normally love and respect, including your
family and veterinarian. People will often say things that they do not really mean,
perhaps hurting those whom they do not mean to hurt. You may blame yourself or
others for not recognizing the illness earlier or for being careless and
allowing the pet to be injured.
You also may feel guilt and depression:
This is when you usually feel the greatest sense of loss. The tears flow, there are knots
in your stomach, and you are drained of all your energy. Day-to-day tasks can seem impossible.
Sometimes you may even ask yourself if you can go on without your pet. The answer is yes, but there
are times when special assistance may be helpful.
Once you and your
family come to terms with your feelings, you can begin to resolve and accept
your pet's death. When you have reached resolution and acceptance, the feelings
of anger, denial, guilt, and depression may reappear. If this does occur, the
intensity of these feelings will be much less, and with time, these feelings
will be replaced with fond memories.
Although the signs of grief apply
whether the loss is of a loving pet or a human loved one, grieving is a
personal process. Some people take longer than others to come to terms with
denial, anger, guilt, or depression. If you understand that these are normal
reactions, you will be better prepared to cope with your own feelings and to
help others face theirs. Family members should be reassured that sorrow and
grief are normal, natural responses to death.
Family and Friends may not understand
Often, well-meaning family and friends may not realize
how important your pet was to you or the intensity of your grief. Being honest
with yourself and others about how you feel is best. If despair mounts, talk to
someone who will listen about your pet and the illness and death.
I cannot forget:
If you or a family member has great difficulty in accepting your pet's death and cannot
resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, you may want to discuss those feelings with a person
who is trained to understand the grieving process such as a grief counselor, clergyman, social worker,
physician, or psychologist. Your veterinarian certainly understands the loving
relationship you have lost and may be able to direct you to community
resources, such as a pet loss support group or hot line. Talking about your loss will often help.
Should I get another pet?
The death of a pet can upset you emotionally, especially when euthanasia is
involved. Some people may feel they would never want another pet. A new pet may
help others get over the loss more quickly. Just as grief is a personal
experience, the decision of when, if ever, to bring a new pet into your home is
also a personal one. If a family member is having difficulty accepting the
pet's death, bringing a new pet into the home before that individual has
resolved his or her grief may imply that the life of the deceased pet was
unworthy of the grief that is still being felt. Family members should come to
an agreement on the appropriate time to acquire a new pet. Although you can
never replace the pet you lost you can get another one to share your life.
Remembering your pet
The period from birth to old age is much more brief in pets than in people. Death is part
of the life cycle for all creatures. It cannot be avoided, but its impact can be met with understanding
and compassion. Try to recall the good times you spent with your pet. By
remembering the pleasure of those times, you can realize your pet was worthy of
your grief. You may also wish to establish a memorial of some type in honor of your pet.
For more thoughts on "Making the Decision" please
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