Making the decision to euthanize a much loved pet is the hardest decision a pet lover will ever have to make. Although many have stated they feel as though they are ‘killing their pet’, what they are in fact doing is allowing their pet to die painlessly, without suffering and with dignity, the most selfless act of love a pet carer can do. Not only have you had to make the most difficult decision ever, but it is important to decide what arrangements you would like for the aftercare of your pet. I appreciate this is very difficult to do prior to your pet dying but saves you trying to make a decision when you are grieving.
Generally, we decide to euthanize our dog based on advice of our Veterinary Surgeon, or when quantity has overtaken the quality in our dogs life. Pain and Suffering are not the same thing, but the two often go hand in hand. When a dog is suffering they may not show any signs of pain, although they are masters of disguise and can conceal pain from us, however signs of suffering to look out for could include -
Speak to your Vet, ask their advice, is there treatment available and if so is it morally and ethically suitable to continue with treatment or further treatment. Be guided by the advice your Vet is giving you. Don’t be afraid to ask your Vet what they would do if it was their own dog, but ultimately the decision is yours and you will know your dog better than anyone especially if they are no longer enjoying doing all the things they used to do.
Once the decision has been made to euthanize your dog, you should have a plan in place of where you would like the process to be carried out. Many Vets can euthanize a dog in the comfort of your own home, although you should always check first to make sure they do provided this service. It may not be suitable for certain pets to be euthanized at home.
If your dog is to be euthanized at home, it is always best to prepare in advance if you can. You may wish to put a protective waterproof covering under your dogs blanket or placed under your dogs bed. If possible ensure your pets blanket or bed is in an area that is accessible for the Vet so he can have full access to your dog. This also allows you to give your dog a treat of something they really love – chicken or chocolate, although you don’t want your dog to be sick. Under normal circumstances I would never give dogs chocolate! Do you want to keep a clipping of your dogs fur or have a paw print taken, these decisions should be made prior to euthanasia and discussed with your Vet.
Your Vet will ask you to sign a consent form. This is consenting to the euthanasia being administered on your pet. You may also be asked to pay in advance.
The Vet will usually be accompanied by a Veterinary Nurse who will assist the Vet in preparing your dog for the final injection.
It is helpful to discuss in advance with your Vet if your dog will be sedated before euthanasia and if so how will that sedative be administered. Will that be by injection administered by the Vet just prior to euthanasia or under certain circumstances the Vet may allow the pet owner to administer the sedative in tablet form approx. half an hour before the Vet arrives at your home.
Firstly, if this has been agreed, the Vet will sedate your dog. The time taken for the sedative to take effective will vary but it can take up to twenty minutes for your dog to be drowsy and fall asleep. The Veterinary nurse will clean and shave an area from your dogs front leg to gain access to a suitable vein in order to insert a cannula. Sometimes when a dog is really poorly they may have trouble finding a suitable vein and have to repeat this process on the other front leg or perhaps try to access the vein on the hind leg.
A cannula will then be inserted and will be checked to ensure that it allows fluid to pass through easily.
The solution used for euthanasia is Pentobarbitol. Pentobarbital is a barbiturate and used in large doses renders the dog unconscious and slows down the brain and nervous system and the heart will stop beating. Your pet will feel no pain. The liquid in the syringe containing the barbiturate will be brightly coloured – blue, pink, or green. The Vet will then ask you if you are ready for them to administer the injection and if so, will proceed to inject the solution in a slow but steady flow. The solution acts very fast and your dog will die within a minute or two. The vet will check that your dogs heart has stopped beating and will tell you that your pet has passed. When a pet dies the muscles relax and they may pass urine or defecate. Their eyes will remain open and the they may expel air by way of gasps. This is a natural reaction after death although can be very distressing to witness, many believing their pet has not died. You will then be given time to say your final goodbyes.
If you have decided to let the Vet make the arrangements for the aftercare of your dog, the vet will take your dog away with them for cremation. You will need to decide if you wish your dog to have an individual or communal cremation. Some Vets may place your pet in a bag in order to remove them from your home. This can be extremely distressing so ask in advance how your pet will be taken from your home. If you have decided to make the aftercare arrangements yourself, the Vet will leave at that point.
If you take your dog to the surgery for euthanasia, the receptionist making the booking will advise that you attend the surgery during a quiet time. The same procedure for euthanasia will be carried out as it is for a home visit.
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