Euthanasia, and coming to the decision that it is the right time, is unquestionably the hardest part of pet ownership. Yet if you have come to the decision that the quality of life of your pet has declined, whether through age or illness, then you have already done the first hard thing. Acknowledging that the relief of suffering is in your dog’s best interest. The etymology of the word euthanasia is comforting for this very reason; ‘eu’ meaning good or well, and ‘thanatos’ meaning death. A good death, or ‘easy death.’
Table of contents
- Educate yourself on the process and options before the day arrives
- Have a look into home euthanasia services
- Start thinking about what quality of life means
- Make your dog’s last day the best day possible
- Book the euthanasia appointment for the quietest part of the day
- Discuss sedation
- Bring your dog’s favourite things with you
- Find peace with your decision
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There are a number of things that you can do as an owner to make the process as peaceful as possible for both you and your dog. After spending many years guiding owners and patients through euthanasias, here are some inside tips that may make this easier for both you and your beloved pet.
Educate yourself on the process and options before the day arrives
If you know that euthanasia is imminent, and if you have the capacity to plan it. Then phone the veterinary clinic to discuss what happens on the day. When you know what to expect you can come prepared. You will be able to turn your focus entirely onto your pet. Learn what your options are after your pet has passed away for care of their body and take some time to think about which one of those options you would prefer; normally including cremation, home burial, or more affordable communal cremation.
Before euthanasia, discuss with your vet what to expect as your pet passes. Owner’s are usually a little surprised by how quickly it happens. Reflexes such as twitching, gasping, and passing urine and/or faeces is normal. Be prepared to sign consent forms, and perhaps consider paying before the procedure is done to save yourself that stress of trying to settle the invoice afterwards. Self-preparation is key to a peaceful process.
Have a look into home euthanasia services
Some veterinary clinics offer a home euthanasia service, or there are outsourced services that cater solely to the growing requests for customised home euthanasia. If your dog becomes stressed at the vets, or if you simply feel that you would prefer to be surrounded by your own, comfortable environment, investigate options to be able to allow your dog to pass away peacefully at home.
Start thinking about what quality of life means
As your pet ages, or illness progresses, it is important to start having the conversation over the assessment of their quality of life and what things you should be looking for. It is valuable to watch their appetite, mobility, comfort levels, respiration, engagement with their surroundings and family, and continence. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule that constitutes ‘good’ quality of life, and many of these measurements are subjective, they allow some direction when it comes to decision-making towards their end-of-life.
Make your dog’s last day the best day possible
Make their last day one to never forget. If they are still well enough, take them to their favourite place in the world; the beach, the woods, or even their favourite spot in the garden. Feed them their favourite foods, give them attention, shower them with love. This is all a part of the grieving process. In those final moments, is something for you to hold onto: you’ve given them a life of love, and they know no different.
Book the euthanasia appointment for the quietest part of the day
If home euthanasia isn’t a possibility, ask the receptionist to book you in when the clinic is at its quietest. This will normally coincide with the end of the day or the end of the morning consulting block. If the clinic closes in the middle of the day for operations and procedures. This grants you a little bit more privacy in the waiting room, and more liberty and time with your pet after they have passed away.
When your dog is prone to anxiety and nervousness at the veterinary clinic, it may be prudent to consider sedation prior to euthanasia. This usually involves an injection into their muscle or their vein. This allows them to settle into a sleepy, relaxed state before the procedure is undertaken. Veterinarians will ordinarily assess this at the initial discussion, some offering it routinely. Nonetheless, if you know that your pet will be worried, have a discussion about the benefits of sedation with your veterinarian.
Bring your dog’s favourite things with you
Distracting your pet with the things that they love the most often alleviates their anxiety and comforts them when the vet and nurse are preparing them. Whether it be a toy, a blanket, their favourite treats, or a T-shirt with your scent on it. When they are concentrating on their favourite bit of dried bacon or sausage or chicken, they often don’t even notice the needle or cannula that is being placed into their leg. Also, if you decide that you don’t want to be present for personal reasons, then the familiarity will provide them with a sense of calm.
Find peace with your decision
Many people feel a lot of guilt and turmoil when it comes to euthanasia, but just remember that this is the one last selfless act you can do for your pet to ease their pain and suffering. To me, it has always been the greatest act of love and service towards our most loyal companions, and although it is hard, devastating and so final, remember that it is fundamentally forthem. At the end of the day, a ‘good’ or ‘easy’ death, is the one final gift we can give our treasured pets.