Deciding when to say goodbye to a pet is arguably the hardest decision you will ever have to make as a pet owner. Putting an animal to sleep, also known as euthanasia, is a decision that most owners won’t take likely, and it is very common for people to worry that they’ve made the wrong decision. So, what if you do change your mind – is it possible?

When to consider euthanasia 

Euthanasia may be offered in a number of contexts. It generally will be when an animal is suffering and there is a concern about your pet’s quality of life. Maybe they’re not eating or drinking, or maybe they’re experiencing a lot of pain. This may be something you have to think about over time, in the case of an animal with a chronic illness such as arthritis or kidney disease. Your pet may have been treated for this illness for a long time, but treatment or management is no longer working.

Sometimes, a decision needs to be made quickly, particularly when a pet suddenly becomes ill or is in an accident. In some cases, there may be more than one option presented to you on how to proceed with your pet’s care. One of these may be euthanasia. Your vet will guide you through these options. But in some cases, may recommend putting an animal to sleep if it is in their best interest.

Your vet can help you decide when the time is right for both you and your pet. While they cannot make a decision for you, they can guide you and answer any questions you might have.

What it involves 

Once you have made the decision to say goodbye, the process is fairly simple. Before everything happens, you will have to sign a form to say that you consent to putting your animal to sleep. You may or may not choose to stay with your pet – either option is a completely valid choice.

The vet will place a catheter in a vein in one of the legs. Then, they will be given an overdose of an anaesthetic drug which stops the heart from beating. Some vets will opt to give sedative drugs beforehand too. The process is generally very quick and peaceful. Sometimes, animals may have involuntary muscle contractions, even once they’ve passed. This is completely normal, but can be distressing for some owners. After, you may want to stay with your pet for a while, or leave straight away. Again, whatever decision you make will be respected. 

You can change your mind…

Saying goodbye to a beloved pet can be really hard, and your vet will understand if you need to take some more time to consider your options, or spend more time with your pet. Understandably, many people worry about making the wrong decision. However, it’s important to remember why you were considering euthanasia in the first place, and why it has been offered or maybe even recommended by your vet. How are they in comparison to a week ago, a month ago, even a year ago? If an animal is suffering, then the option of euthanasia will never be a wrong choice.

If it was given as one option among several, then you are entitled to go back to your vet and run through your options again; thinking about the outcomes for your pet. If you decide to go down a different route instead of euthanasia, then that’s ok.

Euthanasia, though incredibly difficult, is one of the kindest things we can do for our pets. Do speak to your vet if you need advice, they will be able to run through all your options and help you to have confidence in your decisions. 

Further resources