Thinking about the death of a pet is not something we like to do but sadly as pet owners we will all face this situation.
As our pets get older we need to consider their quality of life and think about what signs they may be showing us that they are in pain or not enjoying life as they used to.
It is very rare for an animal to die peacefully in their sleep. There are often chronic diseases involved which is normal as the body grows older. Diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease and arthritis can be managed well for long periods but eventually can lead to a loss of quality of life and may cause pain and distress for our pets. It is at this stage that we need to make a decision about when is the best time to say goodbye and consider euthanasia.
Sadly our pets cannot tell us their pain and it is up to us as owners and vets to monitor quality of life. As an owner you see your pet daily and know their routines. Often you will be the first person to notice a difference, whether it be a change in eating, toileting, hearing, sight or brain function (ie. confusion, disorientation). As a veterinary team we can offer suggestions with how to improve your pet’s twilight years and keep them comfortable and enjoying life. We can also offer advice to assist you with making the difficult decision on when is the right time to say goodbye. We will be led by you, it is common for a dog who struggles to get up off the floor at home to suddenly be standing and full of energy when they get to the vet clinic. This is often due to nervousness or excitement and is not indicative of your pet’s natural state at home and we trust that you know what is normal and what isn’t with your pet. Our goal is to work as a team to ensure we manage your pet’s quality of life and decide when euthanasia is appropriate.
Some frequently asked questions about euthanasia are:
How will I know when it is the right time?
Sometimes it is obvious if there is something obviously wrong with our pet, for example if they are suffering from acute heart failure or are struggling to breathe. Other times the changes can be more subtle, such as loss of appetite, incontinence, change in sleeping habits. This is when you need to consider yourself as your pet’s advocate and think what is best for them. Was your cat a portly greedy guts when younger and now struggles to finish a meal, vomits or is losing weight? Does your dog get distressed when he defecates on the floor as he knows he should go outside but he couldn’t make it in time because of mobility issues? While losing them is a heartbreaking thought, is keeping them around assisting them or prolonging a life which isn’t what it used to be.
Will I be judged for my decision?
Absolutely not. You are the best person to advise us what is normal and what is not normal for your pet. The vet may offer suggestions to assist with keeping your pet comfortable to extend their life if they believe it is possible and even at that stage if you do not want to go ahead with treatment you will not be judged. Some animals cannot tolerate being medicated and we do not want to make the end of their life miserable. We understand that a decision like this is very difficult and personal and you may have other circumstances in your life that contribute to the decision making process.
How does it happen?
We will make an appointment for you to see the vet. The vet will explain the procedure to you. They will also discuss what you would like to do with your pet’s body after the euthanasia. We offer cremation services with both returned and non-returned ashes or you may wish to take your pet home with you. You can take your time to make this decision and we can provide you with brochures with different options for returned ashes.
You are welcome to bring family or a friend to the euthanasia. Children can sometimes get very upset at the loss of a pet but again this is your decision if you would like them to be present. For more information on children and grief please click through to the link below:
We will require you to sign a consent form to identify yourself as the owner of the pet and to give consent for the vet to perform the euthanasia.
The vet and a vet nurse will place a cannula in your pet’s vein in the front leg (occasionally it has to be placed in a back leg vein). An extension tubing set will be attached to the cannula and it will be taped onto your pet’s leg. This allows us access to your pet’s vein whilst allowing you the space to sit with or cuddle your pet. The vet will check that you are ready before administering the medication.
The medication we administer to euthanise your pet is an overdose of anaesthetic. It is pain free and very quick (usually under 5 seconds). In the majority of cases your pet will fall peacefully to sleep and then they will stop breathing and their heart will stop. The vet will check this with a stethoscope.
You can take time to spend with your pet after they have passed away. Your pet’s eyes will not close and they may urinate or defecate after the euthanasia.
Occasionally after a pet dies they can still take what looks like big breaths up to a minute or two after the medication has been administered. This is not your pet waking up, it is the body expending the last bits of energy it has stored.
What happens when I leave?
Our staff will place your pet’s body in cold storage and will contact our cremation company, Edenhills Pet Cremation. They will prepare to collect the body and arrange cremation in line with your wishes. If you wish your pet’s ashes to be returned they will be returned to the vet clinic in 10 day to 2 weeks and we will call you to notify you of their arrival and you can collect them from us. Some special requests for plaques, engraving etc may take a little longer.
Pet’s are an important part of our lives. If you struggle with the idea of losing a pet or would like more information about grief we suggest getting help from someone. A friend or family member may be happy to support you through the difficult time, alternatively you can contact a professional in the mental health industry or read more information at the links below. Some support networks are:
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Lifeline 131 114
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
We are here to support you and can assist with any questions you have.