Here’s a note that one of our mobile vets received:
The health of our seventeen year old indoor cat, “Capone”, has been deteriorating for the past several months. He has lost so much weight and has so little energy that he really isn’t himself anymore. We love him so much that we don’t want him to suffer, but we don’t want to give up on him either. How do we know when its time to say goodbye?
As pet owners, we are blessed (and cursed) with the legal ability to humanely end an animal’s life. We are fortunate that we do not have to watch our beloved pets suffer indefinitely with terminal illness the way our human family members often do. That said, it can be incredibly difficult to have the responsibility of deciding when to perform euthanasia. Because we cannot ask our pets what their preference would be, and because we cannot ask them the degree to which they are silently suffering, it is natural for us to struggle for long periods of time with this emotionally painful decision.
If your veterinarian has been treating your pet for prolonged illness, he or she will be able to help you decide when it is time to consider euthanasia. Veterinarians consider many factors, including the animal’s appetite, energy level, body condition, mobility, pain, and cognitive function when helping an owner assess a pet’s quality of life. With some illnesses, diagnostics such as bloodwork or xrays can be used to give us an idea of the degree to which the animal is feeling unwell, and what the likelihood is that the illness will improve or worsen over time. To help our clients know “Is It Time?”, we’ve created a free guide that gives you a specific checklist of factors to consider when trying to come to the right decision for your pet’s wellbeing.
Broadly speaking, we suggest that our clients consider euthanasia when the pet’s bad days outnumber their good days. Because the purpose of euthanasia is to eliminate prolonged, untreatable, or inevitable suffering, it can be argued that it is better to euthanize a terminally ill or aged animal a day too early than a day too late.
Suffering does not have to include physical pain in order to warrant euthanasia. Some elderly pets will experience symptoms of dementia and constant confusion or restlessness which can lead to mental suffering. Some pets will succumb to organ failure which, although not particularly painful, can cause suffering in the form of chronic nausea and lack of appetite.
It is not uncommon for clients to believe that if the pet is still up and around and taking in food, the pet is not suffering. It’s important to keep in mind that animals are extremely good at hiding their distress. When you think about what life would be like for an ill or injured animal in the wild, it makes sense that a pet in distress would want to disguise their symptoms, whenever possible. For this reason, it can be very helpful to consult with your veterinarian on the level of distress your pet’s physical condition may be causing.
Once you have arrived at the decision to euthanize your pet, rest assured that your veterinarian will provide the procedure as comfortable and stress-free as possible. This is where having an in-home euthanasia can make all the difference in the world, both for you and your pet.
Your veterinarian will explain to you step-by-step what the procedure entails before proceeding and discuss your wishes for aftercare arrangements and cremation. It’s not uncommon to provide sedation for your pet prior to the procedure to minimize anxiety.
When you’re ready, your veterinarian will administer the euthanasia solution through the IV line. Your pet will not experience any discomfort with this injection and will not be aware of any feelings of distress. The solution rapidly induces a brief state of anesthesia, as if your pet were to undergo a surgery. Within a few more seconds, the solution will cause the heartbeat and breathing to cease. Your veterinarian will ensure the procedure is finished by listening for a heartbeat with her stethoscope so that you need not worry about the completeness of the euthanasia. It is customary at that point for the veterinarian to leave the room and to give you as much time as you desire to grieve your pet in privacy.
Occasionally we’ve had clients who struggle more than average with their feelings of post-euthanasia grief or even feelings of guilt associated with the decision to euthanize. It can be intensely difficult to be expected to carry on with life and work as if nothing ever happened and to be surrounded by family members, friends, or co-workers who do not understand the unique bond you shared with your pet. Sometimes our pets are the most loyal friends or family we have.
Sometimes our pets are the only friends or family we have. Often, our pets have unconditionally loved us through some tragic or difficult times in our lives. These shared experiences solidify our relationship with our pet and entrench them so deeply in our hearts that we cannot bear to imagine life without them. For our clients that are hurt so deeply by the loss of their four-legged friend that they struggle going on with everyday life, we encourage them to seek grief counseling. There are grief counselors as well as support groups who specialize in pet loss.
Pets can be incredibly loved and important members of our families and once they are gone they leave a paw-shaped hole in our hearts. The process of saying goodbye can be a very painful one, and if you are wondering if “it’s time”, please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a Quality of Life Consultation or make final arrangements for your pet’s euthanasia. Helping you through this painful time in your life is one of the many things we are here to do. You can learn more about the complete list of euthanasia and aftercare services we provide at www.pawstorest.ca.