How to choose a good death

For many people, the memory of the loss of a pet or a beloved companion can bring on feelings of tremendous sadness, grief, anxiety and depression, to name but a few.  The fact that one even has a choice may make additional feelings of guilt and helplessness, aggravate the decision and process.  Where in fact, if you are prepared by the knowledge of the “when and how”, to make a decision, there can be a lot less trauma connected to this experience.

It is helpful to be clear in your mind about the following:

  1. Choices – We do not always have a choice when it comes to euthanasia of a pet, such as in cases of severe acute onset of disease or illness with a very poor prognosis, or in the case of monetary constraints where surgery or lifesaving procedures are needed.  But sometimes we do have a choice.  The fact is that you can be open with your veterinarian in an honest discussion about his or her opinion and your choice for or against humane euthanasia.  It is your responsibility towards your animal to make the right decision at the right time in consultation with your vet.
  2. Quality vs Quantity – Some of our companions may suffer from longstanding disease, illness or conditions that carry a poor prognosis, even though they can still walk, eat, urinate and defecate at the very least. That does not mean that they are not in pain or distress.  It is pertinent to consider that your animal may not always be able to exhibit signs of extreme discomfort or pain, as not all symptoms present with an asymmetrical lifting of one leg.   Here again it is for the sake of your animal, that you should discuss the quality of life with your veterinarian.  The minimum “lines in the sand” are normally eating, drinking, urination and defecation, and being mobile enough to get to a comfortable place without assistance, depending on the underlying condition.  Our animals WILL NOT SCREAM CONTINUOUSLY TO EXHIBIT EXTREME PAIN.  They normally suffer in silence, and we have the power to save them from suffering, albeit in consultation with your vet.
  3. What to expect – Euthanasia is a relatively simple process, by which a drug, similar to an anesthetic agent, is administered strictly intravenously. Now if you ever had an anesthetic, you would know that it is a painless process, but always carries a risk due to the different anesthetic planes.  If you are too deep, and too far under anesthesia, your brain shuts down and stops your breathing, and your heart.  During the euthanasia process, this is how your animal basically falls asleep before other organs stop functioning, and it happens fairly quickly.  I do reiterate that THERE IS NO PAIN EXPERIENCED BY THE ANIMAL.  After the administration of the drug, there can be involuntary muscle movements or fasciculation’s, or even agonal breathing.   This is just the effect of the lack of oxygen on the neurological system, which is an involuntary muscular response.  The most stressful part is normally where your veterinarian needs to place the intravenous catheter, before the administration of the drug.  If you are calm, it does help your pet and vet to get this over and done with quicker, as animals often react to their owner’s distress.  It is better to have a clear decision before you go through this process, about what you want done with your pet’s body after the procedure.

In conclusion, the better prepared you are the less stressful the process will be.  Always be mindful of your pet’s needs, by putting yourself in their “paws”.  When you look through their eyes the only thing you will see is LOVE.