Louise Swanson has kindly sent in this article, written by her vet, about a subject which as pet owners we unfortunately may have to consider at some point in their all too short lives.
It could be the hardest decision you’ll ever have to make, but it could also be the kindest.
Sadly, very few pets die in their sleep and nearly all pet owners will at some point be faced with the inevitable responsibility of choosing to end a pet’s life. Try not to feel guilt at your decision, particularly if your companion is suffering incurable pain or discomfort. You are demonstrating your love for your dog by putting his needs and welfare before your own thoughts of loss.
What will happen?
Depending on the circumstances, the vet may be able to visit your dog in the comfortable surroundings of your own home, or you may need to attend at the surgery. If this is the case, and the surgery staff are aware of the purpose of your visit, then they will do all they can to make the appointment at a quiet time of the day to allow you as much time as you need for your ‘goodbyes’.
Euthanasia, by definition, means ‘a good death’; and pet owners can take comfort that the procedure involves minimal distress and discomfort for their companions.
Once everyone present is settled, your vet will inject a powerful drug into a vein in the foreleg, whilst you are able to stroke and comfort your dog. He will slip gently into unconsciousness, and almost immediately his heart will stop beating. The vet will then check the dog’s vital signs to confirm that life has ended.
Many vets will set aside a quiet room and leave you as much time as you need to say your goodbyes. If you are unable to be present, be assured that the vet and the nurse will treat your dog with the sympathy and dignity they would afford their own pet.
Vets and nurses care deeply for their patients, and often will have been through this difficult time themselves with their own pets. So, do not feel embarrassed if your emotions overwhelm you. This is not an unusual situation for the practice staff and they will want to offer you help and support.
The intensity of grief you can feel after losing a pet cannot be overestimated; and sometimes it can help to share your feelings with a support group, such as the Pet Bereavement Support Service who can be contacted on 0800 096 6606 or at email@example.com.
How will I know that the time is right?
Most importantly, this is a decision you do not have to make on your own. If your dog has been unwell for some time it can often be difficult to know when enough is enough; particularly if he seems brighter some days than others. Don’t be afraid to seek the thoughts of family, friends, and those who have known him well.
We talk about ‘quality of life’ when it comes to our pets. Think about whether he is still pleased to see you, whether he is still interested in feeding time, whether he can still be active without discomfort, whether he can breathe without distress.
You vet cannot make this decision for you, but they will be able to discuss your dog’s quality of life and help you make the right choice, taking his welfare and future prognosis into account, whilst affording him the dignity he deserves.
(Ed. Many thanks, Louise, for submitting this article about an important subject. Frankie and I have had to take this difficult decision about all our ‘lost’ hounds. It certainly never gets easier. I have always felt that being with them at the end is the final act of kindness and love that I can show them. Cuddling a much loved hound’s head for the final time as he gently slips away from pain, leaves me wishing euthanasia was an option also available for our species. Why do we deserve less? I am always reminded of the CS Lewis quote about loss,
“Why love, if losing hurts so much?. . .
. . The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.”)