How To Say Goodbye – Written By Dr. Patricia Ainsworth

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Witten By Dr. Patty Ainsworth

Part 2 of 2

     After much heartache, you and your family have made the decision to euthanize your pet. What next?  In the time prior to euthanasia you may want to spoil your pet a little. This is the one time when all those forbidden foods (chocolate, bacon, etc.) can no longer do any lasting harm.  Time outside sitting in the sun, a last walk or some gentle grooming are all other ways to enjoy time together before you say goodbye.

     I always tell people it is difficult to plan a euthanasia well in advance. After finally reaching a decision, most people hope to expedite the process to end their pet’s suffering.  Our office tries to accommodate your wishes as quickly as possible. I like to arrange euthanasia appointments either early or late in the day or during the midday break. I think it helps everyone feel less rushed and permits more privacy.  However, we can also arrange a time during regular appointment hours if that is most convenient.

     One important point to consider is whether you wish to be present during the procedure. This is a very personal decision that only you can make.  I encourage you to be honest with yourself.  If you feel the experience would help bring you comfort and closure, you are welcome to stay.  If the idea of witnessing the procedure is too upsetting, then please don’t put yourself through it.  I also think the sight of an hysterical owner will provide little comfort to your pet.  If you decide not to be present, you can sign the authorization form and drop your pet off, rather than arranging a specific appointment time.

     Knowing what to expect may make you more comfortable staying for your pet’s euthanasia procedure.  We administer an intravenous injection of pentobarbital, depressing the heart, respiration and central nervous system.  Death is quick and painless.   Every doctor has his or her own routine.  We all make adjustments as circumstances require.  For example, we may place an intravenous catheter to facilitate access to the vein.  We may also give a sedative to relax your pet first.  Each decision is designed to help the process go more smoothly.

     While the majority of pets exhibit no reaction to the injection, some may vocalize or pull away.  You may see involuntary tremors, or an involuntary intake of breath , after the heart has stopped .  Some pets may lose control of their bladder or bowels and their eyes may remain open after they pass away.  Knowing what to expect during the process may help you feel more comfortable remaining during the injection.

     Once your pet has passed away, you will need to decide how to handle his remains.  Many people opt for cremation. A mass cremation means that your pet will be cremated with other pets and the ashes will be buried together.  Private cremation with ashes returned means your pet is cremated alone and his ashes are given to your family in a small wooden carved box or urn of your choice. Whichever option you choose will depend upon what gives you the most peace and closure, so there is never any one “right “answer for everyone.

      The death of a pet can have a profound effect on everyone involved. If you find yourself struggling with sadness or depression after the loss of a pet, there are resources available to help you.  Many humane societies have pet loss support groups.  There are also help lines available at several of the veterinary schools.  Please reach out and ask for help if you need it.  Sadness and grief are normal, but don’t let yourself suffer needlessly.

     Once the worst of your grief has waned, you may find yourself thinking of a new companion. Check back to see a discussion about choosing a new pet if you are ready to share your like with a new pet!

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