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Nearing the End of Your Pet’s Life

Since most pets age more rapidly than do humans and are exposed to physical risks, as well as subject to illness, most pet owners are faced at some point with decisions related to a pet’s injury, illness or increasing infirmities.

At such a time of crisis, a veterinarian can provide you with information about your pet’s condition and the outlook for its future. She or he can describe available options for your animal friend. As your pet’s best friend and loving caretaker, you are then faced with making a decision about which course to follow. It is not an easy decision to make, even if your veterinarian’s recommendations are clear. The nature and extent of your pet’s physical suffering, now and in the foreseeable future, and the possibility of diminished or diminishing quality of life must be considered. Other factors affecting your decision include the extent of your own physical, emotional and financial resources, as well as issues such as the time and stamina which might be required to properly care for a recovering or chronically ill pet. Your final decision is the one you believe will be in the best interest of your pet, yourself and your family in this time and circumstances.

When it is apparent that your pet can no longer live with dignity and without pain, you may decide to end his or her suffering. Choosing euthanasia and needing to say good-bye to a beloved and devoted friend is never easy.  It may be emotionally gut-wrenching. As you prepare for the separation, you might involve family members and friends, arranging ways for them to express their feelings and say “good-bye” as a group or individually, in any way they choose. On our Facebook Page, you will find stories about some of the unique ways others have chosen to spend their last day(s) with their pet.

Again, your veterinarian can be a valuable resource, explaining the process of euthanasia and providing information and suggestions about necessary decisions. Some pet owners choose to have the procedure done at home; others may take their pet to the veterinarian’s office, perhaps administering a tranquilizer before leaving home so their pet will not feel anxious.

Some people find it comforting to stay with their pet during the procedure, providing a loving, comforting presence; others choose not to witness the procedure because it would be too distressing. Decisions must also be made regarding the body – burial or cremation – and what is to be done with the remains. These are very personal decisions; there is not one “right” way to handle the end of your pet’s life.

The reactions of children and teens to the impending or actual death of a beloved animal will vary according to their age. If possible, they should be involved in saying “good-bye,” perhaps planning and participating in ceremony of remembrance.  Young children in particular, who are still forming their understanding of death, may ask to see the body. Try to avoid using the expression “putting to sleep” around young children who might then associate “sleep” with “death” in their own lives.

Most importantly, should you find yourself looking back, second-guessing the decisions you have made and feeling guilty, remind yourself that you did what you believed was best for your pet, yourself and your family at that time and in those circumstances.