Euthanasia for a beloved pet is highly personal decision and usually comes after a diagnosis of a terminal illness and with the knowledge that the animal is suffering. The choices you make for your pet should be informed by the care and love you feel for the animal. Important things to consider include:
Does your pet still enjoy favorite activities, or is he/she able to be active at all?
Response to Care and Affection
Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups—see Resources section below for details. If your own friends, family members, therapist, or clergy do not work well with the grief of pet loss, find someone who does—a person who has also lost a beloved pet may have a better understanding of what you’re going through.
Amount of Pain and Suffering
Is your pet experiencing pain and suffering which outweigh any pleasure and enjoyment in life? If so, please contact your veterinarian to discuss options.
Your Family’s Feelings
If you do decide that ending the suffering is in your pet’s best interest, take thetime to create a process that is as peaceful as possible for you, your pet, and your family. You may want to have a last day at home with the pet in order to say goodbye, or to visit the pet at the animal hospital. You can also choose to be present during your pet euthanasia, or to say goodbye beforehand and remain in the veterinary waiting room or at home. This is an individual decision for each member of the family.
What to Expect When the Time Has Come
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, euthanasia for a pet is most often achieved by injection of a death-inducing drug. The veterinarian may administer a tranquilizer first to relax your pet. Following the injection of the euthanasia drug, your pet will immediately become unconscious. Death is quick and painless. Your pet may move its legs or breathe deeply several times after the drug is given, but these are reflexes and don’t mean that your pet is in pain or is suffering.
How to Explain Pet Euthanasia to a Child
Explain that the pet is ill, often suffering, and that you have the ability to end that suffering in a very humane and gentle way. It is a very peaceful and painless process, and if you really love a pet you have to make these kinds of difficult decisions.
Children tend to feed off of how their parents react. If a parent is hysterical, the children will be the same. If the parents are truly sad, and deal with the sadness in a healthy and thoughtful manner, the children will follow their example.
If you are putting your beloved pet to sleep for the right reasons, tell your children that it is OK to feel sad, but don’t feel guilty. These are two very different emotions. You should feel sad, and your children can feel the sadness, but don’t mix guilt in with the sadness. One emotion is healthy, the other terribly burdensome.
Getting Another Dog or Cat: Moving on After Pet Loss
There are many wonderful reasons to once again share your life with a companion animal, but the decision of when to do so is a very personal one. It may be tempting to rush out and fill the void left by your pet’s death by immediately getting another pet. In most cases, it’s best to mourn the old pet first, and wait until you’re emotionally ready to open your heart and your home to a new animal.
Some retired seniors living alone, however, may find it hardest to adjust to life without a pet. If taking care of an animal provided you with a sense of purpose and self-worth as well as companionship, you may want to consider getting another pet at an earlier stage. Of course, seniors also need to consider their own health and life expectancy when deciding on a new pet.