Deciding to put your animal companion to sleep is one of the most difficult decisions you will ever have to make for your pet. As a loving pet owner, though, the time may come when you need to help your pet make the transition from life to death, with the help of your veterinarian, in as painless and peaceful a way as possible.
Knowing when it’s time to put a pet to sleep
Euthanasia for a beloved pet is a highly personal decision and usually comes after a diagnosis of a terminal illness and with the knowledge that the animal is suffering badly. Your choices for your pet should be informed by the care and love you feel for the animal. Important things to consider include:
Activity level. Does your pet still enjoy previously loved activities or are they able to be active at all?
Response to care and affection. Does your pet still interact and respond to love and care in the usual ways?
Amount of pain and suffering. Is your pet experiencing pain and suffering which outweighs any pleasure and enjoyment in life?
Terminal illness or critical injury. Have illness or injury prohibited your pet from enjoying life? Is your pet facing certain death from injury or illness?
Your family’s feelings. Is your family unanimous in the decision? If not, and you still feel it is the best thing for your pet, can you live with the decision that you have to make?
If you do decide that ending the suffering is in your pet’s best interest, take your time to create a process that is as peaceful as possible for you, your pet, and your family. You may want to have the 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’s 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 putting your pet to sleep
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.