Deciding when its time to say goodbye to your beloved pet is an incredibly difficult decision. When owners decide they must do this, the most humane option is euthanasia. Euthanasia is done in a veterinarian’s office most often, and results in an animal essentially falling asleep and peacefully stopping their heart via a chemical injection. The injection is called pentobarbitone.
Pentobarbitone is essentially an anesthetic for animals, similar to the ones used before a pet undergoes surgery. It’s a high dosage that is designed to cause the animal’s heart and brain to slow down. Then, the animal loses consciousness and all pain ceases. While in this deep sleep, the heart slowly stops beating. The process is peaceful, humane, and completely painless.
There are many reasons why people choose to put their pets “to sleep”. Not all of these reasons are valid, so it’s important to examine your own reasons as to why you think your pet may need to be euthanized before going forward. Veterinarians will likely tell you if their professional opinion is that euthanasia is the best option for your pet.
Here are some reasons for putting an animal to sleep:
1. The animal is suffering from an illness that is no longer receptive to relief or therapies. Terminal illnesses in their advanced stages are often accompanied by pain and suffering. While a terminal illness doesn’t denote a need to immediately euthanize an animal, receiving the diagnoses does mean its time to start paying attention to if your pet seems to be in pain or in discomfort. Pain and discomfort as a result of the terminal illness are unlikely to be able to be relieved to much extent, and the more humane thing to do in that situation is to euthanize. This also applies to illnesses that aren’t terminal, but have a low likelihood of survival even with treatment and chronic illnesses where keeping a pet alive requires serious long-term medication and veterinary visits and the quality of life of the animal is low and unlikely to improve. Keep in mind that an animal’s quality of life is different to that of a human. For example, dogs who are blind, deaf, or of limited mobility may be completely happy, while some dogs may not be. Knowing your dog, the signs of depression, and asking your vet about their opinion are the only way to surely tell if an illness is too much to fight.
2. Animals who are extremely aggressive even without triggers is a valid reason to euthanize. While not every aggressive act means that an animal should have a death sentence, unprovoked aggression is often a good sign that rehabilitation of that animal is unlikely. If behavioral modification and training don’t ease aggression, or the aggression seems to get worse over time (this may be an indicator of an underlying illness that may be treatable), it may be time to consider euthanasia. It’s unsafe for the owners and people around them to be around this animal.
3. The animal contracts a disease that is deadly to humans and other animals around it that cannot be cured and are highly infectious. This includes exotic diseases, rabies, bird flu, and even Anthrax.
4. Financial limitations are sometimes a valid reason for euthanasia if an animal has a life-threatening or difficultly treated diseases and the medical treatment is far beyond what the owner can afford. This happens semi-often and is quite sad and highly debated. Many believe that money should not be a factor in deciding to put an animal to sleep. In a perfect world, that’s certainly true, however isn’t how practicality works in the real world. Of course, options should always be explored for raising money or lowering costs before considering euthanasia.
Knowing when it’s time to euthanize a pet is difficult. As humans, we’re swayed by our emotions to always decide that it isn’t time. However, if you find yourself asking the question, it might be a good indicator that the time is near. When your pet’s spirit is consistently low, when it doesn’t eat or seem to want to get up anymore, and it seems like it may be in pain, those are good indicators that it may be time. Keeping a pet journal to track mood, eating, responses, drinking, abilities, and vet visits is a good idea when trying to identify patterns in the animal’s experience and behavior. If you feel that you’re just keeping the pet alive because it’s too hard to say goodbye, it’s probably time to say goodbye.
Keeping your pet alive isn’t always what they want. However, pets can’t decide to euthanize themselves. Many people just want a last few days, and think it’s in their pet’s best interest because of mutual love and affection. A pet living with pain or extreme discomfort would likely prefer to pass peacefully than be forced to suffer for longer. Many people want to just let their pets die naturally at home and hope for a peaceful passing, but more often than not, pets don’t die in their sleep and pass in agony over a long period of time while the owner was away or asleep. The more humane thing to do might seem like letting the animal live out its days in its home, but euthanasia is a guarantee of a peaceful, painless passing.
When you do make the decision to euthanize and know that it’s the right time, it’s good to be prepared for the actual procedure. After the pentobarbitone injection, the animal goes into unconsciousness in just a few seconds if administered properly by injection to the vein. Otherwise, it may take minutes. As your pet is undergoing the effects of the drug, they are not in any pain. They may whimper, breathe very heavily, gasp for air after the heart stops, urinate or defecate, and the tongue may tremble. The pet’s eyes often remain open unless they were very sick or near death as it was before the injection. These are all normal, and your pet is not aware of their occurrence.
It’s a good idea to take someone with you for support if you decide to euthanize a pet. No matter how strong we think we are, letting go of a helpless pet is heart-wrenching. You should also take the day off from work and book your appointment for a day where the vet’s office isn’t very busy. You must be certain that you’re doing the right thing before allowing the drugs to be administered as there’s no going back. It’s also a good idea to know ahead of time how you’d like your pet’s remains handled. And remember: euthanasia is painless and in the right circumstances the most humane thing to do.
Making the Final Decision
Euthanasia… What To Expect petMD http://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_dg_euthanasia_what_to_expect
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