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End-of-life Pet Care
Coping with the impending loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences a pet owner will face. Whether your pet is simply old or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s important to calmly guide the end-of-life experience and minimise any discomfort or distress.
As your pet’s health declines, you may elect to care for your pet at home—with the supervision of a veterinarian—or you may decide to end his suffering with euthanasia.
What exactly happens when an animal is put down?
Your veterinarian has special training to provide your pet with a humane and gentle death. Most often, he or she uses a two-step process. First, the pet is injected with a sedative to make him calm and comfortable. Next, he injects a special medication.
These drugs function in such a fashion that the animal experiences no awareness of the end of life. The process is akin to undergoing general anaesthesia for a surgical procedure. The process takes about 10 to 20 seconds. The veterinarian then checks to make sure that the animal’s heart has stopped. With this procedure, there is no suffering.
Is there a “right time” to euthanise an animal? And how will I know when that is?
If your animal has episodes of obvious suffering during the day or night, it may be time to plan euthanasia. It is important to ask your veterinarian for the exact signs of suffering likely to be associated with the condition or disease that your pet has. Sometimes an animal will continue to eat or drink in spite of pain, panting or disorientation. If you are not sure how much your pet is suffering, keep a daily record of the good times versus the bad times.
Then you can decide when the quality of life is so poor that it is time for you to give him the gift of ‘good death.’ Sometimes people are tempted to delay the moment of euthanasia, because we anticipate our own intense grief. Unfortunately, we may regret that we allowed the pet to linger too long.