Euthanasia is a service provided by veterinarians that allows pets to have a painless crossing from life to death. Your pet is anesthetized and becomes extremely relaxed and lethargic before an injection of barbiturates cause the heart and lungs to slowly stop. Your pet does not exhibit any panic, and you can be right beside them while their life is completed.
For many, choosing euthanasia is an extremely difficult task. Gentle Pet Crossing is here to help you understand when it’s the right time to say goodbye, what options are available to you, and how to make sure your pet is comfortable as they begin their transition.
Palliative Care for Your Pet
Palliative care involves keeping your pet as comfortable as possible as they approach the end of their life. They may need certain medication to keep them out of pain or to keep a lid on symptoms of an illness, and you’ll have to be vigilant about administering any pills or injections. You should not overexert your pet or try to entice them into anything that could cause discomfort, such as draining activities, excessive physical play, and more.
Many pets want to stay comfortable, so provide their beds with warm blankets and soft sheets. You can stay nearby and be a source of comfort, as well.
However, it is very important to understand that prolonging life at the cost of suffering can be troublesome for your pet. For this reason, you should consider euthanasia services as well as palliative care. Pets have dignity as well, and you can help ease them from this life to the next while preserving that dignity.
Signs Your Dog is Dying or Ready to Cross over
Perhaps the most frustrating part of pet ownership is the inability to clearly communicate with your pet. Instead, we have to observe signs and changes in behavior and physicality to assess the health of our animals. You should know that not all pets will exhibit these symptoms; in fact, some will not exhibit any at all. In other cases, the signs will be numerous. Bear in mind that some indicators of dying pets will be purely physical, and cats and dogs may very well stay as affectionate as they had before, yet have irreparable issues. As they age, many pets suffer from afflictions like mouth cancer, leukemia, stomach cancer, renal failure, congestive heart failure, and more.
Below, you can find some of the most common signs that your dog is dying. These signs are also true for other animals, although some, like cats, may retreat and hide away from the family, for instance.
Loss of Interest: If you have a playful pup or an energetic dog that follows you around, you would notice fairly quickly that a sudden stop to those behaviors would be out of the ordinary. Sometimes dogs can get tired, but as their health diminishes and they age, they may gradually become more and more disinterested in the world around them.
It’s possible that your dog can be in pain from moving, and playing or running around can exacerbate that pain. Lethargy is also linked to loss of interest, and your dog may not want to move around very much at all.
This is also a sign of depression in pets. As with people, dogs may become less concerned with what they used to enjoy, such as walks, visits to the dog park, games, toys, and more. If your dog withdraws more or does not give you the affection he once did, he may be nearing the end of his life.
Comfort-Seeking Behavior: On the other hand, your dog may exhibit more comfort-seeking behavior than he otherwise would. This is especially noticeable in dogs that are more introverted, or in cats that generally spend their time alone and not interacting with owners. Dogs may also not seek comfort from people, but from familiar locations, and spend much more time in their beds than they otherwise would.
Physical Problems: While sickness can be spotted, physical signs of declining health are more difficult to see. You may notice your dog’s gum color changed, or that he has started to exhibit breathing troubles. He could also show coordination problems and balance issues, but if your dog were always a bit uncoordinated, this may not seem out of the ordinary. A reduced body temperature can also be a sign that the end is coming.
On the other hand, some physical symptoms are very apparent. Incontinence, convulsing, and digestive troubles (highlighted by diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and the like)
Irritability and Aggression: Pain can motivate dogs to be more protective of themselves, and if you accidentally cause your pet any pain, they may snap at you or growl. This behavior can be your dog’s way of saying that he wants to be left alone. However, as time goes on, he may eventually become more lethargic and lose the irritability that was present before.
Euthanasia or Natural Passing?
Deciding between euthanasia and a natural passing can be extremely difficult. Pet owners are routinely tortured with questions that keep them up at night; they wonder if they’re making the right choice, if the time is right, if the pet can be cured of an illness, if their quality of life is that bad, if they have the heart to carry it out, if they’re prolonging the suffering of something they love.
The truth is, you have to consider your situation and determine if your pet is in pain. If your dog cannot eat or keep anything down, then over time, he’ll likely become malnourished and sickly. If your cat has cancer or feline leukemia, letting the disease progress can cause unnecessary suffering. Perhaps worst of all is the financial burden; some operations or surgeries may be able to keep your pet around a bit longer, but at the cost of the life they led before.
If you own a pet with your family, have a talk with them about the different options. If your pet is not in a lot of pain, it may be comforting for everyone – and your pet – to be around each other when the time comes. On the other hand, waiting for a natural passing may be selfish, especially if your pet has an illness that simply makes it hard to live.
You can run down the quality of life checklist:
It’s also in your best interest to call your vet and get input. They can explain how the quality of life is in pets that have certain illnesses, or they can tell you if a natural passing will not be prolonged or overly painful. Always get proper advice before making your decision, especially one that will impact your family. We can also schedule one of our veterinarians to come to your home for an assessment.
Coping with the Loss of a Pet
Coping with the loss of a pet can take a while. Some families had their cats with them for 20 years, and children may have grown up alongside a faithful dog. The opportunity to say goodbye should always be present, but it can be very difficult to deal with it in the aftermath.
There are a lot of ways to cope, yet no two people will go through the process the same way. For some, memory books and photo albums will provide great sources of comfort (especially for children). Mementos, keepsakes, urns, and favorite toys may be helpful for others. It can be freeing to read a book, such as Going Home by Jon Katz.
Others may find it in their best interest to adopt another pet. Many people report that they visited animal shelters or rescue shelters only to be greeted by a puppy or kitten that looked and behaved like their last pet. These acts of kindness of re-homing and saving another dog can be a wonderful catalyst to coping with the loss of your pet.
Trying Times: COVID-19 and the Vet Industry
Given all of the restrictions that were implemented during COVID-19, many families were unable to make trips to the vet to request euthanasia services. Similarly, many veterinarians abstained from completing house calls, and were only taking limited numbers of appointments at their offices. Mobile vets have become overwhelmed, and there simply aren’t enough practitioners around.
One of the most troublesome restrictions is the delegation of space. Even though vet clinics are open for business, many are still barring pet owners from entering the rooms while their pets are euthanized. This restriction can be terrible for both the owner and the pet, as there is no ability to say goodbye, and the pet will have a greatly decreased sense of comfort.
Gentle Pet Crossing does not have such restrictions. Our sanctuary is open to your family. If you need to come in to say goodbye to your pet, we can open our doors to you and see to it that you are with them when they pass.
Gentle Pet Crossing has been working with veterinarians who can perform a quality of life assessment and euthanasia services for pets. If you have a pet and it’s time to say goodbye, we can arrange for the service. Please also be aware that we have a number of services available to you, from aquamation to pet pickup at your veterinarian office, the emergency hospital, or your home. You always have the option to bury your pet or to have the euthanasia performed by a family vet. No matter what end of life service you need for your pet, we’re here to help and make the most difficult moment in your life as easy as possible.
If you have any questions, you can reach out and we’ll talk with you. Gentle Pet Crossing will make sure that you have the most comforting time with your pet as their time draws to a close. Losing a pet is losing a member of the family, and you deserve to go through your grief in the most healing way possible.