The hardest part of owning a pet is realizing how short their time with us really is. One day they’re a goofy, energetic puppy and suddenly they’re having a tough time getting up or enjoying their favorite things in life. And when those days come we often get asked by owners, how do we know it’s time? While some may wish your veterinarian could be the one to tell you, the truth is you know your furry family member best, and you will know when it’s time. Here are some things that our staff often ask owners to consider when the question first arises.
What’s changed to make you consider euthanasia? Sometimes it’s something drastic, no longer eating or moving, or sometimes it’s a number of things adding up. We’ve heard tales of family or friends who visit and notice something that because of it’s slow progression has gone unnoticed, like weight loss or a lackluster greeting of guests. Whatever the reason, there is often something that causes your concern.
When was your pet’s last exam? Sometimes dogs or cats come in with issues that seem so dire that their owners believe this is the end, perhaps they have trouble getting up and walking, or they won’t eat their food. A good physical exam and some diagnostics could help prolong your pet’s quality of life. An arthritic dog could find relief from pain medications or a cat who won’t eat may have chronic kidney disease and could feel better with a specialized kidney diet and increased fluids. While there may not always be a treatment for your pet, sometimes we can help find ways to keep them happier and healthier longer.
Are they enjoying life? Have those long walks in the park become a thing of the past for your dog? Has your cat given up his adventures of jumping on tables and cabinets for the safety of the ground? Does spending time with the family or enjoying their favorite foods seem to have lost its appeal? When the things your pet once loved, no longer seem to make a difference then it’s time to listen. Maybe the walks need to be shorter, the meals more enticing, or steps need to be added to reduce the jump height. No one wants their pet to suffer and eventually things will have to change for our aging pets, but by making their favorite things still within reach even if they have to be modified they can still enjoy their lives longer.
How is their quality of life? This is the big question, the one that you will know better than the veterinarian because you see your pet everyday. We want pet owners to know that your pet’s life should be measured by the quality of their time rather than the quantity of it. Just like their human counterparts suffering from ailments, they may have good days and bad days. And you do your best to help them through those bad days hoping a great day is around the corner. But when you start to find that your buddy is suffering through more bad days then good days it may be time to assess the quality of those days. A slew of rough days waiting for that one good day isn’t fair to you or your pet, because that good day may not come in the end. We have been asked if it’s wrong to say goodbye on a good day, and the answer is no. Wouldn’t we all love to spend our last day with a loved one, curled up in our favorite spot after our favorite meal or enjoying a walk in the park and a favorite treat? Sometimes letting that be your pet’s last day can be a blessing for you both, a fond memory of a lifetime bond.
When that day finally comes, we want you and your family to be comfortable with your decision and to make the process as easy as possible. We often wish that our pets could pass away comfortably in their sleep, free from any last minute pain or discomfort. And our goal is to make that happen as best we can. Our veterinarian will give them a sedative in the muscle to make them relax and drift to sleep, losing consciousness with their family around them. Our staff will give you the privacy to say goodbyes and cuddle with your family member as they drift to sleep during this time. Once your pet is unconscious a second injection is given in the vein that will stop their heart. This injection is quick and while painless, can be unsettling for some owners due to the finality of it. If you choose to leave once your pet is unconscious before the final injection, please know that one of our nurses and the veterinarian will be with your pet through the end of the process. They will always give ear scratches and a belly rub and a final goodbye to your pet who will never be left alone even if you can’t be there.
You will find that our staff will ask you what you would like to do with your pet’s remains when you first arrive that day. Though we know this is a tough decision, and will give you time to decide, we ask ahead of time so that you do not have to think about it at the end. Once you have said your final goodbyes our staff will take care of your pets body form then on, we don’t want you to have to dwell on the hard times but to try and remember better times as you leave.
In the end, our pets will give us signs that they’re ready to cross that final bridge alone, to waiting for us on the other side with our loved ones. We just have to be brave enough to let them take that journey without us. Our staff knows how hard that feeling is, and hope you can find strength in the memories you built up over those long years to hold on to during this hard time. And when you find those tears coming and your heart about to burst remember that as Ernest Montague wrote, “dogs never die they are sleeping in your heart.” And when your heart hurts the most it’s that tail wagging so hard, or your cat purring so loud, that brings those tears to your eyes. One day we will find them waiting for us, healthy and happy, across that bridge.