Euthanasia literally means 'gentle death'. Other terms you may hear are 'put to sleep', 'put down', 'put out of its misery' or, less kindly, 'destroy'. Veterinary staff may use the term 'humane destruction' which is simply a technical term for putting an animal to sleep.
The decision to end a life is never easy. It is a personal, loving decision to euthanize a pet for which the quality of life has deteriorated. It takes courage to assume this last duty and it is our last responsibility to a pet which has given us love and companionship. There is also no easy human comparison. The bond between dog and owner is a very special one. It is easy to become emotionally caught up in keeping your dog alive when you know that there is no hope of him regaining his health.
Since it is you that decides when it is time to let go. You need to consider things from the dog's point of view.
* Is your dog in incurable pain or discomfort which cannot be alleviated by drugs?
* Has he suffered severe injuries from which he will never recover?
* Does he have an age-related or illness-related condition which cannot be alleviated?
* Is he suffering from a terminal illness which has now reduced his quality of life to such a point that he is no longer happy?
* Is the dog an old dog that has given you so much but is now having difficulty because of old age?
The decision almost always causes much soul-searching, especially if you and your dog have been companions for several years. What matters to the dog is quality of life not length of life since a dog has little concept of future time. An illness may be treatable for a period of time, but there eventually comes a point when the dog no longer enjoys life.
Having seen your dog when he is happy and healthy, most owners recognize the signs given by a dog which is miserable. Your vet will be able to tell you whether the dog has a treatable ailment or is approaching the end of his life.
In discussing your dog's welfare with your vet, he will be able to advise you and help you to make the right decision for your dog, but he cannot make the decision for you.
This will be the Hardest Decision a pet owner will make. Once the decision is made, there are other decisions to make ahead of time. This is a matter of personal taste and preference.
Should I Stay To The End?
This is a personal decision. Some owners feel that it is their last duty to be there. Others prefer not to be present. Many take a friend or family member with them for emotional support.
Most vets will allow you to remain with your dog during euthanasia if you wish. If he does not want you present, ask why and ask if another vet at the practice can perform the euthanasia with you present.
Not all owners wish to be present and there is no shame in this. Some people simply cannot stand the sight of injections. Your vet will allow you to say goodbye to your dog and leave the consulting room. If you are taking your dog's body away with you, he will call you back in afterwards. Your dog will be treated with as much respect and dignity whether or not you are present.
What do I want to do with my pets' body?
Do I want a Burial at home? Many people who own their homes chose to bury their pet in their yards. Great care must be given to bury your pet deep enough - at least three feet to deter predators. It is recommended to wrap your pet in plastic and place several large rocks on top of their remains before covering with earth. Many cities have ordinances against home burial so check with your local officials before laying your pet to rest.
There are also other options that your veterinarian will have. Discuss these options with him to make the best decision for your situation.
It's wise to prepare ahead of time for the loss of a dog. You determine what is acceptable for you and your dog. Having a plan in place before hand will make things easier when the day comes.
Once you have made the decision and discussed your options with your veterinarian, it is sometimes possible to delay euthanasia for a day without causing suffering for example, where he has a terminal illness or is extremely old and the euthanasia is planned in advance. You may wish to give your dog a last night of pampering, his favorite foods or foods which were normally forbidden. This is a time in which to say goodbye and reassure him that he is very much loved. However, if he is suffering, or is already under anesthetic, he will not enjoy having his misery prolonged.
The procedure of euthanasia itself is performed by an anesthetic overdose injected into the vein of a foreleg. A veterinary assistant will give the dog an injection of an anesthetic in the rear to relax and calm him so he will not be in distress for the euthanasia injection.
Once the euthanasia injection is given the dog will lose consciousness within seconds of the injection starting and death follows a few seconds later. If you are holding the dog, you will feel him exhale, relax and become heavier in your arms. Urine may trickle from his bladder as the muscles relax. The vet will check for a pulse or heartbeat to make sure that the dog is gone.
Most vets will place the dog into a natural looking sleeping position (he will look as if he has fallen asleep) and close his eyes since animals do not always close their eyes when they die. Because all the muscles of the face have relaxed, his lips may pull back into what looks like a grimace. This is simply due to relaxation of the muscles and to gravity and is not a sign of pain, but it can cause concern if you did not expect it.
If you have made the decision to take the dogs' body home they will wrap him in a blanket for you so that you may do so. If you have made other arrangements with your vet, he will take care of those arrangements for you.
Keep in mind. This is one of the most humane things you can do for your dog. Modern drugs are extremely fast -acting and the end is very peaceful compared to the latter stages of a terminal illness or age-related illness. With euthanasia by injection, your dog will simply fall into a painless and final sleep. If, during his life, your dog has been a cherished member of your family, this is the last and often most compassionate duty you can perform for him.
J. Carrillo like to write about dogs. She has 2 of her own and shares her experiences with others. Gives her opinion and advice. She writes a blog that celebrates dogs. You can find out more about J. Carrillo and her blog at http://greatdoglovingfriend.blogspot.com/
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For more information, you might enjoy reading my book, More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase paperback on Amazon.com. It's also on Amazon as an e-book for those who have Kindle or Sony Readers. The audio book is now available!