We are never quite prepared for the death of a pet. Whether death is swift and unexpected or it comes at the end of a slow decline we are never fully aware of what a pet has brought to our lives until our companion is gone.
When a pet passes away on their own, there are several options. Many pet owners chose to bury their pet's remains on their property, often planting a flowering tree over the site as a memorial to their pet. (Florida Statute requires that animal remains must be buried at least two feet underground.) Other pet owners chose to have their pet's remains cremated or disposed of by their veterinarian. If you do not have a veterinarian, you can bring your pet's remains to the Tallahassee Animal Service Center for disposal.
Our involvement with the final outcome for our pet may be passive. We may simply not pursue medical or surgical treatment in an aging pet. Perhaps the illness has no cure and the best we can do is to lessen the pet's suffering and allow it to live out its life in relative comfort. Occasionally, an illness or accident may take our pet suddenly. Everyone secretly hopes for a pet's peaceful passing, hoping to find it lying in its favorite spot in the morning. The impact of a pet's death is significantly increased when, as responsible and loving caretakers, we decide to have the pet euthanized.
Euthanasia is the act of providing a painless death. In veterinary practice it is accomplished by intravenous injection of a concentrated dose of anesthetic. The animal may feel slight discomfort when the needle tip passes through the skin, but this is no greater than for any other injection. The euthanasia solution takes only seconds to achieve a total loss of consciousness. Soon after, breathing and the heart will stop.
Veterinarians do not exercise this option lightly. Their medical training and professional lives are dedicated to diagnosing and treating disease. Veterinarians are keenly aware of the balance between extending an animal's life and its suffering. Euthanasia is the ultimate tool to mercifully end a pet's suffering.
To request euthanasia of a pet is probably the most difficult decision a pet owner can make. We may resent the position of power. We may feel angry at our pet for forcing us to make the decision. We may postpone the decision, bargaining with ourselves that if we wait another day the decision will not be necessary. Guilt sits heavily on the one who must decide. The fundamental guideline is to do what is best for your pet. However, as much as your pet has the right to a painless death, you have the right to feel at peace in your decision.
To help you to prepare for the decision to euthanize your pet, consider the following questions. They are intended as a guide; only you can decide what is the best solution for you and your pet. Take your time. Speak with your veterinarian. If you do not have a family veterinarian, speak with your family, friends and coworkers for a recommendation.
- What is the current quality of my pet's life?
- Is my pet still eating well? Playful? Affectionate toward me?
- Is my pet interested in the activity surrounding it?
- Does my pet seem tired and withdrawn most of the time?
- Is my pet in pain?
- Is there anything I can do to make my pet more comfortable?
- Are any other treatment options available?
- If a behavioral problem has led me to this decision, have I sought the expertise of a veterinary behavior consultant?
- Do I still love my pet the way I used to, or am I angry and resentful of the restrictions its condition has placed on my lifestyle?
- What is the quality of my life and how will this change?
- Will I want to be present during the euthanasia or will I say goodbye to my pet before the euthanasia because it is too painful for me to be there?
- Will I want to wait in the animal hospital until it is over?
- Do I want to be alone or should I ask a friend to be present?
- Do I want any special burial or cremation arrangements made?
- Can my veterinarian store the body so that I can delay burial arrangements until later?
- Do I want to adopt another pet?
- Do I need time to recover from this loss before considering another pet?
When you have made the decision to have your pet euthanized, call your family veterinarian to make arrangements. We also offer euthanasia services to pet owners in our community. For more information on Euthanasia and/or Final Arrangements for your pet, contact your family veterinarian or the Animal Service Center at 891-2950.