the truth about euthanasia

WHAT *THIS* VET WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT *THAT* EUTHANASIA POST

WHAT THIS VET WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT ‘THAT’ EUTHANASIA POST

Over the last month an upsetting post has popped up on my Facebook wall again and again. In various slightly different guises it suggests that a “tired, broken-hearted vet” told the author that 90% of owners don’t stay when their pet is brought in for euthanasia, and that the pets “search for you when you leave them behind”. It goes on to call owners who don’t stay with their pets “cowards”.

Personally, I think the post is bull. I don’t think a vet wrote it, I don’t think a vet even said those things. The post simply doesn’t chime with my own experience of pet euthanasia.

PET EUTHANASIA: SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

I feel that the decision to stay with your pet or leave it with the veterinary staff is one that only the owner can make. I would never consider someone who felt unable to stay a coward. There are many reasons why staying might not be the right decision for some, or all, family members. The truth is that whether you stay or leave, you pet will soon die peacefully. Only you can decide if you will be haunted by seeing your pet die, or whether you will be comforted by the memories of being there in the last moments.

The exact procedure for euthanasia varies; sometimes a sedative injection is given into the muscle first, sometimes a cannula is placed in a leg vein, and sometimes the euthanasia drug is given straight into the vein. The veterinary staff may need to take your pet to another are to place a cannula or to give sedation. It is a good idea to discuss the procedure with your vet before the day so you know what to expect. With small pets such as rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs it is usual to anaesthetise them with anaesthetic gas first; for health and safety reasons you may not be allowed to be present for this part.

If you stay your pet will be settled on a comfy blanket with a nurse supporting them. It may be possible for you to hold your pet, or the veterinary team will make sure you can stroke your pet and comfort them. The euthanasia solution is painless and quickly causes unconsciousness before stopping the heart. The vet will check that the heart has stopped and will let you know that your pet has passed away.

If you choose not to stay…exactly the same thing happens. A nurse will take your place and cuddle your pet and offer treats and make sure that they aren’t looking around for you. Remember; your pet does not know that this is a euthanasia appointment and that you won’t be back together in just in tick.

If you don’t want to see your pet euthanased, but would like to spend time with their body afterwards that can also be arranged.

PET EUTHANASIA: AT HOME OR AT THE VETS?

Home euthanasia visits can be beautiful. I have sent dogs on their final journey in gardens as the sun sets, and given cats their final injection as they purr in front of a fire. But it isn’t always such a nice experience. A home visit may not be suitable for a dog that doesn’t welcome strangers in their home, and nothing is more upsetting than desperately trying to find a cat that has hidden. Again, think about yourself too…will passing the place where Rover was euthanased upset you every day? If you do choose home euthanasia make sure there is good light to allow the veterinary team to to their job, as well as finding a spot where your pet will be comfortable. Home euthanasia may not be readily be available in an emergency at night or at the weekend, so have a back-up plan.

Most pets still go to the vets for their final visit and veterinary practices try hard to make this experience as nice as possible for everyone, including the pet. The practice may book your appointment at a quiet time of day, let you enter and leave through a back door, and may have a special room so you aren’t rushed. You might like to bring a favourite treat, and a blanket which smells of home. If your pet is very afraid of the vets but can’t have a home visit either, your vet may be able to prescribe relaxing medication to give before you arrive.

PET EUTHANASIA: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Whether your pet is euthanased at home, in the clinic, or dies at home your will need to make arrangements for their body. Home burial is only an option for smaller pets, or if you have a large space. Consider where there might be watercourses or underground obstructions, and also how your would feel if you left your home and pet’s body behind.

Vet practices usually have an arrangement with a pet crematorium to collect deceased pets. Options offered include communal cremation where a group of pets are cremated together before their ashes are interred at the crematorium and individual cremation where your pet is cremated on their own and ashes can be returned. Ashed can be returned in a variety of containers from cardboard ‘scatter tubes’ to wooden caskets or pottery urns. You can even have ashes incorporated into jewellery or placed into a photo frame or cast model of an animal.

Some pet crematoriums offer a collection service from your home or vets, and may even offer a same day cremation and ashes return service.

WHY EUTHANASIA DOESN’T UPSET THIS VET (MUCH)

It might sound odd, but I don’t get tired and broken-hearted by pet euthanasia. I see it as the last best thing I can do for pets who I can’t help further with surgery, or medication, or complementary therapy, or behaviour work. It is hard to see families so upset at losing their pet, but heartening to see what that pet meant to them, how it was part of their lives. I never judge on whether the family want to stay, or not, and if they can’t stay my team step in to make sure the pet knows it was loved right to the end. And we tell them that you’ve just stepped out and will be back any second. They always go knowing you loved them.