About Euthanasia

Pet Care

Euthanasia : When is the “right” time?


This is one of the most frequent questions have to answer, and it is a very difficult one. Vets may best judge his physical condition; however an owner is the best judge of the quality of the pet’s life. If the pet has a good appetite, responds to attention, seeks the owner’s company and takes part in play or family life, many owners feel it is not the time. However, if the pet is in constant pain, undergoing difficult and stressful treatments that aren’t helping greatly, is unresponsive to attention, unaware of his surroundings and uninterested in life, a caring pet owner will probably choose to end the beloved companion’s suffering. Evaluate your pet’s health honestly and unselfishly with the vets. Nothing can make this decision an easy or painless one, but it is truly the final act of love that you can make for your pet.

Should I stay during euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the induction of 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 then any other injection. The euthanasia solution takes only seconds to induce a total loss of consciousness. This is soon followed by respiratory depression and cardiac arrest.

Many feel it is the ultimate gesture of comfort and love you can offer your pet. Some feel relief and comfort themselves by staying: They were able to see that their pet passed peacefully and without pain, and that it was truly gone.
For many, not witnessing the death (and not seeing the body) makes it more difficult to accept that the pet is really gone. However, this can be traumatic, and you must ask yourself honestly whether you will be able to handle it. Uncontrolled emotions and tears – though natural – are likely to upset your pet.

Feel free to discuss your desires and concerns with us and we will strive to ensure the most compassionate way of dealing with euthanasia.

What happens next?

There are several options available for the body remains.
Home burial can be one of the options, as well as cremation.
Cremation is one of the most frequent choices of the owners, and some owners opt to have the ashes returned, others opt for a cremation at the DOEH where the ashes are not returned. We can help you and intermediate the cremation options as desired by the owners.

Grieving the loss of a pet

Grieving is the normal response to any important loss in life. It occurs regardless of whether death followed a prolonged illness, or a sudden accident. Grieving people experience both physical and emotional traumas as they try to adapt to the upheaval in their lives brought upon by the loss.

Psychologists have long recognized that the grief suffered by pet owners after their pet dies is the same as that experienced after the death of a person. The death of a pet means the loss of a non-judgmental love source. There is no longer anything for the pet owner to nurture and care for. Furthermore, the owner looses his or her contact with the “natural world”. These feelings can be particularly intense for the elderly, single people and childless couples.

Pet loss and children

Many people do not realize how traumatic and confusing death can be to a child. Although children tend to grieve for shorter periods of time, their grief is no less intense then that experienced by adults. Children also tend to come back to the subject repeatedly, so extreme patience is required when dealing with the grieving child.
Some helpful tips for helping the grieving child include:

- give the child permission to work through their grief
- tell their teacher about the pet’s death
- encourage the child to talk freely about the pet
- give the child plenty of hugs and reassurance
- discuss death, dying and grief honestly.

Never say things like “God took your pet” or “the pet was put to sleep”. The child will learn to fear that God will take them, their parents or their siblings; or the child will become afraid of going to sleep.

Don’t hesitate to include the child in everything that is going on and explain him the permanency of death.

Other pet’s grief

It is a well known fact that animals form attachments to other animals, including humans. It is also clear that animals in the same household become attached to each other. For example, animals in the same family may sleep with each other, play together and follow each other around. The more social the species (that is, species living in structured groups), the more likely that individuals within that species will be to form attachments to each other. For instance, dogs, horses and birds will be more likely to form close attachments to other pets then will cats. (Not to say that cats never become attached to each other, as they obviously do).

Many of the manifestations that animals display appear to be similar to those of human grief. For example, anxiety, restlessness, depression, sighting, sleeping and eating disturbances have also been reported. After the death of one pet, surviving animals can also appear to search for the pet who died, be less interested in their usual activities, or want to be with their owners more.
It is not a rule of thumb that these signs will actually appear. Sometimes a lack of reaction of the surviving pet in regards to a death of a companion pet can be attributed to the fact that possibly, the surviving pet has formed a closer bond to the human members of the family than with the lost pet. For this and many other reasons, the separation reaction in animals is probably not the exact equivalent of human grief.

The following suggestions are recommended for pets that show signs of separation reactions:

- Owners should be encouraged to keep their pets’ daily routine as unchanged as possible. The more predictable, familiar and consistent the environment, the better.
- Owners should be careful not to inadvertently reinforce their pets’ negative behavior changes, such as loss of appetite or lethargy. If pets learn that not eating results in owners encouraging them with special treats and tidbits, the animals may become less likely to eat their regular meals. Temporary problems can become long-term difficulties because owners in fact reward their animals’ refusals to eat. Therefore, owners should be encouraged to keep their surviving pets on their regular diets.
- Similar, if pets receive more attention and petting when they are depressed and inactive, these behaviors can become a way for them to obtain attention. Instead owners should find ways to provide their pets with attention and affection when pets are behaving in desirable ways. Opportunities to provide positive reinforcement can be created by keeping surviving pets active with toys, games and exercise.
- Owners may notice a change in the dominance hierarchy between the surviving pets, particularly if the pet who died was the dominant animal (more likely in species that form rigid dominance hierarchies such as dogs, horses, birds than those with more flexible social systems (such as cats). Whenever members are added or lost from groups of social animals, the relationships between the remaining members are likely to change and be temporarily unstable. During this time, it is common for remaining animals to compete for the vacant spot in the “pecking order”. Such competition may consist of skirmishes and conflicts involving growls, hisses, posturing and even some inhibited attacks that do not result in injury. For the most part, owners need to allow animals to work out their own relationships. The more the owners interfere, the more likely the hierarchy is to remain unstable, thus prolonging and possibly intensifying conflicts until one of the animals is injured. Owners should not attempt to punish the animals and instead should either let animals end skirmishes on their own, or, if possible, distract them with food or toys. If conflicts continue to occur or if fights intensify, the advice of an animal behaviorist should be sought.
- Some owners ask about letting their surviving pets see, and even smell, the body of a pet who has died. Although no evidence suggests that this practice is helpful or has any effect on surviving animals, it is sometimes helpful to the owners.

Sometimes, owners may feel that they should obtain new pets to help their surviving pets cope with loss. Unless owners are emotionally ready for new animals, however, this strategy is likely to backfire. Losses cannot be replaced for animals any more than they can for people, and no assurances exist that surviving pets will form close, friendly relationships with new animals. Only new relationships are possible. Maximizing the chances for successful relationships to occur between animals requires commitment, time and patience from all human family members, Families who are still grieving will probably not have the energy, desire or time required to train new pets and to help them adjust to their new households. In these cases, if it best for the human family members to wait before obtaining new animals, it is probably best for the surviving animals as well.

(Lagoni, L., Butler, C. and Hetts, S. – The Human – Animal Bond and Grief WB Saunders, Philadelphia 1994)