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THINKING IT THROUGH
EXPLORING QUESTIONS ABOUT EUTHANASIA

There is probably no more difficult question than whether or not to euthanize a cherished companion animal. Yet when the quality of life for your pet has deteriorated, when your pet is suffering agonizing pain, or when costs of tests and treatments are prohibitive, euthanasia may be the most loving and humane choice for you and your pet.

As you come to this difficult decision, it's important to think through whatever questions you may have about the actual procedure, so you can discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. When the time comes, you'll be better prepared to use your own good judgment based on the reality of your particular situation.

Think about these questions, then arrange a time to discuss them with your veterinarian:  

    How will the euthanasia be performed? (Usually the animal is injected with a tranquilizer, then an overdose of a sedative.)

    Where will the euthanasia be done? (Euthanasia can be done at the veterinarian's office, at an animal clinic or at your home. If your veterinarian doesn't provide at-home euthanasia, you can ask for a referral to one who does.)

    When will the euthanasia be done? (Try to schedule it at a time that's least traumatic for you, and when you can be accompanied by a friend or family member - especially if driving is involved.)

    Should my pet be euthanized immediately, or should the procedure be delayed? (It all depends the individuals involved. It may be easier to get it done while you are certain of the decision, since waiting for the inevitable may be difficult for you. Yet a planned delay can afford your family and your pet some time to make the most of your final days together.)

    What should I tell my child(ren)? (Children need the truth, in terms they can understand, with an opportunity to ask questions.)

    Should I/we be present during the procedure? (You know better than anyone what you feel capable of handling. You should be guided by what makes you feel comfortable and by what you think you can live with later. Some people consider being present as a final demonstration to the pet of their affection, and take comfort in knowing their pet is actually dead and at peace. Others prefer to remember their pet as it was, alive and active.)

    Will it matter to my pet if I'm present? (Pets feel more secure in the company of people they know, and pets do not have the awareness of death or the anxiety before death that humans do. An owner's anxiety can be conveyed to both pet and veterinarian, but if the owner is calm, the pet will remain calm also.)

    What will I do with my pet's remains? (Be aware that you are responsible for arranging what will happen to your pet's body after death. Many options are available, including disposal, cremation, burial and preservation. It would be wise to discuss these options in advance of your pet's death, either with your veterinarian or with a representative from a pet cemetery or pet crematory.)

Copyright (c) 2000 by Martha M. Tousley, RN, MS, CS    All rights reserved

 
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