If only our beloved friends, who have been by our sides through thick and thin, could stay forever. But we know they can’t and that is hard to face. Maybe your dog has a chronic disease or has lived a very long life and you know that soon it will be time to say goodbye to your friend. All of us wish our older pets would pass away peacefully in their sleep, but that is usually not the case and we are left with a difficult decision. It quickly becomes a question of, “When is the right time?"
Of course we want our dog to remain with us as long as possible, but to allow our dear friend to suffer through an indeterminate amount of pain or discomfort is also not what we want. As we have been all through the lives of our dogs, we must also be their guardians and safe-keepers during their passing. That is the ultimate love and respect you can show your dog. At some point, your dog’s quality of life will diminish too much. Knowing how to gauge his or her quality of life is very important in your decision-making.
Your decision should not be about ending suffering, but about preventing it. The idea is not to wait until the suffering begins before making a decision. A wise and loving dog owner said to us,
“I would rather say goodbye a week too soon than an hour too late."
If a peaceful, loving, in-home, end-of-life experience is your preference, then you will need to make the decision sooner rather than later so arrangements can be made. Once you have decided that it is time to say goodbye, there are a few things you may wish to contemplate.
- Where will the euthanasia be performed? Some veterinarians will come to your home to perform euthanasia. Consider whether that is something you would want for your pet or if you would rather travel to the veterinary clinic. You will need to find out if your veterinarian performs this service ahead of time and plan for it.
- Do you want to be with your pet during the euthanasia? Whether you wish to be present at the passing or not is an important decision. It’s important to explore your thoughts and feelings on this issue thoroughly before the time comes, rather than making a decision based on guilt or fear in the moment.
- Is a pre-euthanasia tranquilizer given? Is a catheter placed beforehand? If the pet parent wishes to be present at the euthanasia, generally a sedative is given to the pet and a catheter is placed beforehand. This allows the pet to be held and cuddled without fear of seeing a needle or worrying about what is happening. It allows the focus to be on the pet. It helps to understand the procedure, how it will be done, and what will happen. Ask your veterinarian to explain these things to you ahead of time so you have plenty of opportunity to think about it and decide.
- What will happen to your pet afterwards? There are plenty of options for aftercare once the euthanasia is done. You may choose to have a burial at home or even have him or here cremated. If he is cremated, you can choose many meaningful gestures like scattering the ashes in a special place or keeping them in an urn with your pet’s photo and a paw print. Most animal crematoriums have catalogs with a large number of options for keeping the memory your pet. The choice is yours and it can genuinely help with the grieving process.
You are your pet’s guardian and you know him or her the best. Of course this is a difficult decision, and it helps to think about his happiness, well-being, and quality of life above all. In your own way, ask your pet if he or she is ready to go. Often, our pets are able to tell us if we are willing to listen.