The Final Farewell
Euthanasia, grief, life, medical, put down, dying, bed sores, emotional, pass away, deteriorate, suffer
The Final Farewell
Saying goodbye to a friend is always hard, but when it's a pet that has become a part of your family, it can be especially difficult.
The need to allow a pet to pass on quickly, painlessly and with dignity can be due to many reasons - organ failure, uncontrollable medical conditions, crippling arthritis, cancer, senility or other issues that rob your friend of the quality of life he or she deserves.
When is the right time to euthanize your beloved pet? This is a very personal decision. You never want to do it too soon or too late. The following points can serve as an aid in assisting you to come to terms with saying your final farewell.
Pain and suffering -- pain control is a foremost consideration. Even if your pet is not crying out in pain, it can still be suffering. If your once friendly, outgoing pet is now keeping to itself, seems crabby or resists being handled, these can all be signs of pain. Also consider your pet's ability to breathe properly. Not being able to catch your breath is very distressful for people and pets. Pain medication is available in various forms and strengths. Supplemental oxygen can be provided at home if needed.
Appetite -- appetite is frequently diminished when a pet is ill. Certain diseases such as intestinal disorders or cancer can result in weight loss despite a normal intake of food. Malnutrition often develops rapidly and can adversely affect the pet's immune system, wound repair, and muscular strength. If your pet is not eating well and is losing condition, medication to increase its appetite can be prescribed. Feeding tubes are an option when medications are not effective or the pet's ability to eat is compromised.
Hydration -- water is needed to support the cardiovascular system and aids in flushing toxins from the body. Diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, liver disorders, plus several others can give the impression that your pet is drinking adequate, to even excessive, amounts of water, when in reality the simultaneous increase in urine production can lead to dehydration.
If you believe that your pet is dehydrated, attempting to syringe extra water into its mouth will not be sufficient. You may accidentally cause your pet to inhale the liquid and develop aspiration pneumonia. If it's determined that your pet has hydration issues, administering fluids either under the skin or by an intravenous route may be required.
Grooming -- have you ever noticed how happy a dog looks after it has been groomed or that special swish of a cat's tail after you have brushed it coat? Pets don't like to be dirty or lie in their own urine and feces. Sick and debilitated pets can develop `bed sores' from not being able to attend to their personal hygiene needs. Skin lesions can become body wide infections especially when a pet is coping with other major health issues.
By increasing your attention to your pet's personal needs by more frequent bathing, brushing, trimming excess fur, and special bedding, you can assist in improving your pet's quality of life.
Mobility -- if you've ever suffered from a bad back, an injured leg or any other condition that restricted your ability to move, you can appreciate compromised mobility. A pet can be affected mentally as well as physically when it is unable to move freely. It may not be able to readily access its food, water or travel to the appropriate places to eliminate. Emotionally, restriction of movement can keep a dog or cat from enjoying interactions with its human companions.
Pet owners can assist a dog or cat with getting around by means of slings, special carts or by simply lifting and carrying it. The size of the pet can greatly impact how well or for how long a caregiver can provide this nursing care. Suggestions in how you can aid your pet can be obtained from your veterinarian.
Joy in being alive -- is your pet enjoying life? This is a very subjective issue. A way in which you can assess your pet's pleasure in life can be found in its eyes. If that usual glint of personality is replaced by that dull stare of merely existing, your pet may be trying to tell you that it is tired, and is ready to pass on.
After considering all of the above issues, you may find that your pet has some good and some bad days. When the number of bad days surpasses the number of good ones or the deterioration in one area is too great, the time to let your friend gently leave your side has come. Pets are trapped in the `now'. They don't know about `tomorrow'. They look to us and our unselfish love to insure that they don't suffer needlessly.
The decision to be present or not at the time of passing is a personal one. There is no right or wrong decision. Be assured that the procedure is fast, painless and humane. We can only hope that when it is our time to pass, that we can do so with as much dignity as our pets.
After a pet has left us, it is not unusual to feel remorse, sadness and shed a tear or two. We each demonstrate our emotions in unique ways and for varying lengths of time. If you find that you just can't get over the loss or need someone to talk to, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a grief counselor. Don't let someone make you feel wrong about your feelings by saying `it was just an animal'. To you, this pet was an important part of your life.
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