Euthanasia:  The Difficult and Humane Decision to End Your Dog’s Life
End of life issues and considerations for your dog

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By Lisa Pallardy

Read about  choosing a boarding kennel by BarkTalk.com's Lisa Pallardy Unfortunately for us as dog lovers, it is really quite uncommon for a dog to just die peacefully in his sleep. Rather, as your dog ages and begins to suffer some combination of disease and disability, including pain, depression, and distress, you will most likely be forced to choose between two humane options.

First, you can care for your dog as you would a beloved family member, working with his veterinarian to do whatever it takes to keep him alive -- and pain free -- until he dies of natural causes. Choosing this path, however, can lead to the use of extreme measures that could actually result in more pain for your dog, in addition to fear and isolation in his final days.

Or, as a second option, you can choose to work with your dog’s vet to do whatever is necessary to keep your dog alive, but only as long as there is hope for his recovery, or at the very least a reasonable quality of life for him.

Once your dog has reached the point where there is no hope for recovery or a reasonable quality of life for him, you will probably be advised to choose to end both your dog’s suffering, as well as his life.

When deciding whether euthanizing your dog is the best choice, consider the following:

Is your dog’s condition worsening, despite continued medical treatment?

Are you and your vet no longer able to keep your dog pain free?

If your dog does recover, will he be unable to care for himself?

If your dog does recover, will there be a considerable change in his disposition and/or personality?

Will continued care of your dog create serious hardships for you and your family, either financially or emotionally?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you need to understand that euthanasia is a humane -- and painless -- way to bring an end to your beloved dog’s suffering. An overdose, usually of the anesthetic phenobarb, is put into your dog’s vein. Within only a few seconds, he will lose consciousness, and only seconds later his vital functions will stop.

It’s very important to discuss your decision with your family before proceeding, since this will affect all of your dog’s human relatives, including your children. Don’t try to “shield” children from the truth about the seriousness of your dog’s illness, or the very real possibility that their beloved companion may die. Rather, explain the situation in age-appropriate terms, and give your children the opportunity to express their feelings about it. (Read this informative article titled "Children and Pet Loss")

The biggest drawback to euthanasia is that it is usually performed in the veterinarian’s office. Unfortunately, this can be stressful for both you and your dog. If possible, when discussing the option of euthanizing your dog with your vet, ask him for medication that you can give your dog before you leave the house on the date of the procedure. This should make your dog more relaxed, as well as ease some of your apprehensions.

     

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Euthanizing your dog at your vet’s office, unfortunately, doesn’t generally allow you much time or privacy to say your final good-byes. However, just the fact that you can be present should help to at least reassure you that his passing was pain free and peaceful.

The disposal of your dog’s body is another important matter you will need to consider. It’s best to discuss this subject with your vet in advance, if possible, including the cost of each option.

Different states have different laws as to how a dog’s body may be disposed of. Some states only have the option to cremate, and most vets will routinely cremate, unless you live in a state where burial is an option. You may be able to choose a “private” cremation and have your dog’s ashes returned to you, rather than a communal cremation, where your dog’s body is cremated with other pets. While you need to consider the cost of a private cremation when making your decision, many pet owners find comfort in having their dog’s ashes in an urn in a special place in their home.

If your state law allows burial, and you choose to bury your pet, two things are important to remember: First, make sure you place your dog’s body in an enclosed, biodegradable container. Secondly, be certain the grave you dig is deep enough so that wild animals can’t dig it up.

We love our dogs so much. For many people, the love of their dog can be compared to the love of their children. Many dog owners are utterly surprised by the depth of their feelings after their dog dies. Fortunately, pet loss and grieving are beginning to be more recognized by human doctors as a legitimate concern. If you feel that your feelings are excessive, and you find yourself unable to return to finding joy in your everyday activities, you should know that there are support groups available, and even specialists who can help you if you feel you need extra support.

Grieving is normal and your feelings can last for a long time (a year is not unusual), evolving from disbelief through acceptance. The emotional pain we feel when our dogs die should not be underestimated. However, a peaceful and dignified death may be the kindest and most loving way to say goodbye to your faithful companion.

Children and Pet Loss
Read this informative article about helping your child deal with the death of a beloved pet.

Healthy Companion Leisure
Natural supplement to assist in relaxing dogs. Ideal for traveling, extended kennel stays, visits to the vet, when houseguests arrive, or other times of stess or agitation

Article written by Lisa Pallardy.  Copyright 2006.

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