Euthanasia of a Beloved Pet

Euthanasia of a Beloved Pet
By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, TX

McKinney VetThere is no question that performing euthanasia for a pet owner’s beloved family member is the most difficult task a McKinney vet has to face.  It is one that becomes necessary, though, in order to alleviate discomfort and suffering from diseases or disorders that can no longer be controlled. Knowing when the time is right is a crucial decision faced by pet owners, and our job is the help folks with this process to arrive at the right decision.

This choice is important for us at this hospital as well, because we carry these events with us too, and we must be able to live with those actions.  For this reason, it’s important that our clients understand that I cannot end the life of a pet unless I know it’s the right thing to do.  I believe that this is also comforting to our clients, knowing that we would not perform the procedure unless it was medically the best option for the pet.

There are many diseases and injuries that justify euthanasia, and the right time to utilize euthanasia can vary depending on the medical condition and symptoms displayed.  In each situation, there are a few guideposts to follow that help with decision making.

Certainly untreatable diseases that cause pain and suffering, and grievous injuries can present with obvious answers.  Other times pets are seen to be deteriorating without known causes, and euthanasia becomes a possible avenue to explore.

In these cases, as a McKinney vet I recommend that basic diagnostics be tried in an effort to understand the situation so that possible treatments can be brought into the discussion.  In my experience, pet owners who opt for euthanasia without regard to possible treatments live to regret that decision, having possibly stolen valuable time of quality life from their pet. It is important that pet owners know in their hearts that they gave their pet a reasonable chance at life; the decision then becomes easier to live with.

Some things to watch for in judging a pet’s quality of life include:

  • Ability to walk in the home or outside without disabling pain or discomfort.  Even if pain is controlled with laser therapy or medications, the ability to get around is important.
  • Retain a basic enjoyment of life as illustrated by taking part in certain activities, sleeping comfortably, appreciating the human touch and companionship, awareness of surroundings, and being able to urinate/defecate properly.
  • Having the desire to eat well, enjoy food, and hold the food down without chronic vomiting.

Plan to discuss the situation with your McKinney vet before or during the appointment.  If any doubt exists, be willing to explore testing to diagnose exactly what the condition(s) are and whether treatment is feasible.  We’ve all had many examples of pets presented for euthanasia that turned out to have very treatable conditions.  Please see the story The Wagging Tail that Saved Angel’s Life on our website’s Pet Library section.

Once the decision is made, there are documents that must be signed before we’re allowed to proceed.  You may or may not want to be present for the procedure.  There is no wrong decision here; it’s strictly according to personal choice and we’re perfectly willing to abide by the client’s wishes.

Sometimes that choice is easier by understanding how we go about the procedure.  First, we take the pet to our treatment area where an intravenous catheter is installed.  This provides us with easy access to sometimes difficult veins, and also helps us to administer a light sedative. This catheter is removed afterward.

Once the catheter is placed, we return the pet to the room so owners can spend more time with them if they desire.  When everyone is ready, we begin an injection of a solution that does two different things.  After just a few seconds the pet goes under anesthesia similar to that used in surgery.  After this point there is no sensation of pain or fear whatsoever.  Several seconds later, the solution stops the heartbeat and the procedure is concluded.

We listen very closely to the chest to be 100% sure that the heart is stopped.  At this point owners are invited to stay for private time with the pet if they desire.  The procedure is simple, without pain, and is very quick so there can be no suffering.

McKinney vets find that there is comfort for pet owners in knowing that the end came in a compassionate and very humane manner.  It is important to retain those thoughts and remembrances of the years of health and happiness along with the knowledge that in the end the right choice was made for the right reasons.

McKinney Vet
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
5913 Virginia Parkway
McKinney, Texas 75071
214-856-7005

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