Euthanasia is perhaps one of the most sensitive topics in the life of being a pet parent. It involves emotional, moral, and often financial aspects of taking care of a pet. It is one of the hardest milestones, and no devoted pet parent will be willing to discuss it openly. Euthanasia involves the termination of life, due to various circumstances that affects the dog itself and its corresponding owner.
Despite the valid reasons that would merit this procedure, euthanasia is still something that cannot be absorbed easily. In fact, it is such a difficult experience to be in, even far more difficult when the dog is diagnosed with cancer.
Factors that revolve around euthanasia in dogs
Euthanasia in dogs can be one of the biggest milestones in a dog owner’s life, something that no one would like to openheartedly encounter. In recent years, veterinarians are starting to become more and more prepared in dealing with this kind of rather sensitive situation, and can provide sound advice to pet parents especially those who are wondering when will be the best time to euthanize a dog.
Bear in mind as a pet owner that there is no cookie-cutter situation that would merit the gift of a peaceful passing. Every situation, illness, or condition is different. They may have a common root, such as a terminal disease, but the surrounding considerations have significant variations. There is no absolute rule that is being followed for the best time to euthanize a dog.
The inputs that the veterinarian can provide are valid, enough to provide proper information to come up with a sound decision because they know the medical history of your pet, including the prognosis of its condition.
In general, these are the factors that usually end up with euthanasia in dogs:
- Terminal illness with visible struggle and pain
- Non-terminal illness, but extremely debilitating medical condition
- Advanced age
- Financial constraints to sustain treatment
As a pet parent, we should keep in mind that our dogs live in the moment. One of the best things about dogs is that they live in the present; they do not care about the past and is not worried about the future. The past and the future directly depends on us as their responsible pet parents. How our dogs lived a wonderful past will be based on how we treat them, and what the future holds depends on what we will decide and believe is the best for them. What is important to them is how they feel, the joy, and the pain-free experience that they are having by the moment.
When our dogs are suffering, they don’t have the wisdom to reflect on the better days they have before or even think if the future will be something better. All they know is how they feel right now. When you as a pet parent considers and understands this perspective, we are stepping into their shoes and see their world better. This is what matters.
Most likely, the veterinarian will ask you these essential questions. Also, these questions can run circles around your head prior to the appointment with the veterinarian. These questions will allow you as the pet parent to decide despite the struggle and emotional discord that you may be feeling.
- Why do I feel it might be time to euthanize?
- What are my worries, concerns, and fears about euthanizing?
- Is the decision I am making the best for my pet, or the best for me?
- What are the concerns of my family members, and the people around me?
- Whose interests, besides those of my pet, am I taking into account?
It would be best to measure the quality of life of your dog. This is no more than trying to measure how good or bad your dog’s life is at the moment. Evaluating quality of life can be difficult, but there are some actions that you can do to best evaluate its daily situation. Our dogs may not be able to talk verbally and tell us how they are feeling or doing. However, by observing their actions, there are visible clues that can provide answers to our questions.
According to several dog experts, you can apply the rule of “Five Good Things”. Make a list of the five things that your dog loves to do, and can do well during its healthier days. If the dog can no longer perform three or more based on your assessment, then this can merit a consultation with the veterinarian to facilitate euthanasia.
Balancing the good days and the bad can also help track the days that the dog is feeling okay, and the days that it is not feeling well. You can utilize a calendar, and cross out the bad days. This can help you determine when the dog is having significantly more bad days than good days. This means that the dog is suffering than thriving.
Pet owners can also utilize the HHHHHMM method to scale the quality of life which was formulated by the veterinary oncologist, Dr. Alice Villalobos. HHHHHHMM stands for:
This evaluation tool can be rated at a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as the poorest and 10 as the best. Dogs that will achieve to have a score of 5 in most of the categories can thrive well in with intermediate to advanced supportive care.
Keeping a pet hospice journal can also be a valuable source of information that the veterinarian can review in cases that the situation is worsening. A journal that monitors the overall pet condition, appetite, behavior, and other things that can serve as a valuable information that the veterinarian can aid in his evaluation and management.
How to euthanize a dog at home
Before, the idea of euthanizing a dog at home is quite a very sensitive issue. This is due to the emotional involvement, and the thought of having a beloved pet dying inside the house will leave memories that may or may not be helpful in the long run. In recent years, pet parents are becoming more emotionally attached and the involvement becomes deep rooted. This can work either way, to become easier to let go or will be a struggle to move forward.
The good thing about euthanizing a dog at home is that it turns into an intimate, last moments between the owner and the dog, as well as the family members. It is the last best thing that the parent can offer to a dog during its last moments – to be together for one last time.
However, euthanizing a dog at home is not compatible for everyone. For one, it may be difficult to schedule. Also, the reminders of where and when your pet died may be upsetting and unsettling. Lastly, things can go wrong, such as emotional outburst, where cases might be better be done with in your veterinarian’s office. Nowadays, the interest in at-home pet euthanasia and the number of offered services are increasing constantly.
This is a growing trend, as some pet owners chose to have their dogs pass in a familiar setting at home, and surrounded by members of the family during its final moments. In the U.S., only those registered with the U.S. DEA can facilitate euthanasia by administering a barbiturate. In general, the only preferred professionals that should perform euthanasia at home for dogs are veterinarians and licensed euthanasia technicians. This is also directly affected by the law that is state-specific.
You can consult your veterinarian if he can provide such service in advance; this allows you to expand your options in case that he does not offer euthanasia at home. There are mobile veterinarians and facilities that can offer this kind of service.
Euthanasia will require a written consent from the owner. Once the consent has been secured, the schedule for euthanasia at home will be prepared and the pet parent and other members of the family should be notified once everything has been notified. As the procedure starts, the pet parent can stay with the sick dog. While you are speaking to your pet, the medication is administered using a catheter that is usually secured in one of the legs to allow the solution to enter the circulation in a faster rate.
Generally, the medication is a barbiturate and could cause an immediate loss of consciousness making it a painless and fast procedure. Usually, the dog takes a deep breath, then the organs such as the heart and lungs stop beating and breathing, respectively. This kind of medication is in a type of preparation that your pet cannot recover from. The entire administration process until the cessation of breathing and cardiovascular function usually takes less than ten seconds and is painless. The veterinarian will evaluate and confirm that the dog is completely gone several times.
Some families prefer to have a burial for their dogs, while others prefer the remains of the dog to be cremated. A pet cremation service is generally available in cities and large veterinary clinics, and the ashes can be returned from days to a couple of weeks.
Moving forward from the peaceful passing
Euthanasia in dogs will be the initiation of the grieving process for pet parent and other members of the family. Grief can be made more complicated depending on the role of the lost pet, given that a pet parent may not just be grieving the loss of a companion, but also of an indispensable part of his or her life.
People who live along lack a solid support system that could help make the process of moving on easier. If you are in such a situation, always reach out to friends or family so that you will not be relegated to feeling alone and desolate. This is why it is very difficult for people who live alone with their pet to get over the pain of loss. They feel a sense of aloneness, isolation, and helplessness. Grief can also be exacerbated by feelings of guilt. It is important to let go of such feelings and simply hold on to the belief that your pet is already in a better place–a place without hunger or pain.
Humans are emotional by nature, whether in terms of feeling happiness or sadness. This is the main reason why the grieving process varies from person to person, and the length and intensity of the process depends on the situation in which the pet parent is. Grieving is considered as a highly personal experience. There are individuals that grieve in stages, while others experience episodic grieving when a situation triggers a past experience that is memorable and filled with emotions.
Even after several years, day-to-day experiences might still trigger memories from a sight, a favorite activity, a toy, or a specific date or playtime. No one can force a pet parent to grieve and move on. Always remember that it is normal to feel sad sometimes, even if years have passed.
The best way to move forward from such a memorable experience is to dwell with the memory of better days with your lost dog. That way, even if the dog is already gone, the beautiful memories that have been collected will be your cushion in combating the sorrow that entails euthanasia.
As pet parents grow older, they deal with many major life changes. These changes may include the loss of a friend, a family member, or a pet. Experiencing the unique situation of euthanizing a pet dog is not necessarily a worthwhile experience, but it gives a profound perspective for the dog owner to make him realize that we should live like our dogs to enjoy more what life has to offer – to live by the moment.
No matter how painful some of the experiences we encounter along the way, pet parents should continue to find joy in living until the time comes and we will be welcomed by our dogs that passed away to cross the rainbow bridge together.