Health & Wellness

The Last Act of Kindness: How To Prepare For The Death Of A Pet

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By Kristie

You’ve spent many happy years with your four-legged friend.

You’ve fed him good healthy food, kept his water dish clean and full, and kept him bathed, clipped and brushed.  You’ve romped together, cuddled together, and taken him in for his regular checkups.  You gave him medicine when he needed it — and over time as he slowed down or perhaps became ill, you traded playing catch or going on a run for some gentler activities and extra pets & pats.

But time passes much too quickly it seems, and ultimately we dog lovers have to face the fact that our time together is winding down. 

The day will eventually come when decisions have to be made that are never easy.  A little planning ahead now, while it won’t make that day much easier, might at least ease a little of the stress — for you and your family, as well as for your dog.

Unfortunately there’s no magic formula that will appear and make this decision for you.  It’s up to you, and every circumstance and every dog is a little different.

Take it from me — over the years we’ve gone through this 7 times (8 counting the cat).  Sometimes it was a no-brainer.  Other times, it wasn’t.

When Is The Right Time To Say Goodbye?

Your vet is a valuable resource, and while he or she probably won’t come right out and say “it’s time” (and shouldn’t, in my opinion), his or her input can really help.

This is especially true if your dog is ill, and treatment options are limited or have run their course.

Consider the dog’s age, and what he’ll have to go through.  Is he strong enough?  Is the potential outcome for a cure or vast improvement encouraging, or a long shot?  Are you considering heroic efforts for the sake of your animal, or yourself?  Is he in pain?

We’ve been lucky that most of our “kids” have lived a pretty long and reasonably healthy life.  As they’ve grown older, we watched them for signs that their enjoyment of life was diminishing.

There’s no perfect way to judge this, as each dog is different, and I won’t presume to set limits for you.  But with us, it’s more or less been when their quality of life has dropped to a level where we didn’t see them finding much, or any, enjoyment in their day — and the bad days far outweighed the good. 

This has often (though not always) gone along with loss of appetite or interest in food — even for the choicest dog treat.  If your pet won’t eat, and any underlying causes for that have been ruled out — well, things aren’t likely to improve.

Here’s how to determine if it’s time or not — based on your dog’s quality of life right now.

When The Time Is Near, Do This

Ask your vet to explain the process to you, preferably well ahead of time. 

In my experience, the process of putting a dog to sleep is very fast and painless.

If it’s going to be hard to get your dog to the vet’s office, don’t hesitate to ask your vet to come to the house for this final service.  We’ve done it both ways.  Each way has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Here’s some helpful info about pet euthanasia that you might not know:

What Do You Want Your Last Moment Together To Be?

This is entirely an individual decision.

Many people can’t bear to be in the same room.  Me personally, I can’t bear not to be in the room — with my arms around my dog (with my eyes tightly closed) and singing happy dog songs in his ear — so the last moments are ones of comfort and love.

Yes, you bet it’s hard.  But it’s the last, and least, thing I can do.  I’ve always regretted more the times I opted to wait in the other room.

Here’s what happens when a dog is euthanized – what the veterinarian does, what you do, and what your dog does.

What Happens Afterwards?

Your vet will discuss with you what options are available after your dog has been put to sleep — if their office can take care of the remains, or if your city will allow a backyard burial (some don’t).

Most areas also have pet cemeteries or cremation services available to those who are interested.  We’ve gravitated towards cremation — because we seem to move every few years, and cremation allows us to take the ashes with us.

But rejoice in the fact that you had what time you did with your special pet, and that you gave him the care and love he deserved.

Choose a pet memorial that means the most to you, and celebrate your dog’s life!

Prepare Early…

Here are some excellent tips to help you prepare for that inevitable day:

When pain can no longer be controlled, when appetite can no longer be encouraged, when activity loses out to inactivity, euthanasia may be the last, kindest gift you give to your furry family member.

~Leo’s Pet Care