What is euthanasia? What is putting your dog or cat to sleep?

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There is a responsibility:

Most people who take care of pets realise they have taken on a great responsibility. They realise that they have to provide food, shelter and care for their pet. It is the giving of this care that changes our relationship into one of respect, friendship, or even love.

There is one other responsibility that comes with caring for a pet – that is to make sure the end of their life is as comfortable as possible:- When a dog develops a serious disabling disease, or a cat suffers into old age with failing kidneys and thyroid issues, then their carers have a responsibility to make sure they suffer as little as possible. Carers (owners) can do this by making their pets’ as comfortable as possible; by getting veterinary treatment; and ultimately, if these things aren’t helping, then suffering will be relieved with euthanasia.

Euthanasia – what is it?

Euthanasia is the medical term for ending a life in a humane, peaceful, calm and compassionate way. Whilst vets use the term euthanasia, most people use other terms like “Put to sleep” or “Put down”. In the UK, euthanasia is mostly carried out by vets. Sometimes it is the vet who has been treating a dog or cat that administers the final act of euthanasia. This is because many owners rely on their vet to guide them towards the decision to put their pet to sleep. Vets are very good at knowing when treatment will no longer work, or when there are no options left to preserve a pet’s welfare and dignity. Sometimes, once an owner has made the decision to have their dog or cat put to sleep, they may another vet to provide caring end-of-life.

The final injection:

Most vets euthanase dogs and cats using a barbiturate medicine. This is in the final injection a vet gives and it is this medicine that causes life to stop. Usually within a few minutes of the injection, breathing stops followed by the heart stopping. These two events normally signify that death has occurred. Once these have been confirmed, there is no possibility of life returning.

Making the final injection easier:

There are ways to make the final injection easier for both pet and owner alike:

  • Make plans for the event so everything is as it should be. People report they feel shocked by the rapidity of having their pet put to sleep at the vets. The event may stay in their minds for too long and will delay their return to a more normal life.
  • Do it somewhere quiet and calm. Where there are no fear-smells or fear-sounds.
  • Make sure all the people present (owners and their family, vets, nurses) are as calm and relaxed as possible. Dogs and cats will pick up on their carers’ anxiety.
  • Pre-sedation. A few vets are beginning to administer sedation before giving the final injection. This is particularly when a pet is worried or difficult to handle.
  • This is an even more effective method than sedation alone for ensuring a pet’s final moments are without stress or discomfort.

After saying goodbye:

After you have said goodbye, then there are options for what to do next.

These are called aftercare and details can be found on the Quietus Vet cremation and burial pages.

Even later

Some carers (owners) continue to experience emotional pain after their dog or cat has been put to sleep. These experiences will be very damaging and it is vital that they consider seeking some help. Sometimes just talking to a trusted friend will help. Or there are organisations that can sign-post a person to where they may obtain more help. Be aware that this hurt (which can include feelings of guilt and grief) can sometimes be avoided by planning. Try to avoid having to make snap-decisions about euthanasia. It is best to think about it all and try to make sure it all goes as quietly and gently as you can. Talk to friends and family about your thoughts.

Quietus Vet – Caring Pet Euthanasia

Using the 3-Stage Technique makes it as good as it can be.

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