As painful as it is to lose a beloved pet, euthanasia is often the kindest choice for our pets. But how do you know when the time is right, and what exactly does it entail? Our vet answers.

What is euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the practice of ending a life in order to alleviate pain and suffering. Many pet owners choose this option, with the guidance of their vet, when their animal has no more quality of life – for example, when their pet is seriously ill or suffering severe effects of old age.

How do I know if it’s time to euthanise my pet?

Sometimes, an animal’s suffering is obvious, and it’s a clear-cut decision to make. Other times, pet owners know that the time is right, and sometimes, it takes much consideration, talking to friends, consulting with family, and sitting quietly with your thoughts.

Euthanasia is a very personal choice, and you don’t need to make the decision overnight. Every situation is different, and it’s important also to seek medical advice from your vet, who has the knowledge and insight to help guide your decision. Ultimately, however, the choice is yours.

The most common reasons for opting for euthanasia include terminal illness, and quality of life being reduced to unacceptably low levels. Ask yourself: is my pet enjoying his life? Is she able to do the things that make her happy? Remember, animals live in the moment. Unlike humans, they don’t sit and reflect on the past or dream of the future. What they feel now, they’re feeling. Is his or her quality of life likely to get better or worse?

How is euthanasia performed?

An intravenous injection is administered to the animal, usually to the front leg. A large dose of a specific type of anaesthetic is administered, causing all essential functioning to stop.

Is euthanasia painful?

No, euthanasia is not a painful process. If you have ever been under general anesthetic, you’ll have an idea of the process, as the sensation is the same. Once the injection is administered, the animal is very quickly anaesthetised, as if undergoing an operation under general anaesthetic. Very soon after that, the animal passes away. It all happens fast and painlessly.

If you choose to stay in the room with your pet as the dose is administered, it’s important to remember that any physical ‘reactions’ you may see are not in response to pain or discomfort, but rather are a normal result of reflexes and the muscles relaxing. Your animal is not in pain.

The entire process is very quick, and is over within a few minutes or less.

Final thoughts on euthanasia

When considering euthanasia, take some time to think about your pet’s future quality of life. The purpose of euthanasia is to assist in the end of suffering, so if you see no end to your pet’s pain, putting him or her to sleep may be the kindest option. As hard as it may be for you, remember: The choice to break one’s heart to save another from suffering is true compassion.

Read more about caring for your cat or dog, or explore our articles on general pet health and wellbeing.

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