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Euthanasia for Your Dog.
Help with painful decisions you have to make and what to expect



Euthanasia for your dog. Guidelines.

The decision to euthanize a beloved pet is never easy. In this article we will discuss what to ask your veterinarian to determine if treatment is an option for your pet, how to assess your petís ability to fulfill basic needs, and how to assess your petís general quality of life. After that we will discuss what to expect when it is time to euthanize your pet, and your options to care for your petís remains. These guidelines will help you know when to make the difficult decision to kindly and gently let your dog go.

Discuss your dog's health with your veterinarian

What health conditions does your pet have? Your veterinarian may need to do some basic testing such as bloodwork and x-rays to assess your petís health.

Are further diagnostics and treatment worthwhile? Veterinary medicine has come a long way. We have things like MRIs, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy available for our pets. Just because these things are available does not necessarily mean they will change your petís prognosis. Discuss with your veterinarian what you will gain if you go forward with more diagnostic tests and treatments. If the results will not significantly alter your petís situation, it may not be wise to pursue further testing or treatment. Discuss the risks and benefits of tests and treatment with your veterinarian.

Get a referral for a second opinion. Your veterinarian can refer you to a board-certified specialist. It never hurts to have a second expert opinion on your petís health.

Be reasonable. Just because we have a diagnostic tool or treatment available does not necessarily mean it is a good option, especially when talking about an elderly pet. Do not hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about what is reasonable in your petís case and for your finances. Unfortunately, we do have to consider finances when caring for our pets.

Focus on the expected outcome of the plan you develop with your veterinarian. Be clear if your plan will solve a health problem or if it is meant to increase quality of life but not cure a problem.


The Basics Ė Food, water, bathroom habits

Food: Is your pet physically able to eat? Does your pet have a medical condition causing them not to eat as much as their body requires to maintain a healthy weight? Have you discussed with your veterinarian if a special diet may help your pet? If your pet is supposed to eat a special diet and refuses, discuss with your veterinarian feeding your pet something else to get them enough calories.

Water intake: Is your pet drinking? Is your pet drinking much more than they normally would? Are they seeking water from unusual places? Do you suddenly not need to fill the water bowl? Be sure to tell your veterinarian about your petís drinking habits. This can be important information. Never restrict your petís water intake unless your veterinarian provides you with specific instruction for doing so. Restricting water can cause dehydration and be dangerous to your pet.

How to Cope with the death of your Dog

Bathroom Habits: It is important that you are able to tell your veterinarian about your petís bathroom habits. If your pet goes to the bathroom outside without you, check the yard daily. Look for any changes in amount or consistency of the stool. Note any straining when your pet urinates or defecates. Watch your dog or check your cat or small petís litter box or cage for urine. Note any changes in amount, frequency, or color of the urine. Report any changes to your veterinarian.

Evaluating and monitoring your dog's quality of life

Quality of life refers to your petís ability to enjoy themselves as they usually have. This may include going for walks, playing fetch, rough housing with pals, enjoying favorite treats, and generally being comfortable. Here are 2 methods to help evaluate and monitor your petís quality of life:

The List: Make a list of all of the things and activities your pet enjoys. As your pet is unable to do these, cross them off your list. When you have more items crossed off than are left, go back to your veterinarian to discuss whether or not it may be time to let your pet go.

Distress: If your pet is distressed by their inability to participate in favored activities, go back to your veterinarian to discuss your petís quality of life. For example, if your other dogs wrestle and your dog whines and tries to get up but is unable to participate, they are likely distressed by the situation.

What to expect when it is time to euthanize your dog

Here are some factors you may not have considered as well as a description of what to expect when the time comes.

Veterinarianís office vs. Home

Typically your veterinarian performs the euthanasia in their office. Depending on your locality, your vet may offer house calls or may be able to refer you to a vet that does house calls.

Do you want to be with your dog when he/she is euthanized?

Many people do want to be present for the euthanasia, but some do not. It is okay if you do not want to be there. Your veterinarian and their staff will stay with your pet and comfort them. You can even opt to have your pet sedated, stay with them, and leave once they are sleepy. Do not hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about what you will be comfortable with.



Your vet will discuss with you whether or not a sedative is appropriate for your pet. Some pets that are very upset at coming to the clinic can be prescribed a sedative to give at home prior to leaving for the vetís office. Your veterinarian may give your pet a sedative in the office prior to administering the euthanasia solution. Your veterinarian may or may not recommend this depending on your petís state when they come in.

What happens when your dog is euthanized?

Your veterinarian will administer an overdose of an anesthetic agent (typically a bright color such as pink) in your petís vein (location of administration may vary by type of pet). They may use a butterfly catheter or place an IV catheter which is taped into place.

Following the injection your pet will fall asleep and their heart will stop. It is not uncommon for the pet to take breaths or let out a sigh shortly after the agent is administered. Your pet may also release their bladder and bowels. If your pet it on a special blanket, you may want to move it to the front end of your pet to prevent it from becoming soiled.

Your veterinarian will carefully monitor your pet to assure that they have passed on. Euthanasia is typically a very gentle and peaceful process. Your veterinarian can answer any questions you may have prior to and during the process.

What do we do next? What are your options for caring for your petís body after it is euthanized? What should you expect?

How to Cope with the death of your Dog

Group Cremation or Burial

Your veterinarian typically offers the service through a pet cemetery/crematorium. With this option your pet is cremated or buried with other pets. Remains are typically buried in a pet cemetery. Cremated remains are often deposited somewhere such as an orchard. Your veterinarian can tell you what the company they use does with the group remains. This is typically the least expensive option your veterinarian will offer.

Private Cremation

A pet crematorium will cremate your pet individually. The ashes are placed in an urn and returned to the owner. Your veterinarian may take care of transporting your petís body for cremation or they will have information for you to do so. The standard urn is typically a wooden box. The remains are sealed in a bag and the box is usually screwed shut. If you want to move the remains to a different urn, do not be afraid to open the box. You may also be able to purchase a special urn from the crematorium. Ask your veterinarian about availability of special urns through their service.

Burial at Home

You may wish to bury your pet at home. Be aware of your local regulations regarding burying bodies on your property. It is not permitted in all areas. Be sure your petís body is well sealed in a bag prior to burial. You will want to bury your pet deep enough to deter scavengers from digging up the grave.

More Reading: How to Cope with the death of your Dog This is a very sad time for you. This article concentrates on grief you feel from the death of your dog

Author: Jackie Nelson




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