Is it time to put your pet to sleep? is one of the hardest decisions that animal lovers must make. There is no right or incorrect response. Each pet owner must decide for themselves. As long as your friend is comfortable, you should keep them close, but if they are in agony, you should let them go.
Why do people kill dogs?
The space is quiet and dark. A shaggy bear-shaped dog is lying on the floor in front of me. His name is Shep, and he looks like a cross between a German shepherd and a Great Pyrenees. Shep was adopted by Anne and Rich to protect their dairy goats from coyotes, but he wasn’t particularly effective at his job and ended up turning into a devoted family pet. I am aware of this since I have provided for him throughout his entire life as his veterinarian. I can now see the affects of the cancer that is slowly taking his life as he lies spread out on the floor in front of me.
Shep has osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that is aggressive and lethal. It begins in a long bone somewhere in the body and slowly consumes the leg until nothing is left. The fracture occurs suddenly and painfully in the leg. After that, the cancer steadily spreads until it eventually invades the lungs. There is little that can be done after the cancer has spread to the lungs. Only a few days or weeks remain.
Shep shattered his leg, and that’s when we found the cancer. I spent a lot of time talking to Anne and Rich. The usual course of treatment is chemotherapy and amputation. A good quality of life can be attained with that treatment for up to a year or longer. There are obviously no assurances because cancer will do as it pleases. After weighing the advantages and disadvantages for two days, Anne and Rich chose to amputate Shep’s leg and pursue chemotherapy because the dog was otherwise healthy and joyful. He was excellent as a tripod. Frequently, it took two glances before you realized he was missing a leg.
It’s been nine months since then. Currently, Shep’s lungs are full with malignancy and the chemo is no longer effective. He is on the floor in front of me, breathing heavily. His nostrils are dripping thin, runny blood, and he periodically coughs. His eyes aren’t the bright, sparkling brown I remember; they’re dull now. He doesn’t eagerly sniff around in my hand for rewards. When I mutter softly, his tail doesn’t thud “Shep is a decent boy. There is no longer the dog I know. He is a shell of a man.
On either side of him, Rich and Anne are holding hands while gently sobbing. Anne repeatedly rubs her fingers through his shaggy fur.
I softly shake my head. “No. After giving him propofol, which will put him to sleep, I’ll administer the blue injection. Both his breathing and heart will gradually stop. He will nod asleep, and then he will pass away. I assure you that he won’t feel anything. Despite the fact that we have already discussed this, I once again show her the syringes. Because ambiguity is never a good thing in these circumstances, I use the word die.
I check the catheter, position the Shep’s enormous paw in my lap, and slowly administer propofol. Shep’s head tilts to one side, his breathing gets deeper, and his eyes get hazy. I administer the second shot. His respiration becomes more sluggish. Slows. Slows. Then it comes to an end. With a choked wail, Anne clings to his lifeless body. Rich keeps his composure, but tears slowly flow down his face. They both have their attention on Shep’s body and fail to notice the final gift that my patients frequently give me. I distinctly saw relief as the medications started to work in his brown eyes.
When I was little, I recall hearing my parents conversing in whispers about what I thought to be “teens in Asia. As we would drive through the night with the radio on, I would be sleeping off in the backseat and overhear their hushed words and the urgency with which they discussed it. I didn’t understand at the time why they were so worried about Japan’s teenage population. Why did that have anything to do with socialized medicine and death squads? Years passed before I grasped what they were actually talking about “Asia’s youth are being put to death. I didn’t fully comprehend euthanasia, the quick death, until I trained as a veterinarian.
When we look into each pet’s eyes in those final seconds, we repeatedly find relief rather than dread. Relaxation. Finally, the end of pain has arrived.
For those of us who grew up during the Dr. Jack Kevorkian period, euthanasia was a contentious issue. When I was 19, Kevorkian was found guilty of second-degree murder for helping to put Thomas Youk to sleep. Youk was suffering from ALS, a condition that destroys the body but spares the intellect.
Back then, I didn’t pay much attention to these discussions. I had the entire world spread out before me as I headed off to college. But when I began my job as an emergency veterinarian over ten years later, these questions came back to haunt me. What else do veterinarians perform besides vaccinating animals and treating illnesses? We lessen pain. We assist our animal companions as they approach the death threshold and then assist them as they pass through the last, enigmatic door. Daily euthanasia occurs occasionally. We do it for behavioral, medical, and physical reasons.
And while we’re doing it, we hold the hands of distressed owners and assist them in making that final, difficult choice. We listen to sacred stories and offer consoling words. And as we look into each pet’s eyes in those final seconds, we repeatedly notice relief rather than dread. Relaxation. Finally, the anguish has come to an end. I have repeatedly witnessed it firsthand. The silent appreciation as a cherished pet passes into whatever awaits us in the hereafter. The light begins to fade before going out completely. As veterinarians, we are not hesitant to admit that everyone will eventually die and that we have the power to lessen the suffering of the last moments.
We do what human doctors are not permitted to do as veterinarians. We are all aware that there is no permanent human victory over death. When a patient is near death, a doctor may offer a salve to purchase time. But for many people, there comes a point where the salve stops comforting and medical intervention only causes harm. However, the majority of nations currently have nothing to offer. Doctors have limited options. Despite their best efforts, they are unable to assist their patients in passing through the last door. They must travel alone.
Animals are not the same as people. I’m not attempting to refute that claim. However, in this regard, we treat our pets better than we can ourselves or our loved ones. We cannot hold their hands, listen to their sacred memories, and provide that very last, very final easing of the anguish when they are of sound mind and wish for the suffering to end, a suffering that has no other end but death.
I hope that one day my doctor will be able to provide the same to me if I can provide it to my animal patients who are in pain.
finally in a better place free of pain. They wouldn’t want us to suffer but to rather cherish all the great memories.
Question: I euthanized my dog recently and it was horrible. My dog threw her head back, opened her mouth wide and her eyes were almost bulging, as if she was screaming in pain. The vet immediately said the needle must have missed the vein so she immediately did another injection. Was she in pain?
Answer: So sorry this has happened to you. If no catheter was used, it is possible that the solution went around the vein rather than directly in it, which may cause a burning sensation. If that was the cases, it is known as sodium pentobarbital perivascular irritation.
Question: Our dog screamed and made frantic running-like motions during euthanasia. It took three injections before he passed. He screamed the whole time. What happened?
Answer: I wished vets would provide an explanation when this happens as they must know best and can help owners better understand. I am guessing that perhaps some of the euthanasia solutions ended up going around the vein causing a burning sensation that may have frightened him. This appears to happen more likely when a catheter is not used. It is called perivascular extravasation. Of course, this is just an assumption. Only your vet can provide clarity on what truly happened, have you thought about contacting your vet for an elucidation? My deepest condolences.
Is putting a dog to sleep painless?
Almost no pain is involved in the euthanasia process. Our veterinarians want you to know that euthanasia is a virtually painless procedure. There are two steps involved in putting a pet to sleep: Depending on your pet’s tolerance for immunizations, the vet will start by giving your pet an IV, which is typically painless or almost painless.
Will I feel bad about killing my dog?
I am aware that this saying is overused. This adage is frequently used. But the reality is that it functions. Having those optimistic thoughts includes doing this.
We can overcome our guilt by reflecting on the wonderful experiences we shared with our cherished pets.
When Pancho died, I first couldn’t stop thinking about the last few days of his life. On the agony he felt, the fatal seizure he had, the nausea and confusion he began to experience as the infection spread throughout his brain.
My regret over not being able to recognize the gravity of the situation in time, failing to give him more cuddles, or missing the seizure consumed me.
As soon as my friends and relatives realized how depressed I was, I began to receive lovely images of Pancho living life to the fullest, running around, and getting into mischief with other dogs.
With time, I began to feel ready to see images of Pancho in order to recall the many wonderful times we had by the river, playing ball, and playing hide-and-seek (he used to adore it when we hid and would start calling for us to be found). His tails began to wag quite quickly, but the best part was when he came across us. We have a lot of leaks. Oh god, how I cherished that dog and how much he supported my family!
Don’t get me wrong, I used to get upset every time I saw the images, but as I did it more, my mind began to concentrate more on the wonderful times we shared with him and less on the latter weeks of his life.
So, take some time to consider the amusing encounters you might have with your friend as well as the enjoyable activities you would enjoy doing with your pet.
You could feel less guilty if you were able to take some time to think back on the years you spent with them and all the happiness and excitement you brought into their lives.
Recalling your lovely life and the amazing moments you shared with your beloved friend will aid in your recovery.
Give Your Brain a Distraction
Your daily schedule will unavoidably change. This is the hardest time for pet owners to deal with the loss of their animals.
In the 1980s, Quackenbush and Glickman conducted a poll of 138 pet owners who had recently lost a pet. 93% of pet owners questioned said that their daily routines had been disrupted in some way, with 70% of respondents saying that their social lives had decreased (source: Voice of Bereavement).
This sudden shift will plunge you into a pit of hopelessness. Try to give your brain something else to think about to assist you deal with that absence. This could be:
- Volunteer in a refuge for animals,
- begin a new interest, or
- Start working out. When I need to clear my head, I find that running is useful.
Your Guilt Is A Sign of How Much You Cared
Recognize that it’s normal to feel bad about euthanizing your pet and that it is one of the telltale symptoms of how much you really cared.
Be nice to yourself and keep in mind that you took the necessary steps to prevent your pet’s suffering.
You can be feeling bad because you couldn’t afford everything or because you feel like you could have done more.
The day Pancho died, I can tell you that I started to feel awful when I was out for a stroll.
I kept asking myself, “How come I didn’t press the vets for additional tests?,” in my brain. Why did I not notice how ill he was becoming? I ought to have taken him to a different vet! The ideas kept coming to mind. I thought I had let him down.
Therefore, acknowledge that you gave your pet the finest care possible and forgive yourself for whatever guilt you may have felt because the scenario did not turn out precisely as you had hoped.
Talk About Your Feelings
However, if these emotions overpower you and your thoughts drift to fear or even suicide, seek help immediately. You need to talk to someone since your guilt is getting the better of you.
Speak to your spouse, a friend, or the personnel at your local veterinary clinic. Many of them might have had the same guilt problems after having to put down a pet.
There are pet loss hotlines that you can call if you don’t have someone to talk to, if you want a professional to help you, if it’s late at night and nobody is available to talk. Many of these are available 24/7 and will talk to you whenever you want.
You can get in touch with these two well-known pet support helplines if you live in the USA:
- the ASPCA at (877) GRIEF-10
- (855) 955-5683 Lap of Love
Memorialise Your Pet
Memorializing your pet is a terrific way to ease the guilt of having to put them to sleep.
- In your garden, you might designate a memorial area. someplace where you may think back and cherish the wonderful days. I made this one, and I really like it. I enjoy enjoying a cup of tea in my memorial garden on a sunny morning.
Check out my article on the “Best Garden Plants For Pet Memorial” if you decide to go with this option. This is a guidance on where to put a monument depending on the light, shade, soil, temperature, etc. It also gives you suggestions for some lovely plants you can use!
- You might want to have a brief memorial service. This is especially advantageous for households with small children. Try to involve the child as much as you can. In this manner, they can bid their best friend farewell.
- Some people elect to cremate their dogs and scatter the ashes in a sacred area. Just be cautious about where you scatter the ashes because they can kill plants. Why not think about storing the ashes in a biodegradable urn and allowing them to slowly and delicately meld with mother earth? No plants are harmed in this manner.
- Some folks could decide to establish a unique memorial space in the house and preserve the cremated ashes in an urn at home.
These are just a few suggestions for memorializing your pet. Check out this article for more suggestions.
Make sure that whatever you decide to do, you are following your instincts. If you need to cry while creating your memorial garden, feel free to do so. It’s acceptable if you need to chuckle at the memorial service. Don’t hold back your emotions. All of your emotions are valid as you grieve!
Understand Your Pet’s Disease or Condition
This one I completed. How little I thought I had done for Pancho was one of the things I battled with the most when he passed away. I had to learn everything I could about meningitis as a result.
This was a huge help to me since it made me realize how little I could have done to aid him.
Despite being rare, meningitis is an illness that progresses quite quickly. By the time we realize this is the issue, the bacteria has frequently taken control of the brain to the point where there is little anyone can do.
Knowing what led to the final choice lessened my agony about what might have been done to alter the result.
The truth is that, regardless of what you did, the conclusion was likely going to be the same if your pet had to be put to sleep due to an illness, an injury, or old age.
Knowing this could make it easier for you to accept what has transpired. It benefited me!
Consult your veterinarian and learn as much as you can about the illness your pet suffered. Your pet’s illness and the prognosis that your cherished furry buddy may have been experiencing can be readily explained by your veterinarian.
Speaking with those who have experienced what you are may help you understand what to anticipate with your pet’s condition.