Pet Euthanasia Questions

Pet euthanasia is one of the hardest decisions that pet owners face. Many people have misgivings and mixed feelings about euthanizing their pets. Here are some questions you should consider when deciding whether or not to euthanize a terminally ill pet.

When Should I Consider Euthanasia?

If your pet is terminally ill, this should be the most important question you ask yourself. Talk to your vet; find out what to expect from the progression of your pet's illness. Ask the following questions:

  • What symptoms can I expect, in what order, and in what time frame?
  • How long will it be until symptoms become unmanagable?
  • How long will it be until my pet's pain no longer responds to treatment?
  • When will my pet no longer be able to function normally?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you decide when you should consider euthanizing your pet. Other factors you can consider when choosing a time to euthanize include:

  • Your pet's daily quality of life; does your pet have more good days than bad days?
  • Your pet's level of pain
  • Your pet's appetite and water consumption

Many people believe that their pet will somehow let them know when it's "time." This is a dangerous myth. Animals have no awareness of their own mortality, nor do they fear death. Waiting for your pet to tell you when it's "time" can make you wait too long, leading to prolonged suffering for the animal; or, you may ultimately feel that you didn't wait long enough, and suffer more intense grief of your own.

Will I Be Present for the Euthansia?

Many pet owners feel that it's very important, maybe even obligatory, to be present for the euthansia. While being present for the euthanasia is a big decision, it remains your choice. If you feel that witnessing the euthansia would be too painful, you don't have to do it.

You may want to be present if you feel that your presence will make your pet more comfortable. However, if you think your own distress will add to your pet's trauma, you may choose not to be present. If you choose not to be present, don't leave your pet at veterinary office; often, animals waiting to be euthanized are left in kennels until the clinic has closed for the day. This period of waiting can only add to your pet's trauma; ask that the euthanization be performed while you wait.

Many veterinarians are willing to make house calls for pet euthanasia. This can be a good option for pets who experience high levels of stress when taken out of the home or into a veterinary clinic. Home euthanasia offers your pet the opportunity to pass away peacefully in the comfort of familiar surroundings.

What Will I Do with the Remains?

Decide ahead of time what you'll do with your pet's remains. If you want to make special arrangements, such as having a funeral service and internment in a pet memorial park, you may want to begin years in advance.

For many owners, dealing with a pet's remains is a spiritual issue. Some may prefer to keep their pet close to them, in a cremation urn, or interred in a favorite location. Others may feel that physical remains are unrelated to the spirit and will be happy to leave the remains with the vet. Do what feels right to you.