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Pet euthanasia

The decision to put your pet down can be a difficult one. Here is some information that provides much-needed clarity.

It’s a fact of life that’s not easy for dog and cat lovers to confront: as a pet owner, you’ll most likely outlive your furry friend. However, there’s comfort in the fact that you can help to make their death more peaceful.

Pet euthanasia, or “putting a pet down”, is the act of allowing a vet to induce death or withhold extreme life-saving measures when you can no longer manage a pet’s suffering. While it’s a difficult decision to make, it could save your companion from undue suffering.

The following information may come in handy if you’re faced with a difficult decision.

What to expect during the euthanasia procedure

Before you begin the euthanasia journey, you should be aware of what to expect during the procedure. Vets typically use a two-step process designed to lead your pet to a peaceful death more gently. The process, which is the same for dogs and cats, consists of the following:

  • Sedation. If your pet is overly anxious, the vet painlessly injects it with a relaxant to calm them. This treatment can keep the pet from interrupting the procedure and allows you to spend the last few minutes stroking or cuddling your pet.
  • General anaesthetic. When it’s time to say goodbye, the vet administers a substantial dose of general anaesthetic that painlessly causes your pet to lose consciousness. Death then occurs in a matter of minutes.

Facts about euthanising your pet

Coming to terms with euthanasia is easier when you understand some basic facts about the procedure.

  • It’s not painful for the pet. The procedure is designed to make the experience as comfortable and peaceful as possible for your pet.
  • It’s the last resort. Vets do not suggest euthanasia for a pet whose suffering can be minimised or managed. If your vet recommends euthanasia, you can be confident it’s the right choice.
  • It’s a simple procedure. You don’t have to send your pet away for a complicated, drawn-out procedure. You can be right there to comfort your pet while an experienced vet gently and effortlessly brings your pet to peace.

What costs do you need to consider when euthanising a pet?

Euthanasia is a relatively simple process, but you need to contact your vet to discuss the exact cost. The price for euthanasia varies based on these factors:

  • The size of your pet. Larger animals may require higher doses of anaesthesia.
  • Where the procedure takes place. If you wish your pet to remain at home, your vet may charge an additional call-out fee.
  • The vet. Some mobile vets specialise in more ceremonial-style procedures that may cost more.

You should also be prepared for secondary costs, including:

  • Additional treatment. You have to pay for any life-saving treatment leading up to the euthanasia. Or, if your pet suddenly has a seizure just before the euthanasia, it needs to be treated for this before the procedure can continue.
  • Additional services. Storage, cremation and burial all incur additional costs.

Although euthanasia by itself is not usually expensive, it can become another bill on top of a slew of other veterinary charges. One way to ease the financial burden is by having pet insurance for your beloved pet.

Not only does insurance protect your pet throughout its life, but many policies also cover end-of-life care, including emergency care and euthanasia.

However, be aware that most policies require a vet to determine that the procedure is essential. It’s also unlikely that your policy includes an autopsy, burial or cremation as part of the coverage.

Pet euthanasia in the home

Some pet owners who can’t afford the procedure may think they can perform euthanasia themselves. Whatever you do, please do not attempt this. The chances of something going wrong are high, and it can cause tremendous suffering for your pet.

The good news is that euthanasia carried out the correct way does not need to be expensive, especially if you opt for a simple burial at home. It’s also worth considering pet insurance, which can keep you from making a drastic decision when your pet’s life is on the line.

Mobile vets and euthanasia

Over the past few years, it has become more and more popular for “mobile vets” to perform euthanasia in the patient’s home. The familiar environment can be a calming influence on you and your pet, but you should be aware of the pros and cons of this approach.

Pros of having a vet perform euthanasia in your home

  • Familiar environment. Your pet gets to spend its last moments in the environment it knows the best, which can have a calming influence on you and your pet.
  • No uncomfortable car rides. You won’t have to load your pet into the car for a painful and distressing drive to the vet. If you plan to bury your pet in your yard, you don’t have to drive home with their body in your car.
  • Friends and relatives can attend. You can have as many people there to support you as you feel necessary or appropriate. You can even have other pets.

Cons of having a vet perform euthanasia in your home

  • Uncomfortable memories. The profoundly emotional event may create negative associations within the home that can linger longer than you feel comfortable.
  • Unfamiliar vet. If your regular vet doesn’t offer at-home services, you need to find one who does. They may want to see your pet once or twice before the procedure, but they won’t have the same history that your usual vet has with your pet.
  • Not for emergencies. If your pet wakes up one day in sheer agony and you know the time has come, it’s better to take it straight to the vet rather than wait for an at-home appointment. Similarly, if your pet is already receiving life-saving treatment at the vet, it could suffer more if it has to endure an uncomfortable trip home.

What to do with your pet after euthanasia

After your pet passes, there are two ways you can lay them to rest. You can bury your pet or have them cremated. Many vets offer additional services to guide you through this process and make all the arrangements with external providers. Some even store the body for you until you decide what you want to do.

  • Burial. Many people bury their pets somewhere on their property. If euthanasia is carried out at the vet, you are responsible for taking the body home. If you don’t have a yard but still want to bury your pet, there are a few pet cemeteries in New Zealand.
  • Cremation. Most vets can arrange the cremation for you, or you can choose a different provider who collects your pet from your home or your vet. You can choose to do a general cremation where the ashes aren’t returned, or you can have them returned to you in an urn.

Grieving the loss of a pet after euthanasia

Grief is a highly personal process, and there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. However, it’s essential to realise that you will experience grief at some level.

Here are some ways you can make the process easier:

  • Think ahead. If your pet is still healthy, think about how you would handle the news that your pet needs to be euthanised. Would you do it at home? At the vet? Would you bury? Cremate? Knowing these things in advance allows you to avoid worrying about the details when the time comes.
  • Consider the moment. Some people may want to hold a ceremony that supports the beliefs they have about the dying process. Others may find a ceremony to be too confronting and choose to do something simpler. Consider what approach works the best for you.
  • Give yourself time. It’s difficult to predict how you will react in the days, weeks and months following your pet’s death. Take a few days off work if you can. Avoid significant commitments for a few weeks until you’re sure the worst is over.
  • Find support. Keep family and friends close by for help. If you plan to euthanise your pet at home, you can invite your support network to be with you and your pet during those final critical moments.
  • Talk to your children. The death of a pet can be hard on young children. They are not only dealing with the loss of a loved one but they may also be confused about the concept of death itself. Give your children an opportunity to open up about their feelings and ask any questions about death and grieving.

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