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How Will You Know?

Author: Dr. Christine Calvert, DVM

It’s hard to imagine… the years have passed so quickly. Now you are faced with the decision, is it time to let go?  Or does he have a few more months in him?  These are the questions that plague many pet owners with their four legged family members at some point in their lives.  We all hope they will go in comfort in our home, but in the case that your pet is seriously ill, has extensive injuries, or has severely diminished quality of life as they get older, it often makes it necessary for us to make a decision about euthanasia to end pain and suffering.   Determining when “it’s time” can be the cause of a lot of stress and anxiety.

Knowing when it’s time
Your veterinarian is the best-qualified person to help guide you through this difficult process. In some cases, your veterinarian may be able to tell you definitively that it is time to euthanize your pet, but in other cases, you may ultimately need to make the decision based on your observations of your pet’s behavior and attitude.

Here are some signs that may indicate your pet is suffering or no longer enjoying a good quality of life:
• He is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain).
• He has frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing him to be dehydrated and/or have significant weight loss.
• He has stopped eating or will only eat if you force feed him.
• He is incontinent to the degree that he frequently soils himself.
• He has lost interest in all or most of his favorite activities, such as going for walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats or soliciting attention and petting from family members.
• He is hiding in a closet or under a bed, not coming around the family
• He cannot stand on his own or falls down when trying to walk.
• He has chronic labored breathing or coughing.

Saying goodbye
Once you have made this very difficult decision, you will also need to decide how and where you and your family will say the final goodbye.
• Before the procedure is scheduled to take place, make sure that all members of your family have time with the pet to say a private goodbye.
• If you have children, make sure that you explain the decision to them and prepare them for the loss of the pet in advance. This may be your child’s first experience with death, and it is very important for you to help her or him through the grieving process.
• It is an individual decision whether or not you and your family want to be present during the euthanasia procedure. For some pet owners, the emotion may be too overwhelming, but for many, it is a comfort to be with their pet during the final moments and see them at peace.
• Some veterinarians will come to your house, which allows both the pet and the family to share their last moments together in the comfort of their own home.
• The procedure usually only takes a few minutes and does not cause your pet to feel any pain or discomfort when the medication is injected.

Burial and cremation options
Your veterinarian can offer you a variety of options for your pet’s final resting place.
• Cremation is the most popular choice, and you can choose whether or not you would like to have your pet’s ashes returned to you. Most cremation services offer a choice of urns and personalized memorials.
• Burial is another option at a pet cemetery. You may want to bury your pet in your own yard, but it is not permitted in Anne Arundel County.

Saying goodbye to a member or your family is never easy, but hopefully this information will help guide you when the time comes.  We all love our pets and want the best quality of life for them.  Having the opportunity to end your pet’s suffering is truly a gift that we have to prevent our four legged friends from experiencing any unnecessary pain in their final days.  Ask for your veterinarian’s advice if you need help deciding if your pet is ready to cross the “Rainbow Bridge”.


Rainbow Bridge Poem:
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
Author unknown...

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