How do I know when it is time?

Most pets do not pass away in their sleep, no matter how badly we hope that will happen. In many cases natural death is a painful and lengthy process that is difficult for the pet to endure and for you to witness. If your pet is extremely ill or so severely injured that it will never be able to resume a life of good quality you may need to choose euthanasia for your pet. If your pet can no longer experience the things it once enjoyed, cannot respond to you in its usual ways, or appears to be experiencing more pain than pleasure, you may need to consider euthanasia. If your pet is terminally ill or critically injured, or if the financial or emotional cost of treatment is beyond your means, euthanasia may be a valid option.

Make a list

Making a list of things that you, and any other people who love and care for your pet, consider essential to your pet having a good quality of life can help the decision-making process. This list is best made while your pet is still enjoying a good life if at all possible, so you can be objective and think more clearly. Putting off making the list will not put off when (or if) your pet will suffer. “Now” is never the easiest time to decide to end your pet’s life. If you have wondered how you will know when it is time, then it is time for you to make the list. If your pet is not suffering terribly, but may later on it, is time to make the list. Because you see your pet every day, it can be difficult to see signs of progressing illness or deterioration that may develop slowly. Talk to people that do not see your pet everyday, but still care about you and your pet. This person may be a close friend, a family member or your veterinarian. To get started, read Assessing Your Pet’s Quality of Life.

Why is it so hard?

Knowing when or if it is time to say goodbye to your pet is always a terribly difficult and painful decision, and every pet owner is very afraid that they will not make the right choice. Being afraid of the pain of grief and loss may keep you from stopping your pet’s pain. Remember that your pet trusts you to do what is best for them. Pets with chronic diseases have good and bad days, with the balance leaning more and more towards the bad days as time goes on. This can make the decision even more difficult to make. The more time and effort you put into nursing care to keep your sick pet feeling as good as possible, the more it will hurt when they are gone, and the harder it is to decide when it is time to stop the pet’s suffering. As long as you are making your decision based on the quality of life your pet currently has or that you can provide for them, you will not make a wrong choice.

Knowing you are making the right decision about your pet does not protect you from the feelings of sadness, loss and grief that you will experience. Talking with other people who have experienced a similar loss, reading or listening to inspirational or uplifting material can help you deal with these feelings. Please visit our grief support links page to help you through the most difficult part of having a companion animal- saying goodbye.

How will it happen?

At ARKLE, euthanasia is most often accomplished for pets by two injections. First your pet is given an anesthetic. There may be a momentary discomfort from this injection, but within a few minutes your pet will be sleeping, pain free and relaxed. The second injection, medicine to stop your pet’s life, will then be given. Most pets pass away before the second injection is completed. Owners often cannot tell the pet has passed away, other than by seeing that breathing has stopped. You may choose to be with your pet during this process, or you may choose otherwise. There is no right or wrong choice, only what you feel is right for you and your pet. Your pet will be handled with the same respect and gentleness whether you are present or not.

For some cases, in-home euthanasia is the best choice. For those situations, please visit the national In-Home Euthanasia Pet Directory.

What do I do with the body?

Burial and cremation are the two most common choices offered to pet owners.

Cremation:This is the most common way owners chose to take care of their pet’s remains. Veterinary clinics can usually handle taking care of your pet’s body if you are unable or chose not to bury your pet. There is usually a fee for this service. If you have your pet cremated, there is an option of having their remains (cremains) returned to you. There is usually an additional charge to have the cremains returned to you. There are choices of urns and containers that can be used to keep your pet’s cremains, if you are not planning to scatter the ashes. Some animal shelters or county animal facilities can cremate your pet’s remains, but you may not have the option of having the cremains returned to you.

Burial: While there are a limited numbers of pet cemeteries available in some states, most pets are buried at home. If you wish to bury your pet, check that the grave location is a legal one. If you do not own the property or you think you may move away, this may not be a good choice. Pets’ bodies are not preserved or embalmed so you will not be able to move the body later on. It is also important when burying a pet that the grave is big enough and deep enough so that the remains will not be disturbed by wild animals.

Other choices: There are a few companies that offer preserving your pet’s remains, but these tend to be very expensive, and are not available in all states.