What you need to know before your pet dies
Being well informed about your options before, during, and after the inevitable is highly recommended. The worst time to make such important decisions is when time is of the essence and your emotions are overwhelming.
Making the decision to end your pet’s life is excruciatingly painful. As much as you do not want to say goodbye to your beloved friend, you need to take into account his or her well-being.
Mobility. When your pet can no longer lift his head and struggles to walk and go to the bathroom on his own, it may be time to consider euthanasia.
Appetite. If your pet is refusing to eat, that may signal the beginning of the end of the life cycle. The same can be said if the pet is consistently vomiting after eating.
Breathing. When your pet is laboring to breathe or is constantly wheezing, her quality of life is seriously compromised.
Discomfort/Pain. If it is indeed close to the end, consult with your veterinarian about ways to keep your pet as comfortable as possible.
Incontinence. If your pet loses control of his bowels and displays pain while trying to go to the bathroom, it is a sign of something greater, and is most likely hurting your pet.
Mental Health. As they get older, pets can often lose some of their mental capacity and become fearful of their surroundings. Disconnects between the brain and physical movements can be impaired.
Response to Treatment. No doubt you have done all you are personally and financially capable of doing for your pet. If at that point, your pet is still not responding to treatment, it may be best to end his life before the suffering becomes unbearable.
Happiness. This is the most important factor to consider. Is your pet happy? The answer will help guide you in making this difficult decision.
Each pet’s situation is unique. Please check with your pet’s veterinarian before making any major health decisions, especially euthanasia.
Sometimes there is not much time to make the decision to euthanize, which is even more reason to think about it when your pet is healthy.
Involve the Whole Family. You may want to protect your children, but they should be allowed to say goodbye and understand what is happening. Remember, every person, no matter what their age, handles things differently. It is important to respect everyone’s wishes and honor their individual grieving process.
Talk to Your Veterinarian. Find out what your options are. How will your pet be put down? Where? When? What happens afterward?
Spend Time with Your Pet. Go for walks or car rides if your pet is up for that physical activity. Feed your pet his or her favorite food. Rub their belly. Cuddle with them. Never ignore a request to be petted. Just be near your pet when you can, and remember that given the situation, it’s OK to break the rules just a bit.
Find a Balance Between Your Pet’s Happiness and Health. Make sure that your pet’s happiness outweighs the adverse effects of his deteriorating health.
Keep Emotions Under Control. You may cry and grieve. You may yell and ask why this is happening. However, it’s important to find healthy ways to manage your emotions. Find someone you can talk to about what you’re feeling.
Don’t Blame Yourself or Others. Placing blame is a common reaction to the death of a pet. Most often, the person takes the burden upon his or herself. Death is a part of life. Celebrate the time you had with your pet.
Losing any member of the family is extremely painful, and your four-legged friend is no different. Having some kind of lasting, physical memory of your pet can be comforting, and will bring you joy every time you look at it. Here are some ways you can honor the memory of your beloved pet:
• Create a collage
• Have a portrait painted
• Write a tribute
• Create an online memorial
• Plant a special tree
• Place a memorial stone/statue in your garden
• Buy a special piece of jewelry
• Buy a special urn for your pet’s ashes
• Contribute to an animal welfare organization
• Donate to an organization that focuses on finding a cure for your pet’s illness
Check out the NEW Pet Loss blog on TailsInc.com. Jon Remkus, of the Hinsdale Animal Cemetery shares his knowledge about the emotional and physical aspects of saying goodbye to a pet. Visit TailsInc.com to check it out.
What are my options for putting down my pet?
Aside from allowing nature to take its course, you can either bring your pet into your veterinarian’s office to be euthanized, or you can find a veterinarian that makes house calls. Every person has unique circumstances, and there is not one “right” way to do it.
Should I be there with my pet when he is put down?
Some people do not think they can handle watching as their pet passes on. Others can’t imagine leaving their pet alone at such an important time. Do whatever feels right to you.
What happens to my pet’s body afterwards? You have the option of bringing your pet to an animal crematory or cemetery. You may also choose to leave the body with your vet and they will arrange for transportation and handle the details for you.
Do I want to set up visitation or a funeral?
You may wish to set up a funeral for friends and family to pay their final respects.
How do I want my pet’s remains handled? What are my options?
Colleen Ellis, of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, offers questions to ask yourself when considering your options.
Home Burial. You may decide to bury your pet in the yard at your home. This allows you to keep your pet close. Aside from checking for buried pipes and cables before you choose a spot, you should also consider these questions:
• Is pet burial legal where you live?
• What will happen when you move from this home?
• Will you want a casket for your pet’s body?
• Will you want a marker or headstone?
Cemetery Burial. You can purchase a cemetery plot before or after your pet has passed. This provides a place for you to visit and reflect. When thinking about what you want, consider these factors:
• If you move away from the pet cemetery, are you comfortable leaving your pet’s remains there?
• How well-kept are the cemetery grounds and burial sites? If possible, go out to visit with the staff and see the property. This will tell you a lot.
• How will your pet’s body be treated and prepared for burial?
• Is the cemetery reliable? Does it look like it could move or be shut down?
Communal Cremation. If you do not want your pet’s ashes returned to you, you may opt for a communal or group cremation. However, you should find out if the ashes will be buried respectfully or disposed of in another way.
Private Cremation. If you are going to have your pet’s ashes returned to you, most families want confirmation that the ashes are those of only their pet. Ask your cremation provider for a “private” cremation—a cremation process where your pet is the only animal in the cremation chamber. Also, be sure to ask your cremation provider about their body identification process to ensure that the right pet is brought back to you.