Tricounty News

End of life for pets

Two weeks ago, Jean described her family's experience with the most heart-wrenching aspect of pet ownership: the day we are forced to helplessly face the inevitability of outliving our pets. Some refer to parenting as the "Great Equalizer," meaning no matter who you are, man or woman, rich or poor, stoic or emotional, raising kids will break us all down to the same level, with the same feelings and same challenges, and no worldly possessions or social status will provide any advantage. Big biker guy or Girl Scout, the great equalizer I see as a veterinarian is when people come to the clinic knowing or fearing they will be returning home without their animal family member. They may be coming home with just their collar or their blanket. For the first time since they brought them home as a puppy or kitten, they won't be greeted at the door when they get home. There might even still be food in their pet's bowl. The memories that were built around that animal flood back in and, no matter who you are in life outside that exam room, when the final decision is made, there is seldom a dry eye to be found. Everyone who has had to go through this knows exactly how it feels, and it puts us all on the same helpless and grief-stricken level: it makes us human. Humane euthanasia is the term used for putting an animal to sleep. It is a veterinary practice used to relieve animal suffering, one of the five main responsibilities a veterinarian is sworn under oath to uphold when graduating veterinary school. As difficult as it is to discuss with people, and as difficult of a decision as it can sometimes be to make, there is comfort to be found in knowing you did one last favor for your beloved animal by not allowing prolonged suffering. The decision is hard enough to make when the animal is at its end of years. It becomes extremely difficult when factors such as not being able to afford the expense of treating something they may recover from, like expensive surgeries or prolonged hospital stays come into the picture. For some, expensive veterinary care, it is simply a lot to justify when compared to other household and family health-care priorities. We thoroughly explain all treatment options with prognosis taken into consideration, as well as expenses and the various payment options to cover them. We try our best to have euthanasia decisions be based on the animal's best interest rather than on financial considerations. Grief from pet loss can be expressed in many ways. Some people want to be with their animal at the time of the euthanasia injection, and others prefer to wait outside. Some would like their pet's cremated ashes back, and some would not. Some people want to bury their pet at home, maybe even with some of their favorite things. Others might throw all the old dishes, collars, and toys away. Some people swear the experience was too heartbreaking and they will never have another pet, while others find it helpful and natural to bring in a new puppy to ease the grieving process. Some people want to talk about it, maybe keep a scrapbook or journal, or read a book about pet loss, while some might be reflective, keeping to themselves about their grief. When all is said and done, relief of animal suffering was the basis of the decision, and the grief we feel is just proof of the special relationship we shared with that animal that lives beyond the tragically short lives our pets lead. E-mail your animal questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .