How To Have A Good Death
No one wants to think about dying but it is coming to us all. I am sure if we had a choice, we would all wish for the same thing; to pass away peacefully and quickly, without pain or fuss, surrounded by our family. Unfortunately for people this can be difficult to achieve but for our pets, it is perfectly possible, with a little planning.
Firstly, think about where you would like to say goodbye. The majority of euthanasias are carried out in the veterinary practice, usually for practical reasons; your vet should be available at a time that suits you and the cost is much less than a visit. Many people prefer to stay at home but vets are often restricted on the times they can be there and will charge a be a call-out fee in addition to the euthanasia.
Although it can seem morbid, it is better if you decide what you would like to do with your pet’s body beforehand. Home burial is an option but is only really practical for small pets, cats and smaller dogs. The majority of animals are cremated and you will be offered the choice of having their ashes returned to you or scattered by the crematorium. The former is more expensive but can be a wonderful keepsake. Most pet crematoriums offer a range of caskets and it is a good idea to discuss your choices with them or your vet before the day. If you not want their ashes returned, you can always ask your vet for a lock of hair and don’t forget to take their collar, lead or tags home if you want them.
It is tempting to have as many people with your pet as want to be there, and a good vet will always accommodate you, but this can make the experience more stressful for all involved. It can be best for family, especially children who may not understand the concept of euthanasia and find the act itself frightening, to say goodbye at home and nominate just one or two members to be present in the surgery.
When you book your appointment, an organised practice will ensure you are attending at a quiet time of day and should answer any questions you might have. Don’t be afraid to ask them to talk you though what will actually happen and don’t forget if you don’t want to stay with your pet you don’t have to. You can simply say goodbye, sign the forms and go home. It can also be a good idea to settle the bill in advance, so afterwards you can concentrate on your feelings, rather than your credit card.
It is a good idea to consider your pet’s behaviour at the vets and how they might respond to being restrained and injected. Most accept handling without any problems but some may wriggle or become aggressive. Firstly, it is important to remember they do NOT know what is about to happen, they are just in a situation they dislike and are probably feeling quite poorly as well. If you think you will find it upsetting if they struggle or are muzzled (and remember your vet needs to ensure they, yourself and their staff remain safe), you can request to have them sedated first but this will lengthen the time things take and increase the cost.
In the same vein; your vet will do everything they can to ensure the euthanasia is smooth and peaceful. However, things can go wrong, especially if your pet is challenging to handle, and you must be capable, emotionally and practically, of coping with this. In the nicest possible way, there is nothing worse for a vet, when complications occur, for them to have to deal with a hysterical and panicking owner.
Once your pet has been put to sleep, they may quiver or gasp but this is just the energy leaving the muscles. Their eyes will not close, which is normal. (Only in the movies do eyes close when people die!) They may also lose control of their bowels or bladder. None of this will phase your vet and you shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured to leave, take as much time as you need.
The ability to take away our animals’s pain and suffering and give them a dignified, peaceful ending is a gift and, although very hard, it is your final act of love for them. Making all the decisions ahead of time will mean you can simply focus on your beloved pet and make your final memories and moments with them ones to treasure.
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