People always ask: How will I know it is
time? While this is a very personal decision, there are a number of indicators
that you can use to help you know when it is time to help your pet pass away.Please note
that I refer to your pet alternately as him or her for clarity.
·Does your pet act
like herself anymore? How much of the day is your pet like
this? Is it only for a few minutes of the day, or it the majority of the time?
If your pet seems lost mentally or painful physically for much of the day, it
is perhaps getting to be time.
Is your pet still
eating, drinking, playing or going for walks? These
are all concrete indicators of how your pet is doing, and are easier to
evaluate than pain, as some animals are more stoic, or more “vocal and
dramatic,” than others.
How difficult is
the process of medicating and treating your pet?
Is the medical intervention disturbing your bond with your pet or making you
feel like you are traumatizing him? If your cat is hiding under the bed all the
time to avoid being pilled, perhaps elonging his life is not the best choice
for either of you.
Girls and Horses: always a great mix
Can you reliably
control your pet’s pain?Are there reliable and easily
administered pain medications? Pain can be very difficult to evaluate in pets. Our goal is to control your pet's pain so that he can enjoy the time that he does have. If we can't adequately control his pain, perhaps it is time to set him free. Our veterinarians can help you evaluate your pet's pain, and give you some hints about monitoring for pain at home.
Is the time that
you are buying going to be good time? Perhaps you
are at the point of trying to evaluate whether or not to proceed with some type
of intervention, for example, should you start chemotherapy, or do a large
surgery such as back surgery for disc disease.Choosing to amputate a limb in a young dog that has been hit by a car if
very different than choosing to do so in an older pet with bone cancer, for
example, and while veterinarians try their hardest, prognosticating is at best
an uncertain process. Now is a good time to sit down with your family and
veterinarian to discuss the ramifications of all your different choices. Are
you truly doing this for your pet, or actually because it is just too hard to
say goodbye or to make the conscious decision to stop treatment and let go?
Snakes can be lovable pets, too!
Can you afford the procedure being offered?We are lucky
to live in a time when our ability to help our animals medically has ascended
to the level of that in human medicine. Unfortunately, as the level of care has
risen, so has the cost, forcing many of us to make difficult choices. It is
hard enough to decide to proceed with a potentially life saving but painful
procedure without having to worry if you will be able to pay for it! To make
matters even more complicated, frequently these decisions have to be made
quickly and at times of emotional duress. Also, even within a family, people
have different opinions and philosophies, adding even more tension to an
already stressful situation. These are very difficult issues to think about,
but one must. Know that everyone faced with making medical decisions for their
pets or loved ones faces these choices. You are not alone. If you cannot help
your pet regain a good quality of life, it is the kinder choice to set them
Kids are the same the world over
What does your
heart say? Sometimes our heart has the answer, if
we can just be brave enough to hear it over all of the other noise around us.
This is not to say that you will know for sure--few situations are that
clear-cut. Remember that notknowing does notmean that you are
not in touch with your pet; it may simply impossible to know for sure.
Rats are wonderful pets for kids
Does your pet know
what is going to happen? I do not believe, nor is there
any medical evidence, that animals truly understand what is going to happen,
though they definitely can pick up on their owner’s distress or anxiety.
Because we love our pets, it is very easy to anthropomorphize and misinterpret
their actions as being perhaps more human than they actually are. Pets are
actually quite lucky in that they seem to live in the moment and not worry
about the future. Still, we can help them by staying as calm as possible and
helping them to pass in the gentlest way possible. By choosing at-home
euthanasia, you are giving your pet the chance to pass in the comfort of her
home, something most of us hope for.
Kitten and Teddy-true comfort
Can an animal
communicator help? Just a word here about animal
communicators. I have met several people who have used communicators to ask
their pets when it is time or to ask their pet how he isdoing. While I think it is perfectly okay to consult a
communicator should you feel the need, I also believe that most people know
their pets best, and are perhaps in the best position to judge when is the best
time to help them die with dignity and in peace. I have also been lucky enough
over the years to be exposed to many different belief systems, and do not
believe that any one is more right than another. I think that whatever brings
one comfort and helps the believer to make rational and ethical choices about
their life is one worth following.
Should your other pets “say goodbye?”Many
people wish for their other pets to have the chance to say goodbye. You will,
of course, have the opportunity to allow this to happen, and your other pets
are totally welcome to be present for the whole appointment if you so desire.
The only time we ask you to confine a pet is if they are bouncing around the
room to the degree that I am concerned they may jostle my arm or hurt your
elderlyor sick pet. We just want your pets
passing to be as smooth and gentle as possible.
A working pet
What should you tell your children?As you know, the decision to euthanize a beloved pet
is never easy, not even for adults. For a child, the process can be entirely
overwhelming. Young children should not be included in the decision making
process about euthanasia. Teens may be more involved, but should know that the
final decision rests with the parent. Unless euthanasia occurs in an emergency
situation, it is wise to prepare children ahead of time. Their pet should not
simply disappear. Each situation is individual, however.Please go to Children and Euthanasia for more age-specific information. Also,
feel free to call to discuss your specific situation. Dr. Ekstrom has four
children (and many pets) and is fairly well-versed in counseling families with
children about how to handle this emotion-loaded process.
can I bear to help people euthanize their pets?Many people have
asked me how I can “stand” to put pets to sleep. Well, I feel that life is a
cycle. We are all born, we live, hopefully rich and fulfilling lives, and then
at some point, we must die. If I can make that final passage easier, if I can
help prevent your pet from suffering a painful end, then it is all worth it.
Euthanasia at home is so peaceful. Your pet is in their home environment. You
will know that your pet is not worried or scared, and that their final memory
will be one of you at his/her side, gently easing himacross
that final frontier between life and death. We should all be so lucky when our
time comes, to go gently with our best friend at our side.
A buddy and a ball-Life can't be better
Euthanasia: How does the process work and is it truly humane? The process of
humane euthanasia is a very peaceful process. To explain, after thoroughly
discussing you and your pet’s circumstances and if the decision has been
reached that his/her quality of life is poor, I would first give a
sedative/pain killer. This is a tiny injection that may pinch a little bit, or
your pet might not notice at all. It works slowly over about 10 to 15 minutes
to relax your pet and take away pain. Once the first injection has taken place,
then second injection, which is actually an overdose of anesthesia, will be
given. This injection is also painless. Most pets don’t even notice when the
injection is given, though all pets vary and some might look at me or pull
their paw away from me a bit. After the final injection is given, your pet will
pass slowly through the planes of anesthesia, basically falling asleep and then
entering a deep plane of anesthesia. Anesthesia is a state where an animal
cannot feel, hear or see anything. This is what happens when we undergo general
surgery, and it is a completely pain-free and unconscious state.As the anesthesia becomes deeper and deeper,
eventually the heart will slow down and stop. Your pet will only be aware that
he or she passed away gently in your lap or with their head on your knee orin your hands.
If they could only stay this young and healthy forever!
Euthanasia: What happens
after my pet passes?
After your pet’s
heart has stopped beating, they may move or twitch a little, or even appear to
be taking a big breath. These are all reflex movements; your pet is not
experiencing them at all, but they can be startling for owners and even a bit
scary for young children, so we always take time to explain beforehand what is
going to happen during the process. Also, many people do not know that your
pet’s eyes will remain open; this is totally normal and is not a sign that your
pet is still alive.
Some people wish to
have some time alone with their pets at this point, and others do not. Whatever
your choice, I always honor your decision in whatever way possible. In addition,
I can assist you afterwards should you wish to have your pet cremated and/or if
you wish to have the ashes returned. I can also give you guidance about how to
talk with your children or friends about what is happening.
I am including my
favorite poem. Reading it has helped me when I have had to say goodbye to friends, pet and human. I hope it can help you if and when you
face this difficult decision.
Please feel free to call us if you have questions
about end of life care. We are always open to talking with you, even if it is not
not stand by my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am a diamond glint of snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starshine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there . . . I did not die.
Dr. Hanna Ekstrom The Rainbow Bridge Vet 425-402-0187 info@TheRainbowBridgeVet.com