Vail Pet Talk column: Euthanasia is one of the last gifts we can give a pet
Many times, it seems impossible to fathom how you will go on when you are faced with the potential loss of your pet. Animals are so important to our families, and as a veterinarian, I believe euthanasia is one of the last gifts we can give our dogs and cats, especially when we consider all they have done for us.
The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek words eu, meaning good, and “thanatos,” meaning death. In the “American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for Euthanasia: 2013 Edition,” euthanasia is defined as “ending the life of an individual animal in a way that minimizes or eliminates pain and distress. A good death is tantamount to the humane termination of an animal’s life.” Euthanasia is both a blessing and a curse — a blessing because we are ending an animal’s suffering and a curse because it is very hard to make the decision to lose one of our beloved family members.
There are several reasons why a veterinarian may recommend that a pet owner consider euthanasia. The pet may be experiencing a life-threatening injury, a chronic disease, irreversible organ failure or a condition that cannot be treated in a way that will allow the animal to maintain a good quality of life.
As a veterinarian, my main concern is whether or not the animal is able to maintain a good quality of life. I am often asked how an owner can determine this and feel that it is a very personal decision — one that is individual to each pet and their family. Something to consider when assessing your pet’s quality of life is can your pet still do the things that have always made it happy. These things include chasing a ball, sitting in the sun, greeting you at the door and going for walks. You can even consider keeping a calendar or a journal, documenting the good days versus the bad days. Try to determine how many bad days in a row mean that quality of life is compromised.
The euthanasia procedure itself is typically very peaceful and is not painful for your pet. There are options on what can be done with your pet’s body following the procedure, and your veterinarian can go over these options with you at any time. The loss of a pet is never an easy thing. Allow yourself time to grieve, and remember that your beloved pet will always be there right beside you.
Dr. Liz Foster is an associate veterinarian at Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.