The decision to euthanize a pet can be an extremely difficult, heart-wrenching one. But the decision on whether to stay with your pet while he or she is “put to sleep” can be even more difficult.
There are a number of things that you should consider as a pet owner, including the following points.
Is your pet comfortable with strangers and the vet clinic? Pets who are not comfortable with strangers may be extremely fearful if they’re left alone at the veterinary clinic. Many pet owners find this thought upsetting — that their pet would be fearful in his/her final moments. Therefore, it’s generally best to accompany the pet if he is prone to experiencing fear in this situation.
You may also wish to consider the pet’s mental state. An animal who is severely ill and “out of it” may not experience much stress if he/she is left alone during the euthanasia process, whereas a more lucid, “with it” pet may experience fear and a desire to be near her owner.
Do you know what to expect? The process is usually a peaceful one, but it’s important to know what to expect as your pet dies. Your pet’s muscles will twitch, even after the heart and lungs have stopped working. The last breath often has a very distinct sound; one that some owners find upsetting. In the moments after death, the body’s muscles will relax and the pet typically urinates and defecates. In my experience, the most upsetting part of the process is the stillness; the eerie stillness that follows the dying process.
If you’re unsure of what to expect and whether you can handle watching this process, you can speak with your veterinarian who can provide a complete explanation of what will occur.
Are you prone to regret? Many pet owners find it helpful to consider the situation from a perspective of avoiding regret. Would you regret it if you decided against accompanying your pet? Or are you more apt to regret your decision to watch the process? This is another important consideration.
Some vet clinics will perform the euthanasia in a two-step process which enables the owner to be with their pet during their last moments of consciousness, but the owner does not need to witness the actual death. How does this work? The vet will first administer anesthesia, which will put the pet to sleep, as though he or she was about to undergo surgery. Then, once the pet owner has said his or her goodbyes, they can leave and the vet will administer a drug that will serve to stop the lungs and heart. This is typically a bit more expensive, since you must pay for the cost of anesthesia in addition to euthanasia, but many pet owners feel that it’s well worth the investment.
If you do wish to be with your pet when he/she is euthanized, it’s best to bring along a friend who can drive you home, as you may find that you’re extremely upset following this experience.
Also, you may consider asking whether your veterinarian can perform a house call to put your pet to sleep. Many veterinarians are very willing to visit your home, especially if you’re a long-standing client; they understand that the animal is most comfortable in the home. This makes the pet’s last minutes relatively stress-free. It’s important to note that most vets don’t advertise their willingness to perform house calls; you typically need to request this.
While it’s an extremely difficult decision, I’ve always opted to be with my animals during euthanasia. I stand by my animals in life, right down to the last moment. As difficult as it is to watch the life leave your beloved pet’s body, I find regret more upsetting; I would regret that I couldn’t be there to provide love and comfort up until the very last moment. That said, I always prefer to let my pets die at home, where they’re most comfortable. Whenever possible, we take a palliative care approach to keep the pet comfortable at home until their life comes to an end. This isn’t always possible, but we opt to let our animals die naturally whenever possible, as long as it’s not drawn-out, painful or uncomfortable process.
See PetLvr’s related article on how to decide whether it’s time to euthanize your pet.
Harry Potter: “Will it hurt?”
Sirius Black: “Dying? Not at all. Quicker and easier than falling asleep.”
Harry Potter: “You’ll stay with me?”
James Potter: “Until the very end.”
– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows