by Dr. Kelly Wolfensen Guay
When taking on a new pet as a family member, unfortunately it is important to realize that this is not a relationship that will last forever. The joy of a new animal friend can be sadly tempered by the idea that one day you may have to say goodbye. Having just gone through euthanizing my family dog that was nearly 15 years old, it is a topic that is fresh in my mind. I have had discussions with hundreds of pet owners over the years and there are a few key points critical to consider prior to actually finding yourself in the situation where you have to make this important decision for your pet.
The first issue is quality of life. What factors comprise quality of life for your pet? Walking unassisted? Eating with enthusiasm? Being able to make it to an appropriate location for toileting? Enjoying your company and attention? If your pet has a chronic illness, these factors are more important than if there is a catastrophic emergency or acute illness. Think of the best day you can remember your pet having and consider the activities that occurred. Playing Frisbee? Cuddling with a child? A long hike or swim? Is your pet still able to continue enjoying those activities? If the answer is no, you need to start envisioning at what point you want to “call it quits,” and relieve the suffering of your pet friend. This process can take a while, and ought to be accompanied by frank, honest discussions with your family and veterinarian. There is hospice-type care available for pets, and palliative (comfort) care options may be available. There are many options available for the actual “procedure” important to pre-consider: do you wish to be present for the euthanasia? What are your wishes for the remains of your beloved pet? Do you want to bury them in your yard (check local statutes, as they vary widely), or have them cremated? Do you want to keep their ashes afterwards? Pet cemetery? Regardless of what illness your pet has, or what choices you make, keep in mind that euthanasia is one of the kindest options, and brings permanent relief to our suffering friends. Compassion is key.
Kelly Wolfensen Guay is a local veterinarian with 15 years' experience, serving Southern Worcester County. She specializes in house calls, seeing your pets where they are most comfortable: in your home. Find Dr. Kelly's HouseCalls on facebook or call 860-805-3726.