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The purpose of this article is to explore what happens when an animal is "put to sleep" and how to handle the grief from losing a pet. I know some of you will not want to read this. I absolutely understand.


The emotional stress is the same when you have to make a decision for a beloved pet that you have loved for years or losing a human family member.


"Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, Filling an emptiness we don't even know we have." (Thom Jones)


This is a subject, as a foster home to several very ill or senior dogs, that I have had to deal with. There sometimes are no words that can describe the grief and the pain of having to make the decision to end any animal’s life. It doesn’t matter, if like a couple of dogs that I took in straight from the shelter to let the poor dog have a peaceful night rather than waiting in the chaos and a den of a shelter, or the shock of having one die in my arms only two hours after I brought home an owner surrender, or watching a dog slowly fade away. There is always pain and guilt that you should have been able to do something.

"If there is a heaven, it's certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them." (Pam Brown)

These are hard emotional stressful areas to go through. They will not go away, they have to be dealt with, whether it be a Boston you have had since a pup or a rescued dog you have only had the blessing of sharing its walk with you for a few months or years.

Having to make the decision to end a pet's life is never easy. It is a subject that many people do not want to talk about until they have to. Then it becomes a decision made only untumblr me00c3AcUx1rlnocvo1 500der emotional stress.


Anyone who considers a pet a beloved friend, companion, or family member knows the intense pain that accompanies the loss of that friend. The following are some tips on coping with that grief, and with the difficult decisions one faces upon the loss of a pet:¹

"Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives." (John Galsworthy)


When is the right time to euthanize a pet?

Your veterinarian is the best judge of your pet's physical condition; however, you are the best judge of the quality of your pet's daily life. If a pet has a good appetite, responds to attention, seeks its owner's company, and participates in play or family life, many owners feel that this is not the time. However, if a pet is in constant pain, undergoing difficult and stressful treatments that aren't helping greatly, unresponsive to affection, unaware of its surroundings, and uninterested in life, a caring pet owner will probably choose to end the beloved companion's suffering.

Evaluate your pet's health honestly and unselfishly with your veterinarian. Prolonging a pet's suffering in order to prevent your own, ultimately helps neither of you. Nothing can make this decision an easy or painless one, but it is truly the final act of love that you can make for your pet.¹


“I do not mind having imaginary conversations with animals who are part of my life. The comfort of talking to one at a time of personal distress is so soothing because one has the ease of knowing that one’s secrets will not be repeated to anyone. Yet there are those who are horrified that an animal can be a more reliable part of one’s world than that of the human world.” (Derek Tangye -'The Evening Gull')


Should I stay during euthanasia?

Many feel this is the ultimate gesture of love and comfort you can offer your pet. Some feel relief and comfort themselves by staying: They were able to see that their pet passed peacefully and without pain, and that it was truly gone. For many, not witnessing the death (and not seeing the body) makes it more difficult to accept that the pet is really gone. However, this can be traumatic, and you must ask yourself honestly whether you will be able to handle it. Uncontrolled emotions and tears, though natural, are likely to upset your pet.

Some clinics are more open than others to allowing the owner to stay during euthanasia. Some veterinarians are also willing to euthanize a pet at home. Others have come to an owner's car to administer the injection. Again, consider what will be least traumatic for you and your pet, and discuss your desires and concerns with your veterinarian. If your clinic is not able to accommodate your wishes, request a referral.¹


"A good dog never dies. He always stays. He walks beside you on crisp autumn days when frost is on the fields and winter's drawing near. His head is within our hand in his old way." (Mary Carolyn Davies)


What to expect when putting your dog or cat to sleep

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, euthanasia for a pet is most often achieved by injection of a death-inducing drug. The veterinarian may administer a tranquilizer first to relax your pet. Following the injection of the euthanasia drug, your pet will immediately become unconscious. Death is quick and painless. Your pet may move its legs or breathe deeply several times after the drug is given, but these are reflexes and don’t mean that your pet is in pain or is suffering.²


 ¹ Ten Tips on Coping with Pet Loss by Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed.

 ² Help Guide