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Pet euthanasia

The decision to put your pet down can be a difficult one. Here is some information that will provide some much-needed clarity.

Updated

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It’s a fact of life that’s not easy for dog and cat lovers to confront: as a pet owner, you’ll most likely outlive your furry friend. But there’s comfort in that fact that you can help to make their transition more peaceful.

Pet euthanasia, or “putting a pet down” is the act of allowing a vet to induce death or withhold extreme life-saving measures when a pet’s suffering cannot be managed. While it’s a difficult decision to make, it’s one that could save your companion from undue misery.

The following information will come in handy if you’re faced with that difficult decision.

What to expect during the euthanasia procedure

Before you begin the euthanasia journey, you should be aware of what to expect during the procedure. Vets typically use a two-step process designed to gently lead your pet to a more peaceful death. The process, which is the same for dogs and cats, consists of the following:

  • Sedation. If your pet is overly anxious, the vet will painlessly inject it with a relaxant to calm it down. This keeps the pet from interrupting the procedure, and it allows you to spend the last few minutes stroking or cuddling your pet.
  • General anaesthetic. When it’s time to say goodbye, the vet will administer a large dose of general anaesthetic that will painlessly cause your pet to lose consciousness. Death will occur in a matter of minutes.

Facts about putting your pet to sleep

Coming to terms with euthanasia is easier when you understand some basic facts about the procedure.

  • It’s not painful for the pet. The procedure is designed to make the experience as comfortable and peaceful as possible for your pet.
  • It’s a last resort. Vets will not suggest euthanasia for a pet whose suffering can be minimised or managed. If your vet recommends euthanasia, you can be confident it’s the right choice.
  • It’s a simple procedure. You don’t have to send your pet away for a complicated, drawn-out procedure. You can be right there to comfort your pet while an experienced vet gently and effortlessly brings your pet to peace.

How much does it cost to put your pet down?

Euthanasia is a relatively simple process, so it is not very expensive.

Did you know

In Australia, pet euthanasia can cost anywhere from $100-$300 for the procedure itself, not including burial or cremation.

The price for euthanasia itself can vary based on these factors:

  • Size of the pet. Larger animals may require higher doses of anesthesia.
  • Where the procedure happens. Mobile vets may charge an additional call-out fee.
  • The vet. Prices can vary based on the vet. For example, some mobile vets specialise in more ceremonial-style procedures that may cost more.

You should also be prepared for secondary costs, including:

  • Additional treatment. You will have to pay for any life-saving treatment leading up to the euthanasia. Or if your pet suddenly has a seizure just prior to the euthanasia, it will need to be treated for the seizure before the procedure can continue.
  • Additional services. Storage, cremation and burial will all incur additional costs.

Although euthanasia by itself is not very expensive, it can become yet another bill on top of a slew of other veterinary charges. One way to ease the financial burden is by having pet insurance for your beloved pet.

Not only does insurance protect your pet throughout its life, but many policies also cover end-of-life care including emergency care and euthanasia.

Just be aware that most policies will require a vet to determine that the procedure is essential. It’s also unlikely that your policy will include autopsy, burial or cremation as part of the coverage.

Pet euthanasia in the home

Some pet owners who can’t afford the procedure may think they can perform the euthanasia themselves. Whatever you do, please do not attempt this. The chances of something going wrong are high, and it can cause tremendous suffering for your pet.

The good news is that euthanasia done the right way does not need to be expensive, especially if you opt for a simple burial at home. It’s also worth considering pet insurance, which can keep you from making drastic decisions when your pet’s life is on the line.

Mobile vets and euthanasia

Over the past few years it has become more and more popular for “mobile vets” to perform euthanasia in the patient’s home.The familiar environment can be a calming influence on you and your pet, but you should be aware of the pros and cons of this approach.

Pros of having a vet perform euthanasia in your home

  • Familiar environment. Your pet gets to spend its last moments in the environment it knows the best. This can have a calming influence on you and your pet.
  • No uncomfortable car rides. You won’t have to load your pet into the car for an uncomfortable and distressing drive to the vet. If you plan on burying your pet in your yard, you won’t have to drive home with its body in your car.
  • Friends and relatives can attend. You can have as many people there to support you as you feel is necessary or appropriate. You can even bring other pets.

Cons of having a vet perform euthanasia in your home

  • Uncomfortable memories. The deeply emotional event may create negative associations within the home that may linger for longer than you feel comfortable.
  • Unfamiliar vet. If your normal vet doesn’t offer at-home services, you’ll have to find one who does. They will want to see your pet once or twice before doing the procedure, but they won’t have the same history that your normal vet has with your pet.
  • Not for emergencies. If your pet wakes up one day in sheer agony and you know the time has come, it’s better to take it to straight to the vet rather than wait for your at-home appointment. Similarly, if your pet is already receiving life-saving treatment at the vet, it could suffer more if it has to endure an uncomfortable trip home.

What to do with the pet’s body

After your pet passes, there are two ways you can lay the body to rest. You can bury your pet, or have it cremated. Many vets offer additional services where they will guide you through this process and make all the arrangements with external providers. Some will even store the body for you until you decide what you want to do.

  • Burial. Many people will bury their pets somewhere on their property. If the euthanasia is done at the vet, you will be responsible for bringing the body home. If you don’t have a yard but still want to bury your pet, there are several pet cemeteries throughout the country.
  • Cremation. Most vets can arrange the cremation for you, or you can choose a different provider who will pick up your pet from your home or your vet. You can choose to do a general creation where the ashes aren’t returned, or you can have them returned to you in an urn.

Grieving the loss of a pet after euthanasia

Grief is a highly personal process and there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. However, it’s important to realise that you will experience some level of grief.

Here are some ways you can make the process easier:

  • Think ahead. If your pet is still healthy, think about how you would handle news that your pet needed to be put down. Would you do it at home? At the vet? Would you bury? Cremate? Knowing these things in advance will allow you to avoid having to worry about the details when the time comes.
  • Consider the moment. Some people may want to hold a ceremony that supports any beliefs they have about the dying process. Others may find a ceremony to be too confronting, and will choose to do something simpler. Consider what approach will work the best for you.
  • Give yourself time. It’s difficult to predict how you will react in the days, weeks and months following your pet’s death. Take a few days off work if you can. Avoid major commitments for a few weeks until you’re sure the worst is over.
  • Find support. Keep family and friends close by for support. If you’re putting your pet down at home, you can invite your support network to be with you and your pet during those important final moments.
  • Talk to your children. The death of a pet can be hard on young children.They are not only dealing with the loss of a loved one, but they may also be confused about the concept of death itself. Give your children an opportunity to open up about their feelings and to ask any questions they have regarding death and grieving.

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