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Veterinarian Reviewed on January 31, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford


Often our pets become so ill that there is no course of treatment to prevent an extremely long and painful death. In cases such as these, many pet owners decide to take a more humane approach and euthanatize their beloved animal. Preparing for and following through with euthanatizing your pet is a very emotional and difficult process which involves a very difficult and final decision.

Who Can Help?

Making the decision to euthanatize your pet is of course a personal decision. You have probably built a special relationship with your pet and as a result will find it very stressful to see your pet ill. Many owners have faced this decision at one time or another and you probably have a friend or family member who can help you with this process. Though you ultimately need to make the best decision for yourself and your pet you should not hesitate to rely on your veterinarian, family, or friends to give you advice and guidance. Be sure to keep your pet at the forefront of this decision. Consider their quality of life and how their quality of life is likely to deteriorate over the course of their illness.

When Do I Euthanaize my Pet?

Deciding when it is time for your pet to be euthanatized is also challenging. First of all, you’ll want to consider what kind of joy your pet is getting out of life. If you dog or cat is unable to experience the activities that once brought them happiness then euthanasia might be warranted. In addition, if your pet seems to be experiencing extreme amounts of pain or if they have a terminal illness you might already be thinking about euthanasia. This being the case, it is important to have a discussion with your veterinarian or other family members who understand your pet. When all treatment options have been exhausted and your pet’s illness continues to get worse your veterinarian will likely begin to talk to you about euthanasia and can help you with a timeline.
In some circumstances, you might be forced to euthanatize your pet. Even if your pet is not suffering from a terminal or painful illness but has become vicious or overly aggressive you may want to consider euthanasia. If your dog or cat has viciously attacked another person or animal you may even be ordered by the courts to euthanatize your pet. Furthermore, some owners consider euthanatizing their pet when they have to move or cannot cope with the burden of a pet. These circumstances are unfortunate and every effort should be made to find your pet a proper home. Euthanasia should really be a last resort.

Grieving for your Pet

Even though you have chosen to euthanatize your pet, chances are you are still suffering through grief. The normal grieving process involves denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance. You should expect to deal with these different aspects of grieving and should allow yourself enough time to cope with your loss. In addition, it is helpful to have family and friends around during this grieving process.

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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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