When you’re a puppy parent, the one thing you try to avoid thinking about is the day when you no longer have them by your side. Saying goodbye is sadly inevitable and hard but can be made even more difficult when it becomes our choice to end our furry friend’s life.
It doesn't matter if your pup is mature or young, many of us owners will have to go through this traumatic experience – even when we know our dog still deserves many more years with us. This difficult decision is probably the MOST difficult part of having a pup in your life, but when we’re faced with it, we need to make sure that we’re making the right choice for our furry babies, and not keeping them in pain so we can be with them for longer…
Making that final choice for your doggo can be tough. You’ll plague yourself with questions such as, “Did I do it too early?” or, “Did they suffer for too long?”. You can spend hours, days or weeks asking yourself these hard questions, but the answer is always the same.
Deciding to end your dog’s life will never be easy, but it is a time where you need to make sure that you’re not being selfish and you’re putting your dog first. Sometimes letting your dog go before things get worse is the best thing you can do for them – no pain, no suffering, and you get to remember them when they were fit and healthy, not weak and slowly deteriorating.
Using the HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale is encouraged. These letters sand for hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, and more good days than bad. Each one of these factors is scored out of 10 and can be performed by both you and your vet. If you have noticed that any of these factors are failing; your dog is no longer able to walk on their own or they have difficulty eating, it can help you understand that ending their life is the kindest thing for you to do.
Once you and your vet have made the decision, it is time to take positive actions so that you and your family will be okay after. Recent research has shown that for most people, the loss of a dog can be just as difficult as losing a human loved one. With this in mind, try to mentally prepare yourself for the pending upset that will soon encompass you and your family.
If possible, try to plan to have things that will remind you of your pup removed for when you return to the house without them. Things like empty dog beds, favourite toys, and food bowls are key triggers for sadness and upset. Having someone take them away or popping them in a place you cannot see them can help a little.
Now is also the time to ask questions – even if you think it is trivial. The next part of this journey will be difficult, so the more you are prepared, the easier it will be. Ask your vet if they have any advice – they have been through this before, whereas you haven’t. They will be able to help you through the process and give you confidence in your final decision.
A good tip during this difficult time? Once you have decided with your vet that this is the next step to make, ask if you’re able to sort any payments out then and there – the last thing you want to be doing after you have said goodbye to your beloved pet is to worry about money.
When it comes to the day of the procedure, you may find yourself swamped with conflicting emotions – this is completely normal. Most vets will allow you to spend alone time with your fur-baby before, during and after (if you want). For the sake of your pet, it is best to make sure that the environment is loving and calm, so you need to try to be brave for them. If you feel like you can, stay with them throughout. If you don’t feel like you’re able, there is no judgment – vets want to make sure that the procedure is as smooth and calm as possible, so if you’re not in there, they will do their utmost to keep your pup comforted and at ease.
Euthanasia is usually quick and painless. An overdose of anaesthetic is injected into a vein in the front leg of your pup as it has a direct route to the heart, although it can be administered in other places. Your pup may yelp or whine when then injection is administered due to the prick of the needle breaking the skin, but other than this, the injection will cause your pup no harm, pain or discomfort.
As the drug begins to take effect, your pup will become dizzy and drowsy, falling unconscious within a few seconds after. In many cases, your pup will be unconscious before the entire injection has been administered. Your dog will finally pass after a couple of minutes, once the heart has slowed and stopped beating – this may take a little longer depending on the age or health of the dog.
It is important to try not to feel guilty or blame yourself – you have made this decision in the interest of your pup with the backing of loved ones and medical professionals. Allow yourself the time to be upset and mourn the loss of your family member.
The next step will be difficult - returning to your home without your pup. Knowing that you’ll be walking into a sad home, full of memories and shadows of your furry baby is hard and can cause extreme distress. Even when you own more than one dog, it will still feel like someone is missing and will be difficult for a while.
During this low and emotional time, it is important to not make any big decisions – like running out and buying or rescuing another dog. Not only will it just prolong your mourning period, but you'd also be bringing a new, vulnerable dog into a negative and sad environment – not to mention the smell of your passed dog will still be throughout the home. You need to give yourself the time to grieve, even if it takes you months or even years to feel normal again.
Always remember, when it comes to ending your pup’s life, you’re not alone. It isn’t an easy decision, which is why your vet and family will help you make the right choice – if it means that your dog will no longer be in any pain or discomfort, it is the best thing for them. Try to remind yourself that you have done the right thing. The doubt may creep in from time to time - when you see something that reminds you of your best furry friend, or when you come home and they’re not there to greet you, but you did the right thing. Keeping them around to be with you can be too selfish and would end with more suffering. It will come to a point where being a good puppy parent means saying a very hard and emotional final goodbye.