Those who have faced the dilemma of letting their pet die slowly in pain or have them euthanized will tell you it is a miserable place to be. When your pet is suffering, ethical questions stop being rhetorical and start to be heartbreakingly real. How do you decide if you should have a sick or old animal euthanized? Some people believe you should never decide when your pet should die. But in some instances, it may be the most humane thing you can do. Here are some brief guidelines.
• If the animal is in constant pain for which there is no relief possible.
• If the animal is a danger to others. (An animal who has seriously injured someone or will do so)
• If the animal has a disease that is communicable and terminal and will be exposed to another population of animals.
• If a painful death is imminent.
• If the animal is injured badly enough that they will not live.
• If the animal won’t eat or drink despite a Vets care.
• If the animal is obviously not engaging in any of the activities it once enjoyed.
There are no easy answers to fit all situations. If you are in doubt, ask your Vet. If you still aren’t sure, get a second opinion. The last thing you want is to feel like you shouldn’t have done it.
Mavis, a Tulsa resident, took her cat to the Vet because he had stopped eating. He was diagnosed with an infection so bad that even after two days of IV antibiotics, his body started shutting down. His lungs filled with water and he was slowly suffocating. Mavis made the hard decision to have him euthanized. She related that she “didn’t really understand how it had all happened so quickly”. She confided that “I should have brought him in sooner.” Even when sparing a pet from dying in pain, there can be guilt no matter what you decide to do.
It is a topic weighted with controversy and heartbreak. When you have to make such a decision, you alone can make it. Most Vets gently recommend it in appropriate circumstances, but the final choice is still yours. If you own pets, realistically, it’s a choice you may have to make. If you are in the midst of such a situation, grief and uncertainty is a hard thing. Don’t go it alone.