Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 26, 2017

When a Difficult Event - Euthanasia - Is Made Far More Difficult

Posted at 03:53PM - Comments: (38)

Euthanizing any pet is emotionally difficult. You know what’s going on, and the pet doesn’t; there is a lot of guilt around that. Even when the animal has been suffering, and is likely to suffer far more if you chose not to arrange for this humane assistance, most of us feel at least a little bit of guilt about bringing our friend to the vet (or a housecall vet to our pet) for that final visit. You may be experiencing anticipatory grief and sadness. You may also be feeling doubt: Is this really the time? Did we do everything we could?

I’ve attended the euthanasia of a number of animals, my own, and those who belonged to friends or relatives who felt they couldn’t be present. I’ve been present for the euthanasia of dogs and cats, my family milk cow, and several horses. It was wrenching emotionally every time – and yet, every single time, the process went smoothly. Every veterinarian who has helped my animal friends pass from consciousness has induced this calmly, professionally, and with great sensitivity. Given the difficulties with the medical or behavioral problems and trauma that necessitated each euthanasia, I couldn’t be more grateful to the veterinary professionals who provided this valuable service.

But I guess I’ve been fortunate; I’ve never been present for a “bad” euthanasia. It stands to reason that the drugs can’t always affect all animals they are administered to exactly the same way. Every drug can cause a bad reaction, or be ineffective, in some individuals. And not all vets or vet techs are equally skilled at handling pets (especially pets who are in pain); not all are kind and empathetic.

In the August issue of WDJ, we’ve published accounts of two unpleasant euthanasia procedures – events that have left the owner involved feeling traumatized and guilty – and a discussion of how to do the most you can to ensure that your pet’s final vet visit is without fear, pain, or trauma. Of course, you can’t control the experience; you can only choose the veterinary hospital and veterinarian with whom you feel most comfortable, and then you have to sort of hope for the best: a calm, pain-free passage from this life to whatever comes next. The article offers a lot to think about, and a lot to ask your veterinarian, before scheduling an appointment for euthanasia.

Did you ever experience a traumatic event during the euthanasia of one of your pets? Was there anything you would have done differently?

Comments (38)

I swore to my beloved Skylar that I would stay with her until the end, no matter what. And I did ... almost. The vet who came to our house was wonderfully understanding and patient, happy to wait, while we took Skylar for one last walk. When she turned back after going only a few yards, we knew it was indeed time. The vet gave her a "sedative" and she fell asleep quietly in my arms. Then I left, not having the heart to see her take her last breath. Only later did I learn that the medication the vet had used to sedate Skylar had been ketamine, a drug to which she had invariable reacted badly in the past. If I had stayed, I could have had the vet "chase" the ketamine with diazepam or some other more benign sedative. Instead my sweet girl, the light of my life for twelve wonderful years, may have spent her last moments in some private hell of drug-induced psychosis. I'll never get over the grief and guilt I feel for that mistake. My lesson: be as brave as you must. It's not for your sake.

Posted by: Alvin Hill | August 3, 2017 10:56 AM    Report this comment

My Pitty Rex showed no signs of being ill. Two days before he was barking and bouncing, wanting peanut butter treats. The day before he was visiting his best pal, my daughter's dog, and they were running all over the house, up and down the stairs. The next day I took him out for his morning walk. Coming back to the house he laid down in the grass and seemed like he couldn't move. He started to drift off to sleep. He'd never done anything like that. I called my husband and said- I think Rex is dying. I got him to the vet and she checked him over thoroughly. She'd known Rex since we had gotten him, so she knew his personality. She felt something was very wrong. X-Rays confirmed a mass in his side and black frothy stuff in his stomach. She didn't think he'd make it to the next day. My husband arrived and talked with the vet for quite a while. She showed him the x-rays and blood test results. We all decided that he was in too much pain to let him suffer. My husband sat with him while the vet helped him pass. I had our grand daughter with us, so I took her home where we both cried. Our vet helped us feel like we were making the right decision and made Rex as comfortable in his final moments as she could. It is never a good experience, but at least it was done with love and understanding.

Posted by: MarAmmo | August 1, 2017 10:57 PM    Report this comment

My vet was very sympathetic ..my animals did not suffer at their time of death.
All went smooth for them while I was a sodden mess....When we had to let Silver go, Silver ,the sweet companion of my daughter's teens - a big ,gorgeous gray and white tabby cat ,I was extremely angry at myself - for what I had put this boy through for his lymphoma, before I let him go. As the initial sedation set in my Silver relaxed in my arms...relaxed for the first time in weeks and soon after went quietly ,leaving me with a different kind of guilt...

Posted by: Indy'smom | July 31, 2017 5:33 PM    Report this comment

I've had some good euthanasias and some awful ones. It's the awful ones that I remember and that haunt me. My beloved horse took 2-1/2 hours to die, with the vet first administering the injection which caused her to fall down but left her breathing and her heart beating. After a second injection which didn't work, the vet cut her femoral artery, which also didn't work. Then she cut her throat. I can't tell you how awful this whole thing was. I had promised my horse I would always take care of her and I would give her a peaceful death. She was 31 when she died, and I had given her a good life, but I wasn't able to keep that final promise. It broke my heart.

Posted by: sharonh | July 31, 2017 8:38 AM    Report this comment

I had one very unpleasant experience and one in which the aftermath was not handled well by one of the vet techs.
The very bad one was with the vet-just last August-my sheltie, Cubby, 14 y/o could no longer walk very well, almost not at all-due to hip disease, and simply old age- he was winding down-but the vet was less than empathetic-and I was very upset and took over an hour to finally make the decision..the vet tech actually came into the room and explained why the vet advised euthanasia-she had a strong feeling and fear that if I waited an took Cubby home, things would worsen to the point that I would have to take him into the ER vet and have him euthanized there-and she thought it would be likely that Cubby would suffer even more by that time-it would have made a difference to me if the vet had come into the room and told me that herself. The 2 techs were very kind-Cubby had been to the vet many times-and knew everyone there-and actually enjoyed his visits there-not this time-I felt that he was not ready to go-and I was torn on the decision-but the vet pressured-and I had always tried to to what was right for Cubby-so I consented. I have felt particularly traumatized by this.
The other was in the way by my dog's remains( he was cremated)-this was some years earlier-and at another vets

Posted by: AnneB | July 31, 2017 6:44 AM    Report this comment

THE MAGIC OF BUCKET LISTS FOR PETS:

I've always believed euthanasia was the humane thing to do if there was the need, the time and the choice.

In one of our past dogs we had warning. He was a toy poodle, a few weeks off 19 years old, quite healthy and very fit for his age until rapid and irreversible deterioration over about a month led to his level of physical and psychological discomfort and pain being too much for him to cope with. We knew the time would come soon - he even let us know he was getting ready to let go. Our boy who never chose to leave our or his sister's side or line of sight, chose to hide away. He was a loved family member so we did what we would for any family member in that situation. We wrote a bucket list- a list of his favourite things, those that he could still enjoy in his last days.

We chose his last day based on his rate of deterioration. Our boy loved the beach and the vet was half way between the beach and home on our farm so we booked in for the afternoon with a vet he enjoyed visiting. After all, why wouldn't he - visits came with loving petting, dried liver and chicken treats from a caring female vet (he always preferred the smell and touch of women), and multiple vet nurses who doted on our little pooch who had an intellectual disability since he had fallen on his head at about 4 weeks of age). He was a very special loving boy and deserved and received so much love in return.

So on that morning we took all his favourite toys and food to a part of the almost deserted 90 Mile Beach where he could enjoy his favourite environmental stimuli. We witnessed his last wind, his last joyous romp through this world. It was as if for nearly 2 hours he felt like he was a puppy again. He ate cat food, roast chicken, rabbit poo and pate. He rolled in rotting seaweed, wombat poo (yes, we are Aussies!) and disgustingly smelly sand where a seal had literally just vacated after sunning and rubbing itself, slithering back into the water as we approached (talk about great timing on our pooches part!). Our old special pooch played with our younger other dogs and sniffed the butts of a few bonus others walking on the beach. He even dipped his paws in the water and 'chased' the gently lapping waves that usually were too rough for him to go near or trust. The day and location were perfect.

As if the battery was running out on a toy, he wound down. We walked a little up the beach, and he flopped on the sand, leaning on both my husband and I, receiving gentle pats from us and licks from our doting younger female dog. He fell asleep, happily exhausted, face and body totally relaxed, no signs of the pain or confusion he had been experiencing over the last month. After a while my husband picked him up, hugged him to his chest where our boy loved to sleep (hearing and feeling a heart beat). He stayed that way, peacefully and exhaustedly asleep, not waking during the drive to the vet or the final injection.

His death was planned and it was beautiful. Just like his life.
That was over 10 years ago. I only wish that we could all go that way - Happy, peaceful, on our own terms and surrounded by those we love.

Posted by: dogs2care | July 30, 2017 3:01 PM    Report this comment

Unfortunately if you've owned dogs or cats you have to go through this. It's terrifying. My Min Schnauzer, 9 years old ended up with kidney issues and had to be put down. The Vet was tremendous if you've read the other comments. No bill only sympathy, she loved the little boy a great deal. It started me on a quest for answers, over doing the yearly shot routine. Talking to many people in the business I'm convinced that Drug Mfgr's. and Vets make money from shots. You pay dearly with lost years.

Posted by: JoeB | July 30, 2017 10:23 AM    Report this comment

Sorry about the typos :-(

Posted by: Jenny H | July 29, 2017 1:08 AM    Report this comment

Only once. an old confused and unwell dog. He has been vomiting -- projectile vomiting.
I took him to me then vet. I said that I thought he was too old to undergo surgery.
She said she wanted to do Xrays, etc., but when queried she said that IF they found anything it would require surgery. I was not ready to euthanize Sam at that stage but had already put off by one day a flight to an event I was emotionally required to be there. I asked the vet IF they could keep Sam overnight for observation and she flatly refused. So I opted for euthanasia.}
The vet had Sam on a clod stainless steel surface and with out talking to him, or letting me old him she just bunged in the needle. Then gave Sam to me in a plastic cadaver bag :-(
Changed vets, and have has several other dogs euthanased - Pearl's euthanasia was so peaceful,. The vet and vet nurse came out to our home, Pearl was on a flannelette sheet, and I told her that "The vet is gong to give you something to make you feel better, lovey. She lifted her hand and gave it to the vet, and very calmly watched as he injected her. When he was finished, she calmly laid down, relaxing I think for the first time in possibly weeks, certainly days, and so peacefully 'went to sleep'.

Posted by: Jenny H | July 29, 2017 1:07 AM    Report this comment

My beloved German shepherd got spinal mylopia at age 9 and in only a few months couldn't even get up. His regular vet had misdiagnosed it as dysplasia, so for euthanasia, I elected to see the vet who had properly diagnosed him. Coincidentally, I had worked for this vet about 14 years previously. To my surprise, as we started he stated that "they no longer let them use the good drugs", so my beloved Albrecht had no sedation.......... It was heartbreaking. My next pet euthanasia was several years later, and sedation was used..........so obviously, there was something hinky with the vet. Since that time, I have always made it clear that sedation needs to be used. There has never been another problem with any other vet, even a 14 year old stroke paralysed sheep has received it. It makes a HUGE difference in the animal's comfort in those last few minutes. Vets in general are pretty saintly, but the one who denied Albrecht comfort is no better than a criminal.

Posted by: hilfri | July 28, 2017 8:44 PM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with euthanizing a beloved rottweiler. When it was time to let her go, we took her to our regular vet, whom I never did like. But my husband did because "she was an old-time vet", and took his dog to her. He thought I was just too critical. At 13 yrs. old, she had gotten to the point where she could no longer walk without falling down. One morning, she couldn't get up at all and my husband called the vet, who said it was time. So, we brought her in that morning. She always loved to ride in the car and still was alert and interested, which broke my heart. Once there, there really was no preamble, no expressions of sympathy, the vet just got to it. She tried and tried to get a vein in my dog's leg, poking and sticking and sticking again. She never made any apologies for that. She didn't administer any sedative beforehand, just immediately went for the lethal drug. When she finally found a vein, my sweet little girl was gone. The vet did at least give us a moment to grieve privately. But almost immediately one of her incompetent and insensitive staff came in the room with the body bag. I shouted, I probably called him all kinds of names, and my husband rushed him out. A pet cremation company was to pick her up. I've always worried that they didn't. Oh yeah, and we had to stop at the front desk and pay for the service after that emotional and distressing experience.
Contrast that experience with my next dog - and a different vet. He was sedated, he went peacefully, and I was left alone to grieve as long as I needed to. This time I was having him cremated by a funeral home that provides pet cremation. The rep came to pick him up, waited just as long as she needed to so that I could let him go in my time, and then took him away after I left the building. It was all very peaceful, reverent and holds "better memories" than the last one. A few days later, the rep called to let me know his ashes were ready and would bring them to my home. I told her I wasn't ready to accept them yet. She was totally fine with that, and waited as long as I needed her to. Finally, a couple of weeks later, she brought them to the house. She was so kind, compassionate, wasn't uncomfortable when I cried, and listened patiently to my dog memories.

Posted by: ADT | July 28, 2017 3:23 PM    Report this comment

Why can't the the medicine and when she is asleep we could do it at home my dog had a had experience with the euthanasia. vet give me

Posted by: Catkno | July 28, 2017 1:41 PM    Report this comment

I had two bad experiences with euthanizing pets. The first was my elderly cat, Charlie. The vet gave him the first injection and he yowled. The 2nd one went, as I remember, directly in his heart. The second was my little Westie, Suzy. She had been fighting Westie Lung and CHF. One day the fluid that had been building up in her belly and drained every 10 days or so had moved to her lungs. She was having trouble breathing and bringing her to the emergency room was stressful. Then they had trouble finding a vein which stressed her out even more. I sat with her after they placed the IV and she was still gasping for air. I couldn't bear it. I had them do the 2nd injection very shortly after. It was a jarring experience.

Posted by: justcat | July 28, 2017 1:35 PM    Report this comment

My little dog passed away last week naturally. He was quite old and he had cancer. We didn't want to put him to sleep because we treated him as a human and my father had died a few years before because of the same cause. Even if it were legal for humans (which was not the case) we would't have ever considered euthanasia for my father though he was clearly in pain. Then why do that to our dog? He was alright until a week and half before his death. Then he couldn't walk, he couldn't stand, he couldn't eat. We had to take him to the vet daily for perfusion. Still he showed interest in what was around him, he was perfectly conscious and he was not in pain (except for one night when he cried out and seemed scared but when we came to comfort him he stopped and he was quiet for the rest of the night while my husband had to stay awake and watch him but that situation didn't repeat afterwards). The vet suggested it's highly improbable that he get better and that we should put him to sleep but added that miracles do happen sometimes. In our case it didn't. Our dog passed away quietly at home, in his basket. One moment he was alive and then he breathed hard a few times and he was gone. Of course, the treatment only kept him alive a few more days and it was expensive and took us a lot of time which we didn't have in abundance as we both work 8 hours per day but he was family. I still congratulate myself and my husband for not considering euthanasia. As I said, he was not in great pain but, again, would we have thought of putting him to sleep even if he were in pain if he was a human member of the family?

Posted by: Ruxandra Biro | July 28, 2017 1:32 AM    Report this comment

So far, I've only had to euthanize two pets. Both procedures went well, although the second involved an unanticipated complication. By "well" I mean, neither dog showed signs of fear or being in pain and I was allowed ample time to say "goodbye" once they were dead. The first experience was ideal: I was present through the entire procedure and able to reassure my alert, keenly perceptive, but very trusting Irish setter. The sedative worked quickly and I could see that she felt nothing during the final injection. The second experience wasn't "perfect," but I think everyone did the best they could under the circumstances. I'd known for four or five months that this dog had an incurable lung cancer. During that time, I worked with a team--a veterinary oncologist and a holistic vet--to develop a regime of reasonably priced drugs and herbal remedies, as well as a homemade diet, to slow the cancer as much as possible and minimize the dog's discomfort. I also decided to find my next dog and acquired a 13-week old female Irish setter during my dying dog (a very sweet Dalmatian/pointer mix)'s final months. I was pleased to see the puppy's presence seemed to cheer the older dog. Previously timid in encounters with aggressive dogs, he displayed an unprecedented ferocity in protecting the pup. Even as his energy declined, he tried to keep up with the lively pup. Finally though, on the morning she was scheduled to be spayed, he went into shock and I phoned the vet to say I was bringing in both dogs--one to be spayed, one to euthanized. By the time we arrived, the older dog needed immediate attention. There wasn't time for me to accompany him through his procedure and soothe/ reassure the puppy. The vet chose (correctly I now see) to euthanize the older dog immediately, while I was out in the waiting room with the puppy. Once the pup had been taken in to be prepped for her spay, they invited me to spend time with the departed dog. While I would've preferred that he died in my arms, eventually I realized it had been a "triage" situation in which a nervous puppy needed me more than a dog made insensible by the shock of his failing organs. In both cases, I feel lucky to have had time to discuss the procedure with the vets and figure out what I needed to do--mainly, stay calm and act normal so the dogs weren't frightened or upset by my behavior. Now that "the pup" is 8- years old and we've moved to a big city, I know I need to start thinking about and being sure I'm prepared for end-of-life arrangements again.

Posted by: califgrl | July 27, 2017 11:10 PM    Report this comment

I have a vet's office I trust, so most of my animals have been put to sleep there. However, my first therapy dog with kidney failure crashed while we were visiting my Mom in rural South Dakota where I grew up. It was the Wednesday night about 10 PM the evening before Thanksgiving. Bruce was very distressed and crying out in pain while I instructed my brother to google vets in the area and start calling them. We were in luck that a vet in a town about 45 minutes away listed his cell number as an emergency contact, as emergency vet clinics are not common in SD. He agreed to meet people and a dog he had never met before at his clinic that night. He was a kind man and listened to Bruce's history of kidney disease of 19 months. He examined him and explained that his liver had failed which was causing him extreme pain. While it was difficult to have someone put my dog to sleep that I just met, I was ever so grateful for his kindness. He even agreed to take his body on his way home to be privately cremated. We picked up his ashes over the Christmas holiday.

Posted by: pomgal | July 27, 2017 9:01 PM    Report this comment

My small chihuahua had a horrible euthanasia. The vet was incompetent at finding her vein, she started to scream, they whisked her into a back room, when they returned with her, she was so heavily sedated she was almost dead already. Her leg had a bloody bandage wrapped around it with a catheter sticking out of it. It was horrible. The same vet was also incompetent at finding my cat's vein a couple years later and poked her repeatedly.
We had a vet come to our home to euthanasia our elderly pekingese. He jabbed her hard in the thigh with the "pre-euthanasia" sedation. She yelped and ran off into the dining room.
Usually things go well, but sometimes, they don't....

Posted by: Tourmalinequeen | July 27, 2017 7:35 PM    Report this comment

In the last 2.5 years we have had to have our 3 precious little Shih Tzu's out to sleep. I was with each and everyone of them and it was ever so peaceful for each one of them. I took each one to the same veterinary clinic and they are always so caring make sure I pay first so I can leave without any fuss afterwards. They take me right into a private room so I don't have any time that I have to sit out in the main lobby which I so appreciate. Then the vet and the vet tech both comes in and we discuss how I want it done. Each and every time I have held them in my lap for both shots so I am love them and they know how much they are loved. It has been painless for all three. Heartbreaking for me each and every time but I knew we were doing the right thing. My husband is unable to come in with me but he does drive us back and forth to the vet. He is also absolutely heartbroken. He loves them so much. We miss each and everyone of our precious little ones we have had over our almost 50 years of marriage. Our home is exceptionally active now with a very furry full of joy black Pom that we adore. We so often tak about the ones we loved and miss so much and are so thankful for each and everyone of them being in our lives. Hope to see them on the Rainbow Bridge our arms and hearts will be full once more

Posted by: GrandmaSusieof9 | July 27, 2017 6:08 PM    Report this comment

If you read the other linked article - 'discussion of how to do the most you can to ensure your pet's final vet visit is without fear, pain or trauma', the third section, paragraphs 3 through 5 discuss the drug.
It is called Telazol, and is a mixture of two other drugs(Ratio unknown), Tiletamine and Zolazepam, manufactured by a company named Zoetis.
The article goes on to state that the author contacted Zoetis and was informed that the drug can "Sting badly when administered intramuscularly". As well, the article states that while Telazol is not contraindicated for use as a
pre-euthanasia sedative, it's typical use is as an "Anesthetic on difficult-to-manage animals for short procedures such as wound management, not for a pre-sedation before euthanasia".
Hope this answers some questions for ya'll - that other article is well worth reading.

Posted by: renny1 | July 27, 2017 3:53 PM    Report this comment

Two very positive experiences included caring vets much like the stories here, that gave us plenty of time with our ailing pet before administering the injection. Both were peaceful and no agitation with our dogs. We were allowed time after as well. One of those times was in our own home, which we will choose if ever we have to make this difficult decision in the future. Our "nightmare" situation was with our girl of 17 years. In this case the vet took her away from us twice and put in lines in both her front legs (she was dehydrated because she would no longer drink). The second time he came back he just gave her the injection without notice or allowing us our final goodbyes. We weren't in a private room and we were in such shock. We were then quickly ushered out the back way to our truck, where they took impressions of her paw "as a gift." To this day I get angry when I think about the heartless way this was handled. My advice is always make your wishes known in advance: Private room (if not at home), and alone time with your friend before and after.

Posted by: AmySioux | July 27, 2017 3:50 PM    Report this comment

I had to put my beloved Belgium Shephard down when she developed aggressive
bone cancer. I had tried to keep her alive over that last weekend with pain killers because she was almost her old self when they worked fast. That last Saturday night nothing was working. I wanted her to be at home in her bed to be as little stressed as possible. I began calling emergency euthanasia services early Sunday morning and found a vet who would come to the house that morning.
The first shot relaxed her some but after the second shot she began thrashing and screaming. I screamed too and said you didn't give her enough, but the vet calmly said she's just dreaming. I am weeping as I write this. I insisted she give another injection. She didn't want to "waste" the drug as it was expensive. She finally did and L'Noire's thrashing stopped and she died in minutes. It was the most horrifying experience I hope to ever endure. If I learned anything it was not to trust a Vet I don't know. I pray this doesn't happen to anyone else.

Posted by: Sophia's mom | July 27, 2017 3:40 PM    Report this comment

I recently had to have my 19 year old kitty put to sleep, as she was having seizures - our holistic vet had been able to help her with acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies, and a change to a raw diet. That was in February - by mid-July, she began to seize again, didn't know us, stopped eating and began crying in pain, so i knew it was time to say good-bye to our little friend. Even our dogs were so worried about her. I took her to a vet we had seen before, here in our town - the office was very kind and loving, and she was able to pass peacefully, in my arms, with no pain. I took her home, and she is buried in a spot where she liked to sit in the sun. My take-away from the responses to your well-written article, is that we need to ask all the right questions before taking our pets in for their final visit, and act as their advocate, with kindness but firmness, and not be afraid to leave and go elsewhere if we do not feel the atmosphere is conducive to peace. I was very fortunate in my choice of vet's office, and am sorry for the folks that had such a difficult time. Our little companions no doubt understand that we do the best we can do for them at the time, and I hope and believe that love conquers all fear. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

Posted by: k2 | July 27, 2017 3:38 PM    Report this comment

We had a little 14 year old rescue westie that we got when she was only about 2 years old. She was feisty with an abundance of personality. We had to have her put to sleep 2 months ago for what looked to be cancer. Our vet was so great and extremely supportive. He was very kind & gentle with Maggie and gave us time with her before and after she passed; the entire procedure was smooth and Maggie felt no pain. They later sent a card signed by the whole staff...we were so very touched from their kindness. We've used this same vet for the past 29 years with our dogs.

Posted by: dblack8050 | July 27, 2017 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Over the past 50 years I have had to put down many animals and never had a bad experience with euthanasia. Normally the doctors put the dogs to sleep before they administer a lethal dose so one is confident that a bad experience will not be encountered. The WORST experience I had was when I knew my golden had cancer, but I was not ready to put her down and thought she had more time. When I found her dead on the basement floor - THAT'S when I felt guilty. My poor baby died all alone in the middle of the night. I would much rather have been able to be with her......

Posted by: Twixt | July 27, 2017 3:21 PM    Report this comment

Consensus looks as if it's the veterinarians that make the decision to euthanize traumatic for the already upset owners. So it's not just me this happens to. This sucks bigtime. It's a HARD decision to make! Once you've come to the conclusion that it's the best thing for your pet, whom you know better than the vet, they question your decision and try to convince you to do worthless and expensive therapies.......on an already dying pet????? Chances are you've already dropped $1500 you don't have just to get to a final decision. Please, PLEASE people, try not to feel guilty about anything that conspired. I am telling you, you are a good kind owner. Don't delay obtaining another pet because you think you need time to respectfully morn your lost pet. He would want you to be happy with a puppy or kitten or whatever animal wanders into your life in need of a home. Make a memorial to your lost pet and always remember him when he was healthy and happy. Put the bad times out of your heart and mind. You will out live many pets so find a way to make transitions easier for both of you. There are groups you can join. Join the helpful ones, not the ones where people just morn and continue to bring up the bad times. Those won't help one bit. I found I feel better when her inscribed rock memorial for my garden arrives and I plant some flowers around it. You will find your own way. I wish you all peace and happiness with a long life filled with pets.

Posted by: ShibaCheri | July 27, 2017 3:13 PM    Report this comment

I am crying as I read these because if you've ever had to do this, it feels terrible even if you have no doubts that it is the only choice. My experience was with my lab who had an inoperable brain tumor. It was found after a second seizure. We'd treat them and be fine for a while then they would come back. She was a typical happy lab though, even after the tumor or a bleed left her blind she was still happy. When she was on massive doses of antiseizure drugs and we woke to her having them every 15 minutes, she still happily wagged her tail and loved us when she recovered. It was time. The vet was very kind, took us back to a room quickly, arranged for us to pay the bill ahead of time so no reminder bill would come in the mail (they were willing to bill later), and carefully explained the exact procedure to us, calmly petting my pup the whole time. It was heartbreaking, devastating and so sad I still cry if I try to talk about it, but it was not painful for her or traumatic for us thanks to a very empathetic vet. You can't always tell who will be good at it because they have their own feelings to deal with too. We got lucky. This occurred on a weekend and a vet who was not my favorite was on. She could not have been kinder or more empathetic, and we received a sympathy card with a sweet note a couple of weeks later. I cannot even begin ti imagine the pain if one has a bad experience.

Posted by: Alice R. | July 27, 2017 2:51 PM    Report this comment

I have had to have a number of pets pts and never had a traumatic experience, until I took my jrt Penny in. She was always a fiesty little terrier, and hung on way past her time. I had started going to a new vet, and I called the day before for an appointment. I held Penny for the longest time at home, telling her she would feel no pain, she would just drift off to sleep. When I got to the vet's, I had to sit with her in the waiting room for way too long, the guy next to me telling me what a sweet dog I had, blah, blah, blah. When we went back, I asked if she would get a tranquilizer first and she said yes. Well, they put a catheter in to give the tranq and Penny started screaming as they attempted that - she screamed and screamed, and the vet quickly gave her the euth fluid and she went limp. I could not believe my little girl had to pass in so much fear and pain. I lived with so much regret and second guessing for weeks after. A year later I had to take my Jade in - she was much sicker and a gentle dog. She had been going in every week for fluids anyway, and putting the catheter in was not a big deal to her. She went very quietly. Same vet. Different dog. I just think they need to tranquilize them before they try to put the catheter in - that is traumatic in itself. I have a 17 yr old jrt who was a feral dog and is very timid - I will make sure she is well tranquilized before she even goes in, or have it done at home.

Posted by: libnmolly | July 27, 2017 2:30 PM    Report this comment

When my BMDs cancer came back with a vengeance and it was time for her to go, we went to our regular Vet Hosp. The first injection went in okay but the final injection only got halfway in before Cinder's vein collapsed. Vet went to get more meds and left me with my dog whose head was bobbing around. I kept telling myself surely she was in la-la land mentally and not aware, but was not 100% sure. Really hurt to see her like this. Vet came back and found vein in back leg to complete the action. He really didn't say much to me and I needed some emotional support at that moment. All he said was that sometimes cancer dogs's veins can be a problem. I understand how that could happen but have some compassion please. My girl did not deserve to go through that and I wish I had used a Hospice Vet. Next time I will.

Posted by: graci | July 27, 2017 1:42 PM    Report this comment

A bit over a year ago we had to euthanize our 16 12 yr old Jack Russell. Six months before that we lost the 19 year old lab/beagle/border collie my wife had adopted from the CACC kill shelter in Manhattan. The two had been joined at the hip for over 13 years and both were two time cancer survivors. Kimmie, the older girl had simply gone to sleep in bed with us all on Halloween morning of 2015. Her "brother" was totally distraught and we could literally see him getting worse as time went on. We finally had to take him to the emergency vet here in Charlotte and the diagnosis was an inoperable thoracic mass. We were advised by the excellent staff and oncologist who had successfully treated both dogs earlier to try and keep him as comfortable as possible and he would let us know when it was time for the inevitable, which he did. She also gave us info to contact Lap of Love a national home euthanasia service. After an extensive q&A the LoL rep did agree that it appeared to be time and he arranged an appointment for one of their specially selected and trained vets to come to our home. We can say without reservation that she, the vet, made our boy's final time as bearable as possible. The morning of her visit he had shown extreme pain and was clearly suffering. We had him on the couch on a peepee pad between us and had Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman's "Time to Say Goodbye" playing. The doctor did not rush things at all and gently stroked our boy calming him with a gentle voice. She administered the initial relaxing dose and told us to take our time, there was no rush, and she was in no hurry. Our boy looked at us and we could have sworn he used his eyes to tell us he knew it was time and he would be okay. We told the vet we were ready and she gentled administered the final pheonbarb and within seconds our boy closed his eyes and was with his sister at the rainbow bridge. The vet had a beautifully lined basket into which we place our boy and she covered him with a silk cloth. We took him to her car and she advised that the cremation service would be calling to arrange delivery of his ashes to us at home. No it was not pleasant and the emotions ran high for some time. But, we would, and do, highly recommend Lap of Love to our friends and others facing this terrible time. God bless all you dog and cat moms and dads who have had to go through this and we only wish you all could have have had as peaceful a time of it as we did. About six months later we adopted a fantastic 6-7 year old Brittany Spaniel mix from a local kill shelter two days before he was to be put to sleep. He had been found wandering a road by a sheriff's deputy, had clearly been abused, was heartworm positive and had not been neutered. We have had the heartworm treated and had him neutered. We look forward to many years of sharing life with this precious boy. Peace to all!!

Posted by: bluezoom8 | July 27, 2017 12:31 PM    Report this comment

Sadly, we have had to make this painful decision for 3 of our golden girls to date. The most recent was 15 years old and she was simply very tired and really ready for her next life, so we made the difficult decision to let her rest eternally.

For the other two, as is very typical with Goldens, cancer reared it's ugly head and it became very clear when it was time. Unfortunately, for one of them, the first attempt did not complete the task - through no fault of the veterinarian we believe. He had given her the anesthetic so she was sleeping, but the actual euthanasia injection did not work. However, it rendered her so close to death, with barely a pulse, that the doctor had a very difficult time finding a vein capable of accepting the next attempt. It took quite some time before it was over. We were all distraught, including the vet. We can only hope she was unable to feel or understand what was happening after the first failed injection.

Posted by: Bella and Breeze's Mom | July 27, 2017 12:29 PM    Report this comment

We have had better experiences with having a dog euthanized at home. We did have trouble with one dog and ended up having to clip his leg first. It would have been helpful if I had shaved the area the day before so things would have gone more smoothly. My daughter took her elderly German shepherd to the clinic and the vet did not give her a sedative first. The dog's veins kept blowing and it was a nightmare for the dog and my daughter. I have had another dog that fought the procedure at the vet's so that situation would have been eased by sedation also. Other experiences over the years have been very smooth and easy which gave us the idea that they all would be. Blowing veins can be a problem for very old dogs so it may be unpreventable in some cases but if the dog is sedated it won't bother him as much. I did not take my heart dog in, my son and daughter took him. He was too sensitive to my feelings and would have been totally concerned about what was happening to me. He was very concerned when I was talking to the vet on the phone even though he was so ill, as I was starting to lose it. He was not tuned in at all to my adult children and went happily with them. My daughter said it went smoothly, no stress. So sometimes it is better to have someone else help you out. It is always hard and always sad but sometimes the kindest thing.

Posted by: Flowerhilles | July 27, 2017 12:18 PM    Report this comment

My experience that terrible day was not with the euthanasia itself, but with the vet beforehand. My 6-year-old Pogo, a Bombay with a history of health problems since kitten-hood, had started having breathing problems (again) the week before. After giving him antibiotics and nebulizer treatments, he got only worse, refusing food and generally going downhill. I made a euthanasia appointment, and when the vet came into the room she tried to convince me to put him through expensive and invasive diagnostics....even though she said his chances were extremely poor! I stood my ground, but the look she gave me pierced my heart. His liver was failing, and even with treatment was past the point of quality of life. She gave him the shots, and it was quite peaceful, but I went home feeling shattered---as if I had executed him. My hope is that veterinary training will eventually exclude this kind of experience. It was profoundly guilt-inducing, and should not have been. I'm in the process of changing vet clinics, after 18 years with that one. Trust is damaged.

Posted by: katwalk44 | July 27, 2017 12:15 PM    Report this comment

I am still in great grief over a cat we had put down. We took him in, thinking he was troubled by teeth problems. Turned out he had jaundice. The blood tests showed such severe levels that the vet tech said our cat had probably only a few days left.

We deliberated for two hours about what to do. Having witnessed a previous beloved cat going through misery with dying from a tumour, we did not want our buddy to suffer. We decided on euthanasia. We stayed for the process. I saw how frightened our buddy was. And I know the needle going in hurt. I hate myself for this.

What would I do differently? Opted to take him home, because he was still showing interest in life. Because THAT shall remain my signal to hold off on euthanasia. And waited until HE indicated he could not take it anymore, which we have done in the past with a dog.

And, I would have done my homework BEFORE any decision. Because, some people have had success in reversing jaundice. I made the error of researching this AFTER the euthanasia. I sobbed bitterly when I read this.

One thing I am doing differently now, with all our cats and our dog, is feeding them species appropriate food, and I STOPPED the kibble. This was a horrific learning curve about kibble.

I will say that, although the vet clinic we go to is not integrative, and therefore not up-to-date on such issues as food better than kibble, the people are all very kind. Which helps. A lot.

Posted by: Tamara Heikalo | July 27, 2017 12:01 PM    Report this comment

I have had to put 3 greyhounds down; one at our vet's office, two at our emergency hospital and I must say the emergency hospital experience was the best, if you can this experience best. Anyway both situations went fine as far as the procedure and both vets were very loving and caring even afterwards we received cards, very caring. I had all three cremated and they are now in my bedroom with me forever.

Posted by: SlyBrandy | July 27, 2017 11:59 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for your well-done article on this subject. I found euthanasia to be such a difficult decision that I actually wrote a book about it back in 1997 to try and help myself and others deal with all the feelings stirred up by the experience.

I feel I have been very fortunate that I've always had knowledgeable, skilled vets who helped my pet leave peacefully. Until I read your article, I had no idea that the injection could cause suffering if not done correctly.

Dealing with feeling about this type of euthanasia experience would be similar to dealing with feelings about being abused I think. Very, very difficult to successfully deal with.

Posted by: lmpeterson | July 27, 2017 11:58 AM    Report this comment

Not really about the the medical process but how the Vet handled the issue up until the actual moment.

I was on a 6 month assignment where I was living out of a long term hotel. We had brought our dogs with us. Our 14 year old stopped eating. We took her to a local Vet clinic. They ran some test and her liver was failing. The Vet tried to convince us to put her in the hospital for two weeks and pushing fluids. Cost was going to be $6000.

I asked a simple question. Would she get better. The Vet looked startled. Finally she said no. We scheduled her for an appointment the next day and had her put down. The Vet finally said that we did the right thing but the clinic owner (own multiple clinics) want the Vet to push services. It was not a helpful or pleasant experience for us.

On the other hand when we were home several months ago our other dog (15) stopped eating and health was failing fast. We knew it was time. We called the vet and brought her in that afternoon. They had a nicely appointed room that was not an exam room setup. The Vet came in and looked at her asked some question and agreed that it was time. He was caring and gentle. They had a separate exit and let us stay as long as we wanted. Cost was not a issue but the first vet bill was $500 and the second $100.

The medical aspect is one thing, but it is the whole experience that can be traumatic.

Posted by: BillT | July 27, 2017 11:43 AM    Report this comment

I have taken many pets to be put down and never had a bad experience, they went peacefully and although it was sad, it wasn't traumatic UNTILI had a terrible experience when sending my beloved Pekingese to rest. My usual vet was not available so I took her to a clinic close to home. We had treated her for an issue with her back for years and it got to the point she was almost constantly suffering in pain.
so I took her for her last ride and told her she'd never have to scream again, (which she did when it really got bad). At that time I didn't know I was lying to her.
Since she was black the logical thing would have been to shave a spot on her leg and give her a mild tranquilizer shot first. But this so called vet just started poking and twisting her leg. She was wild eyed and started screaming and I told him to stop. He said there was enough in her system now he wouldn't/couldn't. So finally he had someone come in and shave the leg and after a few more pokes he finally did hit the vein and she passed on.
I didn't pay and they never billed me and I have tried to let all my dog friends know of my experience. It should not have been this way when a simple tranquilizer shot would have prevented these issues. I still have nightmares reliving this over and over and it's been 7 years.

Posted by: MrsD | July 27, 2017 11:38 AM    Report this comment

When I took my little Blackie to the vet for euthanasia, the vet gave her the first injection and Blackie cried and cried in pain until the stuff put her out. Thinking about it later, I realized the vet didn't give her the anesthetic that would put her to sleep before giving her the 'pink stuff' and it probably felt like she had fire in her veins. I've never had a vet since that didn't anesthetize my pet beforehand. Needless to say, I never went to that vet again.

Posted by: patm | July 27, 2017 11:20 AM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In