The final kindness we can do for beloved pets who are suffering from disease or painful effects of advanced age is to relieve and shorten their misery. Euthanasia should be painless and peaceful, giving a caregiver a last, loving embrace with her dog (or cat), and a memory of ending the pet’s life in a quiet, dignified, fear-free, trauma-free manner. Many of us are at our most vulnerable at this time, wracked with sadness and distracted with deep concern for our companions – and, unfortunately, this may cause us to fail to ensure that the end we want for our pets resembles our hopeful vision of a peaceful end in any way.
In more than 30 years as a veterinarian, I have heard of a number of accounts similar to Jill Breitner's pet euthanasia horror stories. In my career, though, I have dedicated my practice to using only low-stress techniques, especially at the end of life. This is the art of euthanasia.
When the vet injected the drug into the muscle of Yogi’s hind leg, my cat screamed the loudest meow I’ve ever heard and, with a power he hadn’t displayed in years, thrust himself backward almost off the end of the table. The vet said, “You can let him go.” What?! I heard the words but my protective instinct kicked in; I was not going to let my frail friend crash to the floor! I was able to prevent him from falling off the table, but then he launched himself forward and upward out of my arms, flailing toward the wall. The vet and the tech stepped away from Yogi, as I flew to the other side of the table, catching him mid-air so he wouldn’t crash into the wall. They then excused themselves and left the room!
Herding dog trainers commonly use “That’ll do” as a “off switch” cue – and the expression was popularized by the movie “Babe.” (Remember? It’s when the talented swine was told: “That’ll do, Pig!”) You can, of course, use whatever cue you want. But stick with it! Trust me, you will find it well worth the time and effort it takes to teach your persistent dog that enough is enough when you say it is.
Beyond the human hang-ups and logistical challenges associated with a dog who now displays reactive behavior in the presence of other dogs, we must consider the impact on the dog. Reactive outbursts are the product of distress, and distress is serious business. It takes a long time for the body to recover from the jolt of hormones that happens during a distressful event. This altered brain state can leave your dog susceptible to triggers he might not otherwise react to, which is why many dogs can seem “edgy” for some time following a particularly stressful event.
If you do nothing else about the aggression between your dogs, you must scrupulously manage their movements and activities. Every time your dog successfully engages in a behavior that you don’t want her to exhibit, it makes it that much harder to convince her that it’s not a useful behavior strategy. Every time your dog aggressively communicates to another canine family member, it increases the potential for unresolvable aggression between the two and serious injury to one or both.
Foster or rehabilitation caregivers not only nurse dogs back to health if they are ill and give dogs temporary shelter before they are adopted out, but also are responsible for bolstering their emotional state and mental well being. Setting up a dog for success is a big challenge but should be the goal for foster caregivers.
The term “recovery collar” is becoming the standard term to refer to what has been called an Elizabethan collar, a pet cone, or more humorously, a lampshade, a pet radar dish, and, of course, the misnomer “cone of shame.” There is no shame in needing help! The term Elizabethan collar is still heard frequently, but because it tends to be shortened to e-collar and because that’s also a shortened version of electronic collar, the phrase is falling out of use for this application.
Before you embark on a trip with your dog, think of her individual preferences in addition to yours. It’s wonderful when your dog is easygoing and gets along with everyone. Our dog is one of those – she greets all humans and other dogs (and even cats and rabbits!) with a happy tail wag and sniff. But your dog may not be as social, so determine realistically the sort of places and times where your dog will be most comfortable. Is there a particular path or trail that is less populated at certain times? If your dog is reactive, maybe it’s time to work on some counter-conditioning and desensitization before embarking.
Shampoos meant for dogs with sensitive skin should contain as few ingredients as possible. A shorter ingredients list means the product has fewer possible ingredients that can potentially cause a reaction. For this reason, hypoallergenic products generally omit some of the ingredients that provide some of the traits many of us are accustomed to having in a shampoo – compounds we have come to expect in a shampooing experience, but that are unnecessary and potentially harmful to the truly super-sensitive dog.
The dog training world has become exponentially more aware of the significance of dog body language communication over the past two decades. We know how critically important it is in keeping dogs and people safe, and in building relationships of mutual trust and respect that result in lifelong bonds between canines and their humans. And yet we still see training and behavior professionals as well as regular dog owners who utterly fail to understand what their dogs are desperately trying to say to them.
Instead of tending to the bottle only when it’s time to apply medicated drops or ear wash, make a point to handle the bottle multiple times per day. Set the drops on the counter and toss your dog several small treats. She might be suspicious and ignore the treats at first. That’s fine. Act like you didn’t notice and busy yourself in the kitchen, ignoring both the medication bottle and your dog.
Your puppy's biting stage (or mouthing) can be a frustrating and painful time for you, his guardian and trainer. The following is a list of ways to keep your skin, clothes, and other possessions intact while your puppy grows through the nipping phase. Puppies explore with their mouths, which nature has equipped with rows of teeny-tiny hole-punchers. It’s no fun being at the receiving end of a bitey pup. It hurts! It’s no wonder that the leading complaint from puppy owners is “How do I stop him from biting?”
It’s a commonly accepted theory that puppies who control the strength of their bite in play (known as bite inhibition) are more likely to also inhibit their bite on occasions that may arise throughout their lives if/when they feel compelled to bite for real – not just in play. Adult dogs who have good bite inhibition, the theory suggests, will thus inflict far less damage if a bite does occur.
When veterinarians make mistakes, it can cost dogs their lives. But rather than immediately calling a veterinary malpractice lawyer, realizing veterinarian errors, and thus wrongful pet deaths, happen because no one is perfect can make a world of difference in your grieving process. This article is for anyone whose dog died after surgery or under anesthesia.