Euthanasia is a sensitive topic we all prefer not to discuss. It is also the most difficult part of a pet owner’s responsibility and a veterinarian’s job. The question always arises, “when is the right time and how should it be done?” As a 3rd generation veterinarian who has been in practice for over 2 decades I can tell you there is no true and fast answer. Every situation is different and unique. We all have to search our soul and commit to some personal ideologies.

When is the right time to euthanize a pet? I personally feel that when a pet is going to undergo unmanageable pain and suffering euthanasia may be indicated. The degree of pain and suffering warranting euthanasia is a personal decision that needs to be agreed upon by the pet owner and your veterinarian. It is a tough decision and a brave one.

How should it be done? At present, Sodium Pentobarbital is administered intravenously. This is the most humane way to euthanize and should cause no pain or discomfort. The pet falls asleep into an anesthetic state never to wake up. In many cases, it may make the pet more comfortable to use an initial intramuscular sedative or anesthetic before proceeding with the intravenous injection of Pentobarbital. This procedure is done very sensitively and depending on the owners preference can be performed with or without the owner present. I prefer for the owner to call in advance. This lets your veterinarian prepare a comfortable private room and allows the owner to take as much time as they want with no unnecessary waiting during this emotional time. Your veterinarian will ask you how your beloved pet’s body is to be taken care of. The three most common choices are burial, private cremation with return of the ashes, and communal cremation.

Like with the loss of any loved one it is natural for a pet owner to undergo some emotional depression. There are many services and literature that can help a pet owner cope with the loss of a loved pet. Listed below is some additional information that can help pet owners after the loss of our pet family member.

American Veterinary Medical Association Pet Loss Hotline 800-565-1526

Florida Animal Health Foundation’s Pet Grief Support Hotline 800-798-6196

Manned by veterinary student volunteers from the University of Florida and members of the FAHF board of directors and volunteers will return calls every evening between 7 – 9 p.m., 7 days a week.

American Animal Hospital Association website www.healthypet.com has additional resources for pet owners working through this difficult adjustment.