As a vet, we are often asked for advice on knowing when it is time to say goodbye. The first thing to know is that this is never an easy decision, and many of us at Shepton are pet owners. We have all been there and understand that losing an important member of the family can be a challenging time.
For some animals, they may become debilitated by disease or age so that the choice is sadly made for us. If you are unsure about whether there is anything that can be done for your pet do get in touch. Some issues may be managed surprisingly easily, even if it is just palliative care. With issues such as inappropriate urination it may be worth checking for a urinary tract infection that may be resolved with antibiotics. Not every lump is malignant. Pain medication can vastly improve mobility if your pet is suffering from arthritis. Cognitive decline is now well recognised in pets, and we may be able to help provide medication or recommend food that can help your pet day to day.
For other pets, the correct time can be less clear. One of the main things to look for is - are they having more bad days than good? How is their overall quality of life? Natural ageing and slowing down is normal but look for signs of pain or discomfort.
Does your pet still enjoy their favourite activity? Are they still enthusiastic on walks for example? (Although their pace may well be much slower these days). Are they able to sleep comfortably? Are they eating and keeping weight on? Muscle wastage is common, but genuine weight loss is a concern. Are they free from pain? Are they free from distress? Pets that develop either urinary or faecal incontinence can become very distressed when they have previously been clean. If you have any questions, please do come and speak to us.
Making the decision to choose euthanasia for your pet can be hard and it often comes with emotional issues such as guilt, grief and uncertainty. Help is available if you are struggling, pets are a huge part of our lives. The Blue Cross offers help and support for people struggling with loss (https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss) as does The Ralph (https://www.theralphsite.com/).
If you do decide the time has come, if an at-home euthanasia is requested at Shepton we will try and accommodate that if we can, although we do ask that this is during working hours on weekdays only as at weekends, we require our team to stay at the hospital for emergencies. Alternatively, it can be arranged with an extended appointment at either our Wells or Shepton branch. The procedure itself will be explained by your vet.
Every now and then, a social media post makes the rounds. It states that owners should always stay with their pets during a euthanasia, or the animals panic. This is not true. Whether you stay for the procedure or not, this is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong answer. For some people, previous experiences or personal trauma makes staying with their pet difficult. This is ok. We will be there for your pet and look after them like our own if you are unable to stay - there is no judgement whatever you decide to do.
Finally, I am using this article as an excuse to share a picture of my cat, Jake. I lost him in 2020. He had several health issues, primarily that he had a form of diabetes caused by a brain tumour (Acromegaly). Sadly, treatment for this just didn’t work and his quality of life declined. I hated having to make that decision, it's the hardest thing about having a pet. But it was the right call, and now I remember the amazing cat he was. I only now think of all the happy times - bar waking me up with a deceased mouse 2 inches from my face at 5am!
- Vet Leanne
Guidance and Support During Difficult Decisions
At Shepton Vets, we understand the emotional challenges that come with deciding when it's time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. Our compassionate team of veterinarians and staff members has firsthand experience as pet owners and recognises the profound impact that losing a cherished family member can have.
When it comes to determining if it's the right time to say goodbye, there are no easy answers. Each situation is unique, and we are here to provide guidance and support throughout this difficult process. If you're uncertain about your pet's condition or the available options, we encourage you to reach out to us. We can assess your pet's health and discuss potential treatment options, including palliative care or managing specific ailments.
It's important to consider your pet's overall quality of life. Are they experiencing more bad days than good? Do they still find joy in their favorite activities? Can they sleep comfortably and maintain a healthy appetite? We understand that aging and slowing down are natural, but it's crucial to look for signs of pain or distress.
We want to assure you that making the decision to choose euthanasia is never easy, and it often comes with complex emotions such as guilt and grief. Remember that you're not alone in this journey, and help is available. The Blue Cross and The Ralph are valuable resources that offer support for individuals struggling with pet loss.
If the time has come to say goodbye, we strive to accommodate your preferences. At-home euthanasia may be possible during our working hours on weekdays, or we can arrange an extended appointment at our Wells or Shepton branch. Our dedicated team will explain the procedure and provide the utmost care and compassion to your beloved companion, whether you choose to be present or not.
Please know that there is no judgment in deciding whether or not to stay with your pet during the euthanasia process. It is a deeply personal choice, and we respect your decision. Our priority is ensuring that your pet feels safe, loved, and comforted throughout their final moments.
As veterinarians, we have experienced the heartache of saying goodbye to our own furry family members. If you're facing the challenging decision of saying goodbye to your beloved companion, please remember that we are here to support you every step of the way. Your pet's well-being and comfort are always our top priorities, and we are committed to providing compassionate care during this sensitive time.
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