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Euthanasia & End-of-life Care for Dogs

Every dog owner wants to make sure that, when it's time to say goodbye, their beloved canine companions don't suffer and can die with dignity. Today our Tumwater vets are here to share their advice on how you can be prepared to help your pet in their final days.

Palliative Care and Deciding on End-of-Life Care

Even after a fatal prognosis is made, there still are challenging and layered medical decisions to be made. Palliative care including pain relief, nursing care, and meeting all other needs of dying pets will need to be arranged for. While some owners will continue with hospice care until their pet passes from natural causes, most will elect to have their dog euthanized at the point where pain and discomfort outweigh the benefits of extending their life.

Where should I euthanize my dog?

As pet parents, one of the most difficult choices we face is when to let our beloved companion go. 

Whether your furry companion is in her golden years or has been diagnosed with an incurable or terminal illness, dealing with this impending loss can bring many emotions. 

This is where hospice and end-of-life care at Tumwater Veterinary Hospital can help. 

We do everything in our power to ensure your pet's final days or weeks are calm, comfortable and free from pain, including completing a comprehensive quality of life exam, prescribing medication and food for pain management and offering humane euthanasia.

What Happens During the Euthanasia Process?

You will be asked whether you'd like to stay with your pet for their euthanization. This is an important point to consider - some people are not emotionally capable, and whichever choice you make is okay.

You may choose to be present while he or she is sedated, then leave the area during the euthanasia itself. You might also ask a family member or friend that your pet knows and likes to take your pet to this final appointment or to stay with your pet while you leave the room.

A powerful sedative will be injected directly into your pet's vein to cause the nerves in your pet’s body to cease sending signals (including pain signals).

Your pet's breathing and heart rate will slow until they eventually stop. This may take as little as a few minutes or up to 15 to 20 minutes depending on your pet, their condition, and other factors. The euthanasia solution will then be injected. Brain function will then stop.

Many pets take a final, deep breath as they pass away. Some will urinate or defecate when they are euthanized due to the total relaxation that occurs.

Euthanasia is not painful for animals. Afterward, your pet's eyes may be open. If you wish, your vet can close them.

The vet will listen to your pet's heart with a stethoscope to confirm that they are gone. We like to allow owners as much time with their pet as they need following the procedure, and are committed to treating every pet owner with as much sensitivity and compassion as possible. The entire process typically takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.

When is it time to euthanize my dog?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but vets who work in euthanasia often hold by the adage that it is better to be a week too early than an hour too late. Remember, euthanasia is primarily for pets whose chances of recovering are zero, while it might seem cold to euthanize "too early", it is much better than an alternative where they have to suffer some otherwise inevitable suffering. Still, this is not to discount the benefits of waiting, more time together as a family, and more good days that make life worth living for your pet. These matter and should be considered, so as not to eliminate happy times together unduly.

For all these reasons the best advice we can offer is simply to speak with your vet, and your family, and make the decision that you feel is right for the wellbeing of your beloved canine companion

Once you've reached the point where you feel euthanasia is the most humane option, call your veterinarian and discuss your options. Many dog owners have their pets cremated so they may keep something of them in their home. Greif counseling if needed, and celebrations of their life with loved ones are a great way to keep their memory alive while moving forward with your own life. Our Tumwater animal hospital is committed to offering pet owners the support they need.

Do you have questions about end-of-life care for dogs? Contact our Tumwater vets to make an appointment and we can discuss your options.

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