Euthanasia: a release from suffering
Euthanasia means voluntarily ending the life of a dog suffering from a terminal or incurable condition. Some instances where Euthansia is likely the best option inlcude:-

  • Irreversible disease that has progressed to a point where distress or discomfort cannot be controlled;
  • Old age wear and tear that permanently affects the “quality of life”;
  • Physical injury, disease, or wear and tear resulting in permanent loss of control of body functions;
  • Uncorrectable aggressiveness, with risk to children, owners, or others;
  • The carrying of untreatable disease dangerous to humans(eg rabies).

Making a decision
To help you decide what is in your elderly dog’s best interests, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the condition no longer responding to therapy?

  • Is it no longer possible to alleviate the pain or suffering?
  • If your dog recovers, is it likely to be chronically ill, an invalid, or unable to care for itself?
  • If your dog recovers, will there be severe personality changes?
  • Will providing any necessary care create serious problems for myself and my family?
  • Will the cost of treatment be unbearably expensive?

If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then euthanasia is the honest, simple, and humane option. The decision to euthanase is a personal one, and generally one that needs to be made by the whole family.

How euthanasia is performed
The anaesthetic drug phenobarb is the most commonly used agent in euthanasia. Within seconds, the dog loses consciousness, and within another few seconds the heart stops. Depending on the circumstances, a sedative may be given before the phenobarb, and then a cannula put in a vein to ensure that all goes smoothly. While brain death occurs within seconds, continuing electrical activity in muscles may cause muscle twitches. If the respiratory muscles are affected there can be a reflex “gasp” occurring up to ten minutes after death. Where I practice, all bodies are routinely cremated unless owners prefer burial. Bodies are kept in cold storage until they are collected. If you bury a dog, as I have done with all of mine, make sure it is enclosed in biodegradable, not synthetic, material. A grave should be deep enough so that wild animals and other dogs cannot dig it up.

Grieving is Part of the Process
Feelings of bereavement when a dog dies are normal. If you are an average dog owner, the stages of grief – from disbelief through to resolution – typically evolve for almost a year. The universal value of dogs is that what we enjoyed about living with our previous dog is there in all others: honesty, constancy, fidelity, companionship, and a unalloyed glee in doing things that deep down inside we would really like to do too. And if your previous dog’s looks, conformation, and temperament fitted your family’s needs and it was a purebred, it is even easier to find a dog to fill the void. Each dog is unique, but when a canine gap opens in your home, there are countless individuals, little and large, capable, willing, and eager to fill it.