It is always painful to face the loss of a beloved companion. We, too, have grieved the loss of our pets and we do understand how painful the loss can be.
Some terminal diseases can be managed to allow the pet to share precious additional weeks or months with their family. Occasionally, owners want to fight illness and disease aggressively, even when the outlook is grim. Other owners feel it is best to let their pet go sooner if they know the disease is terminal, especially when they have seen the "light go out" of their pet's eyes and have already tried recommended treatments to relieve the suffering. Only you can know what is right for you and your pet.
In veterinary medicine, our objective is to treat illness when a pet has a reasonable likelihood of recovery and a good quality of life. When treatment of the underlying disease if not possible (or not likely to result in significant improvement), our objective is to relieve suffering. Relief of suffering can be achieved through hospice care or euthanasia.
During the course of a terminal illness, there usually comes some point where the owners and doctors agree that the most loving thing to do is to prevent more suffering. Sometimes, we can gain additional time with your pet through "hospice" care aimed at preventing pain or suffering while accepting the terminal nature of the disease. At this point the pet is not put through any additional procedures, tests or treatments that may induce additional stress or pain. During this "hospice" period, treatments including pain medications, fluid administration, and other medications or treatments that can help your pet end his/her life with dignity, comfort and happy times.
If the time comes when the owners and veterinarian agree that there is no realistic hope for a good quality of life for the pet, the final act of caring you can make for your pet is to let him go with euthanasia. If euthanasia is out of question for you, more aggressive hospice care, including strong pain relievers and possibly sedatives to ensure maximum relief from suffering, may be needed.
At times, the only way to relieve suffering is euthanasia. The euthanasia process is painless. The pet receives an overdose of an anesthetic--so he feels no pain but simply and peacefully dies while "anesthetized". Many owners prefer to stay with their pet during this procedure while others prefer not to witness the act and instead wish to remember their pet when they were healthier and happier. If you would like to be present for euthanasia, owners may remain with your pet for as long as you wish. Afterwards, we can arrange for cremation of your pet or you can take him home to bury him. We do everything within out power to make euthanasia as peaceful and dignified as possible for both you and your pet.
We naturally grieve the loss of a beloved pet, just as we grieve other losses in life. This loss can hit some people very hard. It is natural to feel very sad for several days and to continue to feel sad at times for many weeks or months. After some time, your sadness may lessen only to return more strongly some many months later, often around and anniversary of the death, holidays, or other stresssful times. This is all perfectly normal but can be very painful.
Everyone is different and there are no "right ways" to deal with loss--just the right ways for you. Whatever coping techniques (family support, taling, exercise, prayer, time, etc.) help you deal with other losses in life can help you now.
For some people, a new pet can be a healthy distraction, a happy reminder of former puppy or kitten days with their lost pet and can even ease the pain of loss with new happy times. Other people can't bear the thought of a new pet for many months and do better to wait for a while before making a new commitment to a pet. Trust your own judgment about when it is the right time for a new pet.
If you feel overwhelmed with grief or just cannot seem to get back to your "normal self", do not hesitate to reach out for more help from family, friends, a grief support network or a professional grief couselor or therapist.
A favorite poem, the Rainbow Bridge, offers a little comfort to many of us.