Pet Euthanasia Guilt

Lucy was the most gorgeous, vivacious, full of personality Yorkshire terrier; a pet owner could wish for. She lived for 8 years, and brought joy and love into the life of a whole family, but especially for the 15-year-old son who chose her from the litter and cared for her throughout her life. Unfortunately Lucy was never going to live as long as the boy. It is a peculiar ability of human beings that we never think about the inevitable sorrow that will come with buying a puppy. Lucy had a congenital heart weakness that is an inbred problem of many pedigree dogs. The end of her little life came slowly, as her chronic breathing difficulties gradually appeared. Along with her suffering came the guilt. There is nothing to be done. Money can’t buy a heart transplant for a dog. Visits to the vet for diagnosis and prognosis are the ultimate guilt trip and we pay through the nose for it.

In the end it all just postpones that awful decision point. When is the right time for Lucy, or any loved pet, to be put down? Euthanasia won’t take away the guilt or sense of loss, but it will end the suffering and signal the starting point for the healing process. It is not a simple clear cut decision, in any case. Pet owners need to consider their beloved pet’s diagnosis, the pet’s age and perceived level of pain and suffering. When they can’t bound around with their previous energy, the guilt is to be found in extending their suffering. It is also a necessary consideration to calculate how much quality life you can buy with pounds of veterinary expense. It is a truism too that human life goes on as your pet is slowly dying and your ability to care for them is limited. When the bad times overshadow the easier times then surely the moment of euthanasia has arrived.

When you know the time has come, and you will recognise that moment. Have no doubt. The next decisions are all about where and who and how should the release be accomplished. Time was; the accepted practice was to hand over your pet to the vet’s clinic and leave it to the pros. But there is now a growing trend for home pet euthanasia, which may well help to ease the associated guilt. 

The vet surgery, in your mind, is a place where your pet is cured and made better. For your pet, it is a place of pain and discomfort. To take it there to die will surely increase its anxiety and natural fight or flight reactions. By having euthanasia at home you can spare yourself this increment of guilt. You can also spare yourself a little guilt by not allowing your pet any time to anticipate, in fear, the final moments. The familiar comfortable surroundings of home will surely be a small consolation for both, you and your beloved pet. There is also the extra benefit of not crying in public.

Weighing on the downside of these benefits to home euthanasia are some necessary considerations. The euthanasia procedure itself can occasionally go wrong. It is complex and difficult to judge, and the possibility of extra suffering is larger the larger the animal in question. Being away from specialist support and equipment is one of the reasons many vets resist the demands for home euthanasia.

Wherever you decide to do the deed, it is worth remembering that your guilt can never be avoided totally, but it can be assuaged if you minimise the suffering for your beloved pet. Not only, that but you will also be able to help them go easily. If you were to find them dead outside as they were exercising in the garden, or should they suddenly collapse in the home overnight as you sleep, you will feel a lot worse than a simple visit to the vet to put an end to your pet's suffering.

Make sure that you think about your pets suffering, and try to put aside guilt. Then both you and your pet will be able to end the loving relationship feeling a lot lighter, with less pain and of course less guilt.



When my pet died I wasn't ready for just how painful it was.


writer picture by