Facing The Loss Of A Beloved Pet: When Your Elderly Animal Needs You To Make A Hard And Heartbreaking Decision

The love you have for your pet is immeasurable, even more so if you've spent many wonderful years together. When your pet reaches an age or health condition where you think you may have to say goodby to them, the grief is unbearable. No matter how much it hurts, though, you're going to have to do something about it. Here's how you can face this heartache and make the best decisions possible for you pet and yourself.

Problems Elderly Pets Face

Animals getting on in years face many difficult challenges, much the same way humans do. Different influences, such as lifestyle and genes can help determine how fast aging can impair an animal or which diseases and conditions they'll be plagued by. While some situations are easier for you and your pet to deal with, provided you have the help of a vet, others may make daily living far more burdensome for an older animal, such as the following:

  • Arthritis is setting in, making movement difficult and painful, possibly leading to changes in appetite and behavior.
  • Kidney issues may mean your pet's body can't keep a healthy balance anymore, nor process toxins effectively and that can wreak havoc on all organs.
  • Diabetes creates a special set of circumstances for each individual diagnosed with it and your pet may lose energy, experience insulin spikes and gain weight, along with other, potentially dangerous symptoms.
  • Sight problems are a common issue in elderly pets, including cataracts, which can make life very complicated and sometimes dangerous, both to them and their human companions.
  • Dental complications can arise in older animals, sometimes leading to severe infections, which can travel to the bloodstream.
  • Cancer is one of the more common causes of death in older animals and unfortunately, not usually detected early on.
  • Cognitive disorders can affect animals in the same way dementia can afflict humans, including gradual changes, giving both of you time to adapt, or progressive and life-altering cognitive loss.

As your pet ages, be sure and pay close attention to things like weight, appetite, lumps on the body, eye and dental abnormalities or anything else that seems to be changing. Your detective work will help your vet stay on top of issues that could otherwise be very detrimental.

Discussing The Issues And Options With A Veterinarian

Your animal hospital may be able to recommend treatment(s) for whatever is ailing your elderly pet, leading to more love and life than you may have thought you had coming. While a dog or cat can't be "cured" of old age, just like with people can't, many medicines and therapies can make aging a less painful experience. Also, the careful diet you provide your pet may have a major impact on how well they feel and function, so discuss every conceivable way the animal's lifestyle could affect their health. Alternatively, the vet may deliver the heartbreaking news that there is nothing in modern medicine to alleviate your pet's suffering or dysfunction and you'll be given the impossible task of choosing end-of-life options.

Giving Yourself Time To Decide

So long as your pet isn't suffering severely in the mean time, it's okay to give yourself time, not just to make the best decision, but to accept what may be inevitable. Although this won't be easy, you can consider yourself fortunate in the sense that you have the time to absorb the emotional impact of the situation and to let go on your own terms, as opposed to an abrupt "goodbye." Your veterinarian will give you a likely time frame which you can use to gather your thoughts, prepare for what lies ahead, and of course, spend as much quality time with your beloved pet as possible.

Planning For Euthanasia And What To Expect

Even if your vet tells you there's still some time left with your pet, the idea of eventual euthanasia should sit somewhere in the back of your mind. As much as it may pain you to think about, it's something you're going to have to face. If you're given the news that euthanasia is best for the animal now, you should know how this is going to proceed.

Most vets employ a two-step process, where the initial injection sedates the animal so that it won't feel any pain or move around, followed by a second needle which humanely results in a quiet and peaceful death. Despite being a simple and calm procedure for your pet, since it can be so devastating for you, it's important that you are accompanied by supportive people. If you think you'll have trouble driving, bring someone with you who can take you home safely. If you can, take at least a day off from work, too, so you can have a chance to deal with the emotional impact of your loss. Make sure you don't have any unanswered questions at the time of the euthanasia, by asking them all of your vet when you discuss the appointment. You don't want to have to deal with anything else as you say "goodbye" to your pet.

Remembering Your Pet

It's also important to discuss what you want to do with your pet's remains with your vet ahead of time. Your vet should be able to handle any requests you have, such as cremation, either through a business they contract with or their own facility. Provide them with explicit instructions, so that your wishes are met with no complications or delays.

You might also want to arrange some type of memorial service for your family friend, by inviting the humans that were most important in their lives. Also, ask your closest friends and family members to participate for your benefit, which will allow you to open yourself to the grieving process that should ensue. Funerals and other types of memorial services are designed to help the survivors find closure and heal and it's no different when the life lost belonged to a pet.

For more advice to help you through your pet's euthanasia, go to this hyperlink and speak with a veterinarian near you.