Euthanasia ("good death") refers to a deliberate intervention carried out to relieve pain or other suffering; this is usually pain or suffering that cannot be cured or managed adequately.
Euthanasia is one of the most difficult decisions anyone can ever make for their pet with a number of different, and at times conflicting, emotions existing concurrently. The overriding emotion is typically to ‘do the right thing’ for your beloved companion, to fulfill your commitment and responsibility as their friend and caretaker to relieve their suffering. Although in time this usually will be a decision that acts as a source of comfort, especially early on, it can be conflicted by guilt or confusion, for example that the decision was made too late or indeed too soon (euthanasia remorse). And of course the loving and courageous decision also comes with the knowledge of impending pain and upset due to grief and bereavement. To end a pet's suffering, we must unselfishly and lovingly choose to accept our own.
It can be tempting to think that rather than having your pet euthanased, it is better to keep him/her at home indefinitely and to ‘let nature take its course’, to wait until he/she ‘passes away peacefully in his/her sleep’. However despite being very ill, it can take a long period of time for ‘natural’ death to come. In the meantime your pet may be painful, unable to eat or drink resulting in dehydration and malnutrition, incontinent, collapsed or struggling to breathe. Undoubtedly some animals may die peacefully and comfortably at home in what can be a very moving and ‘natural’ experience. However this option is only recommended to be chosen if excellent end-of-life/hospice care can be provided by a team with the right set of expertise. Although this is slowly changing, such teams are currently very limited not just in the United Kingdom but worldwide, and at the present time most veterinary professionals would recommend that euthanasia is performed to try and safeguard your pet's welfare and avoid any unnecessary suffering. There are also some real and valid discussions to be had about the potential for palliative end-of-life/hospice care 'to go too far' putting the carer's wishes over the animal's best interests.
The downloadable PDF below includes all information in the Euthanasia section (i.e. If It Should Be, The right time, Preparation, The process, Should I be present? and Aftercare).
Another very helpful overview of what to consider when planning your pet's end-of-life care can be found here.
I was young!
I ran like the wind and
The world glistened, fresh and new
With each season.
Colorful leaves raced across the lawn,
Crisp and elusive.
Snowflakes danced in howling winds,
But winter posed no threat....
I was young!
Each season blended into the next,
And each displayed its beauty.
The years passed.
Your joys were mine, as were your sorrows;
Our love grew in understanding and
I served you faithfully.
Now, out of your love for me
I ask you courage.
I am old!
My sight has dimmed.
I no longer greet each season with joy.
I cannot run and my body knows pain.
So have the wisdom, dear friend, out of love,
To bid me farewell, and send me on my way with dignity.
And cherish each season that we shared,
For they are eternity.
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this -- the last battle -- can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me where, to my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close - we two - these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.
- Author Unknown -