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Start by asking your veterinarian what types of symptoms to expect as your pet's illness progresses. What stages will the disease take? How long before kidney disease produces incontinence or renal failure? How long before tumor cells invade the lungs or other organs? How long before symptoms become medically unmanageable, before pain becomes severe and untreatable? At what point will your pet become unable to function normally; at what point will its suffering become extreme?
This information can help your decision. For example, you may decide to seriously consider euthanasia when your pet can no longer breathe easily, or eat or drink, or find a comfortable position in which to sleep, or when it seems to find your touch painful. By defining a "decision point" in advance, you place boundaries on the suffering your pet is likely to endure.
Grieving is the natural way that your mind and body adjust to a loss and heal your emotional wounds. We strongly encourage you to allow yourself to grieve in a way that gives you the most comfort. Allowing yourself to feel the sadness, anger, anguish, and loss will aid the healing process. Conversely, repressing your feelings may actually prolong your sadness and the time for recovery. During this time you may need the emotional support of family, friends and your veterinarian.
Euthanasia and Children
Being truthful with your children will also aid in their healing. If your pet is going to be euthanized, avoid using phrases like “put to sleep”, “is very sick”, or “is going away.” These can be difficult concepts for children to understand. “We are helping Fluffy to die because we love her very much and do not want her to suffer” is a more truthful and less ambiguous statement. Make your pet’s death more meaningful by asking your children how they would like to memorialize their animal friend.