Finding Peace in Letting Go - Euthanasia of a Cherished Friend

Finding Peace in Letting Go - Euthanasia of a Cherished Friend

Probably one of the hardest and most personal decisions you will make while owning a sentient being is when to say goodbye. Whether it’s an emergency or a quality of life situation, the decision can be heart-wrenching and difficult, if not seemingly impossible to prepare for. If you own animals you will face this decision eventually and making preparations in advance can help to soften the anguish. In an emergency situation, like a severe colic, it might be a financial decision to choose euthanize over an expensive colic surgery. Not everyone is financially equipped to pay for a surgery that could cost thousands of dollars. In addition, you will probably be the caretaker for that animal once they are released from the hospital. The right environment for aftercare is critical to a successful surgery outcome. It’s good to think about what you would do if this situation presents itself. Euthanasia decisions can be based on many things such as the age of the animal, it’s overall health beyond the emergency, your financial strength, whether you have pet insurance to assist you, your aftercare environment and your time schedule (if you will be the care provider).

Another facet of this decision is the animal’s quality of life. Can their health issue be treated and is there a good prognosis for survival and healing? Is the animal deteriorating due to illness or age? Are they in pain or distress? Although animals by nature try to mask their discomfort, most will let their guard down in a familiar and comfortable environment. To determine their pain level you may have to provide them with a personal space away from other animals. Horses within a herd can be very stoic and are less likely to show their pain symptoms for fear of being picked on. Other animals will have similar reactions to pain or distress. They may show outward signs like lameness, fatigue and not eating or you may see a personality change from gregarious and friendly to isolatory and crabby. A daily diary on your animal can be a valuable tool in the decision making process. A chronicle of the animal’s daily quality of life, plus knowing what made them happy when they were healthy, can assist you in making that final decision. Your veterinarian can help you with some determinations such as a prognosis or symptoms of distress, but ultimately the decision will be up to you and your family.

Laws have changed recently concerning disposal of dead animals. It was brought about when euthanasia drugs were detected in pet food, causing illness and in some cases death.  The practice of rendering livestock, such as horses, as a means of disposal now has limitations. You still have some options, but with the new requirements in place you will need to understand your options before proceeding.

Euthanasia can still be done if the body will be picked up or delivered by the owner for cremation. There are several levels of service, so costs can vary substantially. Two businesses in south central Wisconsin are:

Bodies that will be picked up for rendering need to be free of euthanasia drugs. Horses and other livestock can be put down with a gun or bolt discharged into the skull. Veterinarians are available to administer this form of euthanasia and understand the dynamics of putting an animal down this way. Rendering pick-up includes:

  • Roy Kittinger/Brierhill Cell: 847-652-4839 Brierhill Office: 847-683-4743 (Also provides cremation services)

Another option for dealing with the animal’s body is to compost it. This is becoming more popular and there is information on the State of Wisconsin website to guide you on how to compost animal carcasses. You need to read the information thoroughly to make sure you have access to the right equipment and supplies for the task. You can find U-tube videos on the subject also.

Coping with your decision can be very stressful. Make your plans in advance if possible and talk to the people that will assist you with this process. You want every step scheduled and in place so that things go as smoothly as can be expected on that day. It is never easy and grief can come to us in many forms and stay for many days if not weeks and months. The sadness can overwhelm us, but there are resources to help us cope when we necessary. 

There are other grief services listed on line. You need to find one that fits your needs and your schedule. As animal lovers and owners we are a big group of caring people who are there until the end for our animals.  We are there for each other too.

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