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It's not easy to say goodbye to cherished pets, even those that have lived long, happy lives. Although you may hate the thought of life without your pet, euthanasia can be the kindest decision you can make when your friend is suffering.
Making the Decision
If your pet has been seriously injured in a horrible accident and is not expected to recover, euthanasia is clearly the most humane option. The choice is not always so clear in other situations. Ups and downs are common when pets suffer from chronic diseases, which can make the decision more difficult.
Evaluating Quality of Life
Does your pet still enjoy life, despite the illness or condition? If your pet is in constant pain or discomfort, despite medical treatment, and does not seem to get any enjoyment out of life, it may be time to consider euthanasia. Signs that your pet may have a poor quality of life include:
- Pain That Cannot Be Controlled with Medication. In many cases, pets can continue to enjoy life if their pain is relieved by medications. When medication no longer helps, it may be the right time for euthanasia. If you have difficulty gauging the pain level, ask your pet's veterinarian for input.
- Constant Gastrointestinal Issues. As your pet becomes sicker, vomiting and diarrhea can become daily occurrences. Not surprisingly, these issues can cause your furry friend to lose weight and become dehydrated and lethargic.
- Difficulty Breathing. Is every breath a struggle for your pet? Trouble breathing can be very uncomfortable and even painful.
- No Interest in Favorite Activities. Seriously ill pets often lose interest in their favorite activities, such as playing fetch, taking walks through the neighborhood or snuggling up next to you on the couch.
- Prognosis. Have you talked to your pet's veterinarian about his or her prognosis? In some cases, even aggressive treatment will not save your companion, but will prolong suffering. When your pet's prognosis is poor, euthanasia can prevent unnecessary suffering.
- Incontinence: At some point, a seriously ill pet may no longer to control its bladder or bowels.
- Inability to Walk: As your pet becomes weaker, walking can become an issue. Mobility can also be an issue if a stroke or other condition affects your pet's hind legs. Slings can help older dogs get up and navigate short distances and specialty designed wheelchairs can help pets with limb immobility and may be a good choice if your pet is in otherwise good health – be sure to ask your vet about options.
Who Should Be Involved in the Decision?
Including all family members or other members of your household in the decision can prevent hurt feelings during an already emotional time. Explain that your pet will not recover from the illness or condition and is suffering, despite the excellent care you have provided. Even younger children can be involved in the discussion if you use age appropriate language. Although immediate euthanasia may be needed to prevent suffering in severe circumstances, the procedure can be delayed long enough to allow enough time for everyone who cares about your pet to say goodbye in most situations.
What Happens Next?
After you make the decision, you will need to contact your pet's veterinarian to make arrangements and ask any questions you may have regarding euthanasia including at-home options. You will also want to consider burial and cremation options.
Are you facing a difficult decision regarding your pet's health? Call us and we can help you consider all of the options.
The Euthanasia Process
Before the process begins, you will need to decide if you want to stay with your pet. Some people find comfort in being with their pets in their final minutes and many vets allow and encourage pet owners to be with their pets through the euthanasia process. While it may be difficult for you, accompanying your beloved pet to the very end can provide you both with comfort and closure.
Your pet's comfort is the primary concern during the euthanasia process. He or she may be given a sedative that will cause drowsiness. After the sedative takes effect, the veterinarian injects sodium pentobarbital in a front or hind leg. The drug causes your pet to become unconscious, then stops the heart. Death usually occurs just a few minutes after your pet receives the injection.
Although your pet has died, you may notice some movement or muscle twitching in its body for a few minutes after death. At the time of death, it's also common for the bladder and bowels to release. You will be able to spend some time alone with your pet after the procedure. If you plan to bury your pet, you will take his or her body with you or arrange for pet cemetery employees to pick it up. If you prefer cremation, your veterinarian's office will call you when the ashes are ready for pick up.
American Humane: Euthanasia: Making the Decision
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement: Euthanasia of a Beloved Pet
ASPCA: End of Life Care
Heartworm disease can have a devastating effect on your pet's health. National Heartworm Awareness Month, observed annually in April, reminds pet owners about the health dangers this preventable disease poses for pets.
What Are Heartworms?
Thin, white heartworms look like cooked pieces of spaghetti. Male worms range in length from 4 to 6 inches, but females can grow as long as 12 inches. Heartworm disease is spread when a mosquito bites an infected animal and later bites another animal. The bite deposits tiny heartworm larvae into the animal's bloodstream. It only takes about six months for the larvae to mature into fully grown worms. Once the worms are mature, they begin to mate, producing even more heartworms.
Why is Heartworm Disease So Dangerous?
Heartworms invade your pet's lungs, heart and blood vessels and cause permanent damage that can shorten your furry friend's life. The disease is more dangerous in dogs than cats because fewer worms grow to adulthood in cats. A dog can be infected with more than 200 heartworms, although the average is 15 to 30. Cats may only have a few mature worms or might only be infected with immature worms. Heartworms can live five to seven years in dogs and two to three years in cats, according to the American Heartworm Society.
What Are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?
In the early stages of the disease, there may be no obvious changes in your pet's health. As the worms grow and multiply, you may notice that your dog begins to cough. Their cough will gradually worsen as the disease progresses, and you may also notice that your pet tires easily and has difficulty breathing. A large number of worms in a dog may trigger a condition call Caval syndrome. The syndrome occurs when a bundle of worms prevents blood from flowing back into the heart. Emergency surgery is necessary to prevent death.
Coughing and a decrease in activity is common if your cat has heartworm disease. Other possible symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite and weight loss. You may notice that your cat isn't quite as active as usual.
Even if your cat only has immature worms, its health can still be affected. Heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD), a common problem in cats with heartworm disease, occurs when your pet's lungs become inflamed due to the death of immature worms. If your pet has HARD, it may cough, wheeze and have trouble breathing. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to tell the difference between HARD and feline asthma.
How Is Heartworm Disease Treated?
Drugs are available to kill both mature and immature heartworms in dogs. Because the medications are very strong, they can cause blood clots and other complications, in some cases. Your dog will also require frequent tests during heartworm treatment, such as blood tests and X-rays.
The medications that kill heartworms in dogs are too strong for cats. Instead, your vet may recommend medications that treat your pet's respiratory and heart symptoms. Corticosteroids can be used to decrease inflammation, while bronchodilators will help your pet breathe easier.
Is your pet protected from heartworm disease? Call us today to schedule your furry friend's checkup and blood test.
American Heartworm Society: Heartworm Basics
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Keep The Worms Out Of Your Pet’s Heart! The Facts About Heartworm Disease
American Kennel Club: What Dog Owners Must Know About Heartworm
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Heartworm in Cats
Has your pet suddenly started losing hair? Mange may be to blame. The common skin condition affects dogs, cats and rabbits, causing a variety of uncomfortable symptoms.
Tiny Mites Cause Big Problems
Mange is caused by a mite infestation. The microscopic parasites either burrow under your pet's skin or inhabit hair follicles or oil glands in the skin. Mange can be confined to a small area of your pet's coat or may affect the entire body. A small population of mites is always present on your furry friend's body. Symptoms only occur if the number of mites multiplies, or your pet has a weak immune system. Although mange is more common in dogs, it does occur in cats and rabbits, particularly those that live with dogs.
Signs and Symptoms of Mange
If your pet has mange, you may notice these signs and symptoms:
- Hair Loss. Hair loss may be widespread or patchy. Commonly affected areas include the face, head, ears, neck, elbows, abdomen, chest and legs.
- Scratching. Mange causes severe itching, triggering almost constant scratching. Scratching can worsen hair loss and may break the skin, increasing the risk of infection.
- Skin Irritation. You may notice red, inflamed skin if your pet has mange.
- Infections. Bacterial and fungal infections of the skin can add to your pet's discomfort.
- Greasy Skin and Coat. A greasy skin and coat is not normal for most pets and may be a sign of mange.
- Lesions. When mites burrow into your cat, dog or rabbit's skin, crusty sores may form.
- Dandruff. Does your pet suddenly have dandruff? The condition occurs when tiny pieces of skin begin to flake away due to the condition.
- Bumps. Military dermatitis, tiny bumps on your pet's skin, may also be a sign of mange.
- Thick Skin. If mange is not treated promptly, the skin in the affected areas may thicken.
- Poor Sleep. Itching usually intensifies at night and can affect the quality of your pet's sleep.
How is Mange Diagnosed?
Your pet's veterinarian can often tell your pet has mange simply by examining its coat. Skin scrapings examined under a microscope confirm the diagnosis.
How is Mange Treated?
Your pet's veterinarian will prescribe topical or oral medications that kill mites. Medicated shampoos and dips can also be helpful. Antibiotics or anti-fungal medication may be needed if your pet develops an infection as a result of the mite infestation. Since your other pets can catch mange, it's important to treat all of your animals, even if they show no signs or symptoms. Washing bedding, blankets and other items that your pet uses and vacuuming floors and upholstery will help prevent a re-infestation.
Can I Catch Mange?
Although many types of mites only affect pets, some can also cause symptoms in people. For example, you can develop sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, if your skin comes in contact with your pet's. Symptoms of scabies in humans include itching that worsens at night, a red bumpy rash and lesions on the skin. Your doctor can prescribe topical medication that will kill the mites.
Does your pet have any of the signs or symptoms of mange? If you are concerned about a skin condition or other health problem, call us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend.
Peteducation.com: Demodectic Mange
VetSTREET:Have a Mangy Cat? 5 Mites That Can Frustrate Your Feline, 5/19/14
Merck Veterinary Manual: Mange in Dogs and Cats
AVMA: Veterinary Training
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: FAQ