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To stay or not to stay.. that is the question

By December 11, 2018 No Comments

Angel was born at this clinic.. right here in this room. Mrs. L has witnessed her birth, a tiny ball of fur, fluid and first breath hollering. Angel was hand raised and became Mrs. L’s companion for 13 years. Kids grown, 2 college degrees and a divorce later, Angel was still by her side. Then the dreaded happened. Angel developed a big, inoperable tumor in her abdomen, and her kidneys failed. With all medical options exhausted and her quality of life failing, Angel’s mom had to make the most humane decision for her: let her go in peace and dignity.

The dreaded day came. Mrs. L thought she had it in her to see Angel over the bridge. She held her beloved girl while we administered a deep, soothing sedation. With Angel laying on a fluffy blanket, breathing tranquilly, Mrs. L realized one thing: THIS was the last thing she wanted engraved in her memory. Peaceful, undisturbed, even breaths. Eyes closed in blissful abyss. She quietly asked: “Doctor, may I step out for the final injection?”

That is the question on top of everyone’s mind before and during pet euthanasia. There is only one answer: do what is right for YOU, the pet owner. We will carry on the somber but important oath: to relieve animal suffering, whether you are in or out of the room. Nothing changes our approach. We treat each pet as they were our own: with dignity, love and compassion. Tiny pieces of our hearts die with each pet’s passing, but it isn’t about us. It’s about the relief of pain for the pet, and respect of the owner. Please know that we don’t judge the decision you make. I myself had to step out of the room after my vet school buddy Forrest – my faithful, goofy companion of 14 years succumbed to dementia; he was deeply sedated and no longer conscious. We have earned your trust over the life of the pet, and we are grateful to have earned it in death as well.

Should you elect to stay, it is also a completely acceptable choice for most circumstances. Please know that vast majority of euthanasia cases go very smoothly. The sedation relaxes the pet, while final intravenous injection delivers heavy anesthetic to stop the brain and heart activity, allowing for a painless transition. You should know that some muscle activity may continue for a few minutes, and you may witness limb movement, shallow to deep breaths, eye opening and loss of bladder/bowels. It’s never fully predictable whether particular pet will fall asleep right away, or exhibit some of these signs. Some people find this part of the process more than they can bear, and chose to step out. Some people are accepting of the possibility. There isn’t right or wrong – only what’s right for you.

In occasional, rare cases the Doctor may request you step out after the pet is anesthetized. This is mostly if IV placement is impossible due to emaciation, extremely low blood pressure etc. and intra-cardiac injection is necessary to preserve pain-free approach. Should you step out even before the sedation is administered? We suggest the owner stay for sedation, as your pet may be looking for you and we think it eases their anxiety. However, it is your choice.

We all deeply empathize with every client going through this difficult time. Recent research shows that loss of a pet is emotionally equivalent to the loss of a friend or close family member.* We do not pass judgement on your decisions or emotions – we are here to help and support you. We are honored you chose us as your family Veterinary Team to care for your pet in life and in passing. Please know we are sincerely committed to earn that choice, and peaceful passage is a part of it.

By Yelena Lapova, DVM; Owner, RBAH

* “Why Losing a Pet Hurts So Much” by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Psychology Today, Aug 27,2016
All names and events have been altered to protect privacy