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PET TALK: End of life care for pets

Wednesday 6 July 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


PET TALK: End of life care for pets
Our regard for our pet animals, their place in our families as friends and companions, cannot be ignored or underestimated.

Your old friend is lying on a blanket on the verandah unable to control her bladder or bowels, unable to stand, unable to move out of her own mess.

She is still the same dog, still an affectionate and loyal friend, but now she is suffering, in pain and with no quality of life. What can you do to help? By Dr Michael Baer of Te Are Manu Veterinary Clinic.

Your puppy has been hit on the road. His pelvis and both of his back legs are broken, he can’t walk but he is trying. A sad sight, watching him drag himself off the road, back legs going off in unnatural directions. He is suffering, in pain, and faces a future of pain with every step. What can you do to help?

Animals cannot explain their condition or express their wishes. We cannot explain the choices we make for them, so we must base our choices on what is best for their welfare, not our feelings. In many cases, like the two above, treatment options are limited, follow up nursing care and physiotherapy are impossible, and lifelong pain is inevitable. So, what can you do to help?

Euthanasia is the painless ending of life to prevent further suffering. It is called “putting down” or “putting to sleep”. It is a job vets are trained to do, but not one we relish doing. We do it because we know it is a peaceful, pain free way for animals to die, with dignity. We may, and often do, take the lead by broaching the subject, usually as one of a range of treatment options. We do this for two reasons – because we think it may be necessary, and because we know it will be hard for you to bring it up.

When we euthanise an animal we do so without judgement. We know it is a difficult, emotional decision that is not made lightly. We know it is made from compassion, and a desire to offer help.  It is also a decision that most vets have had to make ourselves, for our own pets. In my case I have had to make the decision for two dogs and two cats, a pig and a horse. It was never easy. And I would hope it never will be easy.

In the wild, most animals end their days in pain and in fear, either brought down by a predator, injured by a competitor or terminally ill with disease. We can offer pets the chance of a peaceful and pain free end to suffering. Our regard for our pet animals, their place in our families as friends and companions, cannot be ignored or underestimated. But our primary role in their lives is to take care of them. End of life offers one of our greatest challenges in this regard.