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Filed in Cats, Dogs, Health

Whether or not to euthanize a beloved pet is often one of the most difficult decisions that you will ever have to face. The moment may come when an animal that has been your loyal companion, your trusting friend and a beloved member of your family for many years will look into your eyes and communicate unbearable pain and helplessness. When a pet is suffering that way and there is no hope of a comfortable life in the future, the option of euthanasia can be a blessing.

Dogs and cats are put to sleep for a variety of reasons. The common cause, of course, is failing health. Diseases such as cancers or failure of the liver, kidneys, or heart are progressive - resulting in poor quality of life, suffering and eventually death. Euthanasia is a way to prevent the suffering.

However, some people insist on euthanasia as the solution for pets that have behavior problems or because the owners can no longer keep them. Although there are no legal or professional criteria for precisely when euthanasia is appropriate for a pet, most veterinarians abide by their own convictions -- sometimes refusing to euthanize dogs or cats unless there is a compelling medical reason.

When your pet is no longer able to live a happy, comfortable life, you and your veterinarian should discuss the euthanasia option. The procedure is quite literally "putting your pet to sleep." A syringe is filled with a liquid anesthetic that is then injected into the pet's vein. The anesthetic not only gently puts the animal to sleep but also causes all of the vital organs to stop functioning -- without any pain or suffering.

Euthanasia can be a traumatic emotional process for the pet owner. Some feel that it is important for them to be present during the injection, but for others the experience is too disturbing. Even though the animals don't feel any pain, they may moan, lose bladder control or even experience some muscle twitching. These are normal body reactions and do not indicate any suffering.

In many cases, owners are more easily able to overcome their feelings of grief and sadness at the loss of a beloved pet by providing a home for another animal that might otherwise be destroyed.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc., PO Box 4459, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.

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