Animals - Animal euthanasia

By: David Haugh

I am sure many of you think of pet euthanasia as a quick process of minimal stress that comes at the end of a lot of forethought, which includes an attempt to appreciate what the animal’s perspective is. In my experience this is often the case. For many owners, the decision to euthanise is an agonising one, but having the ability to quickly end their loved pet’s pain, nausea or major loss of function is very welcome.

Sometimes the reason for making this final choice is not based on suffering as much as chronic discomfort and sometimes because of faecal or urinary incontinence. Some pets, you can tell, are horrified at their loss of control, others are not. Sometimes euthanasia is requested because of an accumulation of growing blindness, deafness, dementia and dwindling activity. Sometimes an old animal’s one human caregiver has died or is going into accommodation where pets are not allowed, and it has been decided that it would be too stressful for that particular animal to rehome them. I have become more pragmatic as the years go by. I am glad the pet has had many good years and has not had to become lost or unwanted.

Of course, we sometimes have to euthanise dogs that have attacked people or stock. Wild cats are captured and brought in on occasion. Sometimes veterinary science could adequately mitigate a pet’s injuries or illnesses, but the owner cannot afford it. In our society, where animal ownership is a privilege and not a right, euthanasia is seen as an acceptable option. But sometimes animals are presented for being put down where there is no good reason other than they are just not wanted.  

Now and then I do see people put under pressure to euthanise their animals. Sometimes I agree with the family member, or whoever suggested it, and I think why did the owner wait so long? But other times I think the third party should back off. One example of this was a dairy cow being allowed to live out “retirement” but she had arthritis in one foot. She would graze away and come up for a scratch on the head when the farmer came into the paddock. Someone saw her limping all the time, not getting any better, and they laid a complaint with MPI. There was no getting better for that animal in life, only in death … always a politically acceptable option.

David Haugh, Wellsford Vet Clinic


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