Author Topic: I hope I can share this here...  (Read 356 times)

Offline gramma2jaakk

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I hope I can share this here...
« on: June 01, 2017, 10:39:14 PM »
and admin, if I'm not, please delete it.

I saw this tonight on FB, and it is something we all should be aware of when the inevitable time comes for us and our furbabies. We don't like thinking of the time we will have to send them across The Bridge, but we all know one day we will have to. It is one of the things we NEED to do for our little loves.  The article is written as if it is for a dog or a cat, but a lot of it applies to rats too. I'm sorry, it is a bit long.


5 THINGS I WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE EUTHANIZING YOUR DOG

Euthanasia. The word itself makes all our stomachs drop. It is a gift to pets and a curse to owners Ė having the power to decide is something we are not comfortable with. However, when going through the euthanasia process with your own pets, you are in a position to make numerous decisions that can change the course of the overall process. As a Veterinary Technician, I witness euthanasias on a daily basis. Let me share from personal experience the 5 things I wish every pet owner knew.

1. Itís ok to cry.
People apologize to me all the time for crying over their pets. Whether itís time to say goodbye, or you are simply having a hard time watching us draw blood on your dog, I wish you knew that I GET IT. Many of us who work in animal medicine (myself very much included) are totally neurotic, hypersensitive, and obsessive when it comes to our own pets. I may seem calm and collected while working with your cat, but thatís because itís my job and I canít afford to be any other way if Iím going to be good at it. You best believe that the second my dog so much as sneezes, I go into a total state of panic, lose all common sense, and forget everything I learned in tech school. So, when you are crying over the pet that you have loved for years, I assure you, I have nothing but respect for you. I respect how much you care. I respect your ability to make such difficult decisions. I respect your bravery. And please know that no matter how demonstrative you may be with your emotions, you are still keeping it together more than I would be in your shoes.

2. Be there, if you can.
I am lucky to work in a hospital where the vast majority of pet owners stay with their pets for the euthanasia process. However, this is not always the case. I urge you to stay with your pets, if you can, for multiple reasons. First, for my sake. One of the absolute most difficult things I do as a Veterinary Technician is take on the role of comforting and loving a pet as they pass on when their human is not there to do so. It is an incredible weight to try to act on your behalf, and it is emotionally exhausting in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. When you stay with your fur baby, I can focus on my own job, instead of doing both of ours.
Second, for your petís sake. The vet can be a very scary place for animals ó they donít understand what all these noises and smells are, or why these strangers are poking and prodding them. Do you want them to experience that fear alone? And have it be their very last memory? Your pet doesnít know what we are doing or why ó they only know that you are there, that you said itís ok, that you love them. I remember being a child, and how scary going to the doctor was, but how much more confident I felt with my mom there reassuring me. I imagine that is exactly how pets feel. If you can find the strength to be there, please do so. Please let your love, your touch, your presence be the last thing your pet experiences.

3. Keep the collar on.
One of the saddest things I witness during the euthanasia process is when humans take their petís collar off when they are still very much awake. To many pets, taking their collar off can have negative associations. For example, I know my own dog panics when I remove her collar as she knows itís bath time! I want your pet to be as comfortable as possible, and that means not making any major changes immediately prior to euthanizing. Pets are much smarter than we give them credit for, and they pick up on the smallest of cues. The unknown is scary to your pet, so even if they donít know what the cues mean, the idea that something is new and strange and out of the ordinary is enough to cause them some sense of anxiety. So, keep the collar on until your pet has passed. Let them go in the state that they always were.

4. Make it a celebration.
Bring treats. Tell stories. Laugh and cry at the same time. Surround yourselves with all his/her favorite toys and beds and blankets. Itís ok to cry, and itís also ok to celebrate! I love when people tell me they took their dog to the beach or napped in the sun with their cat right before coming in to the hospital. This is going to be one of the hardest days of your life, but it doesnít have to be for your pet. I promise that the more you celebrate your petís life, no matter how long or short, the easier it will be to continue to live your own once this is all said and done. It is ok to cry in front of your pet, to tell them how much you will miss them, to let them see you be absolutely beside yourself. Iím sure your pet has seen you at your worst before ó I know mine has. But remember to celebrate, no matter how miserable you are. I promise it will make it easier for both you and your pet. Whatís more, It will allow you to reflect on the euthanasia experience with positivity ó you will remember that you celebrated and you will feel good about having done so.

5. Prepare.
I want this moment to be entirely about you and your pet. In order for that to be the case, several things must happen. First, you must understand the euthanasia process. If possible, talk to your Vet or Tech prior to coming into the hospital, or prior to starting the process Ė ask them to walk you through the steps of euthanasia so that you know exactly what to expect. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the process (or at least, as comfortable as you can be). Know what youíre walking into, so that your focus can be entirely on your pet. Second, take care of business ahead of time when possible. Sign any required paperwork. Pay the bill. Decide on after care. Even go so far as to prepare you next meal ahead of time, arrange a ride, rent a movie, invite friends over ó whatever you think might help you cope when you return home from the hospital without your pet.

The less you have to deal with during and after euthanasia, the better. I want you to be able to focus entirely on your pet during the euthanasia, and then entirely on yourself afterwards. Letís do whatever we can to make that possible.

Every euthanasia is different. Some are planned, some are sudden. Some may happen in your home, some in the hospital. Regardless, they are difficult Ė to prepare for, to cope with, to experience. I hope these 5 things will help you to plan ahead and to make the process as beautiful as it can be for both you and your pet.

Offline BigBen

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Re: I hope I can share this here...
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2017, 02:06:19 PM »
It's a perfectly appropriate post, in my book.  The last point, about thinking about this in advance, is very cogent; then, in the stress of a beloved rat's last moments, you don't have to try to get it right, because you've already thought it through.  So thanks for posting.

I'd just like to add a few thoughts to the discussion.  Firstly, anyone interested in what the humane procedure for euthanasia is can consult the American Veterinary Medical Association's euthanasia guidelines.  This can be especially helpful when educating vets who lack experience with rats.  In particular, it is worth noting that the practice of injecting a lethal drug--usually sodium pentobarbital--into the rat's heart or liver is inhumane unless the animal is first anesthetized to a level suitable for surgery.  Some older vets consider a heart stick to be painless, but it is actually quite painful without anesthesia.

Secondly, it is a good idea to find out the vet practice's policy on owners' being present when pets are euthanized.  Some vets are reluctant to let anyone but staff be present for the administration of anesthetic gas--this can be a liability issue, since isoflurane and the related gases are dangerous.  So if the vet won't let you be present, it may or may not be a bad sign.  With my vet, it seems to have something to do with how busy or harassed the vet is feeling that day, because sometimes he will bring the gas tank into the examining room, sometimes he will invite me into the back, and sometimes he will take the rat away and bring him or her back to me for the lethal injection.  In any case, it should always be possible to have the lethal dose administered in your presence, once your rat is asleep.  If the vet is not willing to do that much in your presence, it is not a good sign at all.

An alternative to using anesthetic gas is to get the vet to administer an anesthetic by injection while the rat is in your hands.  Be warned that this injection can be a bit painful for the rat, especially if the vet is not really familiar with rat anatomy (the injection is made into a vein in the leg, because that's the only vein that is large enough to find easily).  The pain is usually over very quickly, however, and at least your ratty knows you are there and falls asleep while you are holding it.  Then the lethal drug can be administered.

Be aware of a couple of things:  (1) Rats don't always close their eyes when they fall asleep, and the body may still twitch randomly even under anesthesia.  (2) It can take a rat quite a while to die, so don't be surprised if the heart continues beating for several minutes after the lethal dose.  But it can be very comforting to be holding your rat and saying good-bye through this entire process.  The vet will confirm when death has occurred.

Lastly, pentobarbital remains in the animal's system (of course), and it doesn't break down for a very long time.  This makes the remains highly toxic to other animals who might happen to ingest them.  If you are planning to bury the remains, be aware that you must bury a euthanized animal deeply enough that it cannot be dug up again by a predator or scavenger.  In the United States, you can be liable for a very heavy fine if a member of an endangered species dies from eating the remains of a euthanized pet.  Naturally, this is not a concern if you have your rat cremated.

Trust the advice of one who has been there:  it may seem morbid to think about this stuff, but figuring it all out in advance is highly preferable to having to get it right while under the great emotional stress of saying good-bye to a beloved ratty.  This is one of those cases where an ounce of preparation is really worth a pound of care.
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
RatCode:  1m0f18r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline gramma2jaakk

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Re: I hope I can share this here...
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2017, 03:20:36 PM »
Thank you very much for your additions, Ben!

This:
Secondly, it is a good idea to find out the vet practice's policy on owners' being present when pets are euthanized.  Some vets are reluctant to let anyone but staff be present for the administration of anesthetic gas--this can be a liability issue, since isoflurane and the related gases are dangerous.  So if the vet won't let you be present, it may or may not be a bad sign.  With my vet, it seems to have something to do with how busy or harassed the vet is feeling that day, because sometimes he will bring the gas tank into the examining room, sometimes he will invite me into the back, and sometimes he will take the rat away and bring him or her back to me for the lethal injection.  In any case, it should always be possible to have the lethal dose administered in your presence, once your rat is asleep.  If the vet is not willing to do that much in your presence, it is not a good sign at all.

Of all my ratties, only once was I not allowed to be with her when she was injected. I was very upset about that. I felt it was totally unfair that I wasn't allowed to hold Josie when she passed, but to have her  pass without me being there to hold her, talk to her and comfort her. I had to take her for an emergency euth, and being a vet who was unfamiliar with me and not knowing that I was ok with being able to hold my babies when they passed, because they do sometimes have to deal with people who don't (understandably) handle that very well. Sure, it is hard to do, but we do it because we love our ratties.

And we did not know that about pentobarbital! I'll have to ask my vet when they use, but I have to deal with ouklip (hardpan) when I bury my furkids. So I dig as far down as I can go, place the remains, then cover them with rocks, bricks, and stuff before covering with the soil. I do the best I can to be sure no one gets removed from their burial spot!

Offline BigBen

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Re: I hope I can share this here...
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2017, 07:00:29 PM »
Thank you very much for your additions, Ben!

. . .

And we did not know that about pentobarbital! I'll have to ask my vet when they use, but I have to deal with ouklip (hardpan) when I bury my furkids. So I dig as far down as I can go, place the remains, then cover them with rocks, bricks, and stuff before covering with the soil. I do the best I can to be sure no one gets removed from their burial spot!

You're very welcome.  Learning stuff like this is why I have found Goosemoose so valuable.  I don't remember who pointed me to the AVMA euthanasia guidelines, but that's where I learned about pentobarb.  They mention it so that vets can pass the knowledge on to clients, I guess.  It sounds as though you don't need to worry about remains being dug up!

I don't know why I resist the idea of cremating my ratties.  Perhaps it is simply my inner Scotsman resisting extra expense, but it could also just be a sense that my rats need to go back to nature.  I like the thought of burying them in a meaningful place, so almost all of them are buried on the grounds of a nearby church, where my spiritual director is the priest.  I was talking to her about the rats piling up in my freezer (at the time), because there wasn't any place I really felt a strong connection to, being a renter.  She says there are all kinds of pets buried on the grounds, so it seemed right to put my beautiful sweet boys and girls there, too.  We made a ceremony out of digging the grave and putting the ratties in it, one by one.  The ones who have died since then all went into graves in the same general spot.

There are rats in my freezer again, because my left arm is still not recovered enough from last year's accident to be able to dig with yet.  I will probably find a nice spot on the property my sister and I are about to buy in Connecticut, or if not, there is a lovely colonial church very close by.  Perhaps I can persuade my nephew to dig the hole for me!
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
RatCode:  1m0f18r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline gramma2jaakk

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Re: I hope I can share this here...
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2017, 09:18:31 PM »
I also don't feel right with the idea of cremating my rats. I have ONE in the freezer right now, but very clearly marked with her name so no one has to guess if it is a chicken drumstick or something else to eat...  :confused:  But one time I had 3 ratties and a fish in the freezer! They all passed during the winter, and it was very wet and mucky outside.

I've planted all my fur (and one fin!) babies in my backyard, all along the back fence. I can look out my kitchen window and see where they all are, and know that they ARE going back to nature. It may be just weeds they are feeding, but weeds are just flowers that no one else wants.

And I hope I don't have any worries about anyone being dug up! Neal is always worried more about smells than he is finding someone no longer buried...  :-X Several years ago there was an aroma hanging around, and wouldn't you know it, I had just buried 3 of my rats. Neal kept asking if I had buried them deep enough, because he was worried about the smell. Turns out, it wasn't any of my rats! A critter of some wild kind had crawled behind our fence to lay down after being hit by a car.  :'(
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 09:20:56 PM by gramma2jaakk »