Should my pet be present?
Being a veterinarian specializing in at-home pet euthanasia, I often get asked these types of questions a lot – “Should my pet be in the room during my other pet’s euthanasia?” Many people wonder if they should put their cats in the basement, have a family member walk the dogs, or keep the dogs in another area of the house. Simply put, the other pets should be present during a euthanasia – most of the time.
Other pets already know their companion is ill.
When your pet is ailing, the other pets in the household already know this information. You may start to notice changes in their behavior, like a cat taking over the other cat’s usual resting places, or an otherwise playful dog suddenly leaving the sick dog alone. Pets pick up on this by instinct. Pets may know this information before the pet owner does! You may realize that your cat, for instance, is fine one day and sick the next. That doesn’t mean the illness just started. It means that your cat was hiding its illness until it couldn’t anymore. In the wild, animals that show illness are deemed as weak and can be shunned by others, or even be prey to other opportunistic animals. Dogs tend to be more expressive to people and show their illnesses sooner. Dogs in the wild live as a pack so oftentimes the other members of the pack will aid the sick dog by protecting it from predators or bringing food to it. Dogs and cats know what “illness” and “death” are by nature.
There are reasons not to let the other pets be present.
I do recommend that the other pets be present, but only if they want to be. If they wish to be in another room, don’t force them. Many, oftentimes, lay down quietly near the the family and seem to “get it”. A reason not to have the other pet present is if that pet is disruptive. By this, I mean that the dog may be too immature, like a puppy for instance, to really understand what is going on. Or, that dog just wants to play during the procedure, or seems overly interested in the new person that just arrived in the house. In those cases, the dog should be left in another room until the euthanasia is over. So far, I’ve never had a cat be disruptive to the process.
The call is yours!
Ultimately, this is your experience and you should decide what’s best. If you’d rather not have other pets present, that’s okay. Whenever possible, though, after the euthanasia is complete, I recommend bringing the pets in to sniff the deceased pet. Many times, the other pets don’t appear to be doing anything but avoiding the pet or just taking a sniff or two. That may be all your pet needs to process the information. Don’t force them to be nearer to the pet, or to sniff more, just because you expect “more” from them.
Being there eases their transition.
Lastly, pets should be present during euthanasia (or allowed to see the pet afterward) because it will greatly ease their transition of not having the pet around anymore. They will understand their companion has died and was not just taken away.
Let me know your experiences!
I’d love to hear your comments that you, as a pet owner, experienced regarding this topic. You can help other families decide what’s best for them!
Dr. Kari Trotsky is the founder of Peaceful Endings, an at-home euthanasia service for dogs and cats. She has over 15 years of experience as a veterinarian and serves Chicago and the suburbs. Please visit her website – PeacefulEndings.net. You can reach her by phone at 630-205-4275 or by email at DrKari@PeacefulEndings.net.