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5 Considerations for End-of-life by Natural Death 

When your pet is faced with a grim prognosis from cancer or other debilitating disease, what do you want their end of life to look like? Do you want them to die naturally or do will you chose euthanasia? Let’s have a heart-to-heart discussion about this unpleasant subject which almost every pet owner will at some point have to face. Here are 5 things to consider when choosing natural death.

1 This is one of the absolutes in life. 100% of all living things, including people and pets, will die at some point. When we bring that adorable puppy or kitten home that cold reality is furthest from our mind; but one day in the future we will have to say good-bye to our furry companion. The treasured bond of companionship will then be delegated to the realm of memories.

Do you want your pet to have a natural death? I have practiced veterinary medicine for over 40 years and have heard thousands of pet owners express the desire for their pet to pass peacefully in their sleep. Of course, we would hope happens for us as well. The reality however is while this does happen, it is not the most common way our pets to transition. In the wild a sick or diseased animal can easily become prey and suffer a quick and gruesome death from a predator. So, end of life takes place rapidly. But unlike in the wild, our pets are not vulnerable to predation, but are nestled in the protected and comfortable environment of our home. We can keep environmental conditions under control, we can assist them to make them comfortable and force nourishment on them; so the process of dying naturally can be prolonged for hours, days, weeks, or even months. The end may be peaceful, but there may be unpleasant activity such as vocalizing, paddling, restlessness, abnormal breathing patterns, loss of bladder or bowels, vomiting or diarrhea. If the end comes suddenly and the pet is in distress, the pet owner must be prepared to transport their pet to the veterinary hospital or emergency room.

3 Why do we want natural death for our pets? We may feel like we are playing God. We may we overwhelmed with the anticipatory grief of losing such a precious companion. There may be as many reasons as there are diseases, but sometimes the burden of making the decision to end our pet’s life is too difficult to bear. It is paramount that we do a search inward and understand why we want our pet to die naturally. It may be beneficial to seek the support and guidance of a professional pet bereavement counselor to help us along in that journey.

4 Is the dying pet suffering? Pets live in moment. They are focused on the present and do not anticipate suffering. They are accept the here and now. In many instances they put on their best attitude and muster the best strength possible, even in the face of suffering. This may be an innate quality which from their ancestry in the wild is an instinct to keep them safe from predation. The bottom line is they can exist even in the face of suffering. Why is this such an important truth for a pet owner to understand? Because the pet’s willingness to live from day to day cannot be the most important consideration in determining their level of suffering.

5 What is the best advice if you chose natural death for your pet? Your number one goal is to alleviate suffering through proper care. This means care administered by a licensed, professional hospice and palliative care veterinarian. It may require frequent medications to control pain and any other co-morbid conditions, along with extensive home nursing care to prevent bed sores, maintain sanitation, and provide nutrition. Most, if not all, of the home care will be the responsibility of the owner. The financial burden and time requirement for proper care may mount as time goes on.

Natural death as a peaceful end to a beautiful life is ideal, but the reality of this dying process may fall short of what we as pet owners desire. There are multiple factors to consider when deciding on this as the end-of-life choice. The best advice is to understand all the angles, seek the support of family and professional help, including help for yourself if needed.


Mobile Veterinarian in Thousand Oaks, CA, Ventura County, and San Fernando Valley

At Dr. 4 Pets, our mobile vet has provided decades of personalized veterinary service. We offer in-home dog and cat euthanasia when necessary. Call us today at (805) 494-3339 for more information or to schedule an appointment with our mobile veterinarian.