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HomeWellnessFurever Family: U of I Vet Med | Saying goodbye to a...

Furever Family: U of I Vet Med | Saying goodbye to a furry friend

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s never easy saying goodbye to a furever friend, but that’s where today’s guest, Krystal Newberry, wellness program coordinator at the University of Illinois’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, comes in to help you navigate when it’s time to humanely end a pet’s life.
Krystal Newberry, a licensed social worker and former certified veterinary technician who works at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, offers insights into what to expect regarding pet euthanasia.
In addition to her background in social work, Krystal has five years of experience working as a certified veterinary technician in the hospital’s Emergency and Critical Care service. Her areas of expertise are quality-of-life discussions with clients and providing short-term, goal-oriented counseling and emotional support for the entirety of the medical care team.
Euthanasia: Why, When, and How to Say Goodbye to a Pet
Euthanasia allows pet parents and veterinary doctors to give a pet a peaceful end to its pain and suffering. The decision to pursue euthanasia, however, may be difficult for owners because of conflicting emotions and uncertainty about the process.
What Is Euthanasia?
“In Greek, the word euthanasia literally translates to ‘good death,’ ” Newberry explains. “Euthanasia is the act or practice of ending a life in a painless and humane manner by injecting a medication that stops the heart from beating.”
Often, euthanasia occurs when the pet’s quality of life has declined, due to age or disease, and cannot be restored. Sometimes this is because treating a medical condition would require more resources than the family can give.
How Does the Procedure Work?
The euthanasia procedure may differ somewhat from clinic to clinic. Some clinics and mobile services even offer euthanasia in the pet’s home.
In most hospitals, you can spend quality time with your pet privately in a room before the euthanasia procedure takes place. You usually have the choice to be present for the procedure or to leave your pet in the hands of the veterinary staff after saying goodbye.
After the Procedure
Many veterinary clinics provide owners with keepsakes created after the euthanasia to help them hold their pet’s memories close. For example, they may make an impression of the pet’s paw print in a piece of clay or using ink on paper, or they may clip a lock of the pet’s hair.
They will also ask how to care for your pet’s remains. “Most clinics offer owners the option of taking their pet’s body home to arrange for burial or cremation or of sending their pet’s body directly to a crematorium,” explains Newberry. Cremation options include group/communal cremation, which provides no ashes or the pet’s ashes mixed with ashes of other pets, and private cremation, which ensures that the owner receives only their pet’s ashes.
Euthanasia and the Multi-Pet Household
Human family members are not the only ones who may grieve after the death of a pet. “A pet parent may notice other pets at home seeming tired, depressed, or wandering aimlessly. These are normal behaviors seen in pets after the loss of a housemate,” says Newberry.
When Is Euthanasia the Right Decision?
“No matter what, whether you plan the euthanasia in advance or it occurs at the last minute, the moment is never easy,” Newberry says. “When I speak with pet parents, I like to encourage the family to consider quality-of-life, not only of the pet, but of the entire family.”
She recommends several quality-of-life scales that assist owners in recognizing patterns in their pet’s health: Ohio State Quality of Life Checklist, Lap of Love Quality of Life Assessment, and Grey Muzzle (an app available for Apple and Android).

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