DEAR DR. FOX: My letter concerns the euthanasia of our pets. Our animal companions will suffer tremendous trauma simply due to their deep love for us, plus their ability to understand our need for them.
During euthanasia, stay beside your pet and stroke them lovingly as they leave this world. Speak familiar words of love as the injections are being administered, and say your goodbye then. I was blessed in having our well-trained, kind veterinarian make that suggestion and guide me through those difficult moments.
Make plans for taking care of your pet’s remains, too. In our case, the date was set, my working husband dug the grave the night before, and I took care of the rest. It’s just something we must learn to deal with. There may be times when one must leave a deceased companion with the veterinarian, or times when the weather doesn’t permit digging, there’s no one to do it for us, or our health problems prevent what our hearts long to do.
I still cry from the loss of Tater, Cujo, Harley Ray, Sophie Jordanna, Tia Xena, Prancer, Sally Ann, Tommy Tom, Pookie Tootie, and many more. Humans, be proud, and speak out for those dear and loved companions. Learn more from your veterinarians. Ask questions. -- M.L., Humboldt, Tennessee
DEAR M.L.: Many readers of my column will appreciate your concern and encouragement to be with their animal companions at the time of euthanasia administration.
It can be emotionally challenging for some people to be present with their animals at this time, but I agree with you that courage is called for to be with the animal -- to hold and comfort them. Not all veterinarians will allow every client to be present for a variety of reasons. Others offer in-home euthanasia and in-home palliative/hospice care -- humane, compassionate services which I advocate for those who can afford them.
Taking the deceased animal home and allowing surviving animals to view the body may help with their grieving and sense of loss. Some animals may seem indifferent, just as with some people after the death of a family member. I wish that more people understood how deep the grieving experience can be, for both animals and humans, after losing a beloved animal companion.
Burial on one’s own property may be prohibited in some municipalities, so do your research. Cremation services and legal burial plots are available in most communities.
DEAR DR. FOX: My husband and I are vegan. We feel bad having to feed our newly adopted cat, Timmy, meat and fish, but the vet says that is right. I have heard that there are special diets you can make or by so that cats will be healthy on a vegan or vegetarian (eggs and dairy) diet. Can you send me more information? -- Y.T., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR Y.T.: This question often comes up in my column, and I must reiterate that cats are obligate carnivores, and that we should not impose our own values and dietary choices on them. They must have a daily intake of animal protein and fats, ideally from various organ parts and different animal species, preferably organically fed and humanely raised.
As for your own diets, I applaud your veganism. In today’s world, with over 7 billion people, vegetarianism is an ethical imperative. Vegetarianism and veganism occupy the higher moral ground over daily meat and fish consumption for people in most parts of the world, where there are nutritious alternatives that do not involve the slaughter of billions of animals.
There are sound, scientifically documented reasons for such enlightened dietary decisions, including humane concerns over animals’ suffering and the economic, ecological, environmental and public health costs of a meat-based diet. But, as with those who deny climate change and global warming (to which the livestock industry is a major contributor), the politics of meat go deep in Western culture, much of it being subsidized at taxpayers’ expense in the U.S., where denial and disinformation continue to keep unacceptable industries in business.
For detailed documentation, see my review “Changing Diets for Health’s and Earth’s Sake“ on my website (drfoxvet.net), especially the postscript: “The Vegetarian Imperative.”
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)