DEAR DR. FOX: I have two miniature dachshunds and a little Chihuahua.
Petie is my eldest: 16 years old with a heart murmur, and I fear that I may have to put him down in the not-too-distant future. I had thought that when that sad time came, I would hold him in my arms when the doctor gave him the injection, and that the other two dogs would be there too, as the three are tightly bonded. I don’t want them to wonder if Petie deserted them. I’m certain that they will recognize he has passed.
But I read in an article recently that when a dog is put down, it badly distresses other dogs who witness the death. Is that true? If so, I don’t want to put them through any more pain then necessary, as they will grieve when he is gone, anyway.
What would you recommend? Just taking him myself, or allowing his buddies to be there, too? I also informed my family that when I pass, I want my doggies to smell my body, as I understand that they can smell death and they will understand that I didn’t desert them.
All my dogs are (and any future dogs will be) rescues, and they have gone through enough emotional pain. Please advise me. -- G.B., Owasso, Oklahoma
DEAR G.B.: I sympathize with what you and your dogs have to go through, and applaud your concern for them.
In-home euthanasia with an experienced veterinarian is the best option. The dogs will react to a stranger in the home, so it may be preferable to put them in another room, ideally with someone whom they know and trust, so that Petie is not upset by their reaction.
The attending animal doctor may bring an assistant, since the dog must be properly held and restrained for the intravenous injection of the euthanasia solution. Many veterinarians will give an injection of tranquilizer first, to make the dog comfortable and to make it easier to inject the subsequent solution into the vein.
Once the euthanasia has been accomplished and the veterinarian has left, lay Petie’s body on a towel on the floor, and allow the other dogs to examine him and have some quiet time together. Some dogs are indifferent, while others clearly understand. Then wrap up his body and let the dogs see you take his remains out of the house for cremation or burial. Give the dogs extra attention, and be mindful that they may search the house for Petie and show signs of mourning. Stick to their daily routines; outdoor physical activity will be the best therapy for all.
DEAR DR. FOX: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted a notice concerning salmonella infections in people, children especially, from backyard chickens raised for their eggs.
What is your opinion on homeowners keeping a few layers to produce their own eggs? -- L.H., Cincinnati, Ohio
DEAR L.H.: There have been some discussions and concerns expressed in veterinary journals over the past several years about the animal- and public-health risks of backyard laying hens, and also about their welfare. The related issue is lack of people’s experience in caring for hens properly and providing safe, adequate housing for them.
Most children do not have sufficient exposure to bacteria, especially if there is not a dog in the house, and they do not get outdoors much, preferring to stay indoors with their smartphones and computer games. Their immune systems are therefore not well-developed and they, along with the elderly and already immunocompromised adults, can be prone to a number of bacterial infections from being in or around a backyard hen enclosure, or from eggshells not being properly sanitized prior to going into the home.
It is for these reasons that I am opposed to backyard hen-keeping in cities and suburbs with high population densities, unless operated by experienced people with the inspection and approval of the local state board of animal health.
Certainly, from all documentation, consumers are more at risk from bacterial infection when handling poultry and meat from factory farms and feedlots. I advise all people to eat less animal produce in general, and only from organically certified and humane sources, if they are unable to become vegetarians or vegans.
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)