Man’s Best Friend. Photo credit Peter Thorne, “Old Faithful” Project
All pet owners have to face the awful day sooner or later when they have to euthanise a beloved family member who is terminally ill. Dr Matthew Murdoch advises: Have it done at home. The animal can pass away peacefully in its own bed with family caring for it to the end.
Trevor Bailey tells how circumstances forced him to get it wrong. “I woke up one morning to find Ruffy couldn’t stand. The day before he seemed fine. We had hiked on Tai Mo Shan together. I knew immediately he was seriously ill. I started phoning around for a Sai Kung vet. It was 6.30am. I couldn’t find anyone. So I rushed Ruffy by car to our old vet in Happy Valley, Lloyd Kenda. We got there at 8am just as they were opening.”
A long-legged black Sai Kung pedigree picked up eight years earlier in the gutter at the country park barrier, Ruffy had been struck down by a liver disease. It may have been leptospirosis. Dr Kenda’s colleague tended to Ruffy as well as he could. For work reasons, Trevor had to leave the suffering, scared dog in the Happy Valley clinic.
Trevor said, “Later I got a call from the vet*. He said Ruffy had had a seizure and turned orange. He said there was little he could do. You have to say the terrible words.” Trevor said it was December the 18th. “I’ll never forget it, tears still come to my eyes.” Ruffy died frightened, under bright lights in a strange place without any family present.
Dr Murdoch said it doesn’t have to be this way, if you know your pet is terminally ill and you have time to get it right. Matthew owns Homevet, a mobile veterinary service. You see their cars around town. If you have to put an animal to sleep, Matthew or his vet colleague will arrive at your house with a veterinary nurse.
“In a gentle kind way we will first give a sedative injection with the thinnest possible needle. This is a morphine-like solution. The dog or cat can settle down in its bed or on your lap. After about 10 minutes when it is sleeping peacefully, we will inject the euthanasia solution into its arm. It will drift away blissfully unaware…” Matthew said the liquid injected is an anaesthetic overdose. “It doesn’t cause any sudden pain or heart-attack.”
At home as their pet passes away owners can grieve naturally. Matthew or his colleague can arrange a cremation service. They use Tender Loving Creatures or Love Forever Pets. Both companies work with sensitivity, he said.
Homevet charges $1000 to $1500 for this service all inclusive (but excluding TLC or LFP’s fees).
* Trevor emphasises Dr Kenda’s people handled the matter professionally throughout “as they always do”.