Euthanasia is a difficult subject to talk about. It’s sad, frightening, and extremely personal. However, in light of all the darkness, it is the last gift we can give a sick or dying pet. We hope you find some ease by understanding how to prepare and what to expect throughout the process. I was lucky enough to have an awesome veterinarian when 'my first dog' passed away; and I thank Dr. Kevin Jones greatly for being such a kind and compassionate human in the process.
FINDING THE RIGHT TIME
Not sure when it’s time to say goodbye?
Choosing the right time to euthanize your pet is not the same for everyone. Some owners make the decision based on symptoms of illness and others make choices based on quality of life. Is your pet not eating or drinking? Having difficulty with mobility? Suffering from symptoms of a tumor or incurable disease? Unable to go to the bathroom? Acting listless, depressed, or lethargic? Is your pet in ongoing pain? Any of those criteria may make you question your pet’s quality of life. Keep in mind, this is an incredibly individual and personal decision based on multiple factors - not every dog or situation is the same.
Regardless of your reasoning, it is your decision to make with your family - and it’s nobody’s job to judge or criticize you. With that said, it is also not your job to judge and criticize yourself either. Many owners have fears and doubts. Have a conversation with your veterinarian if you are having any doubts - their job is in the interest of your pet’s welfare too. Sometimes it helps to get input from the outside to help make a decision.
When the time comes let it be peaceful, let it be with love and affection, and let it be a blessing. We encourage owners to keep everything as normal as possible, so consider waiting to remove any collars until after. Take time to grieve. It’s been two and a half years since I lost Riley and I swear I can still hear him barking when I pull in the driveway. Don’t suck it up, don’t beat yourself up; just ask for patience and respect as you grieve the loss of a loved one.
COORDINATE WITH YOUR VET
If circumstances allow, make sure to touch base with your vet and schedule an appointment. Even in emergency situations, ensure to let the clinic know that you are coming. By preparing them for your arrival, the vet staff will be able to better minimize stress and prevent needless waiting in the lobby. Most clinics will either have a dedicated grieving room accessible or may prepare an exam room to comfort your pet during the visit.
Please note that some veterinary clinics offer house calls. It is worth inquiring with your vet whether or not they would be able to come to your home, rather than making an appointment at the clinic.
RITUAL OR SPIRITUAL - THIS IS YOUR GOODBYE
Before euthanasia make sure you limit stress and provide comfort to your pet. Be prepared. Bring a blanket, a favorite toy, some super tasty treats - or even chocolate cake for the occasion! (Yes, Riley did depart eating a 3 layer Pepperidge Farm chocolate cake, and he loved every second of it). If you need to - call the family, gather around, hug each other, talk to one another, support each other. Losing a beloved family pet can be as emotionally challenging to navigate as the loss of a human companion.
It is becoming increasingly popular to use a sedative or tranquilizer before administering the euthanasia material. This is to ensure that the animal will gently drift into sleep during the process. In an ideal world the veterinarian would administer a sedative, and then shortly later the euthanasia material (some administer it together). In most cases both drugs are given via the veins. Some owners choose to stay for the whole procedure, whereas others opt to stay for sedation only. That is really your choice, and it’s an individual one to make!
As your pet departs, the vet may use a stethoscope to confirm that your pet has passed. Both the euthanasia procedure and diagnosis should only be done by a certified and licensed veterinarian.
There are many options regarding what to do once your pet has passed. Many owners opt for cremation, some choose a pet cemetery (yes, that does exist), whereas others choose to take their pet's remains home for burial. Even this decision is best made beforehand. Once the time has come to say goodbye, you will be faced with shock, grief, and feel overwhelmed.
Since euthanasia is a veterinary procure, there will be a bill incurred with the service. Most veterinary clinics require payment when services are rendered. We suggest you pay the bill upon arrival so you don’t have to worry about it during shock and grief. It is becoming increasingly rare for clinics to send an invoice in the mail, however some clinics still provide this option. Make sure you decide on how to pay and when before you enter the building.
Thinking of what to do next? Take your time removing personal pet items. Drastic change is hard on everyone. Some owners find comfort in welcoming a new pet into the household, others take their time. If a new pet is your next venture, keep in mind that dogs are individuals. If you get a same breed, same color, same gender dog - they will still come with their own personalities and traits. Be emotionally prepared to work through raising a new puppy or welcoming a new dog home. Need a break from the heartache? That's ok too, we all process our emotions, loss, and grief differently - and it's absolutely fine to take processing time.
It is one of the hardest decisions to make - but keep in mind, it's the last gift we can give our four legged loved ones.