What Should I Expect At My Appointment?
We know that considering saying goodbye to your pet is very difficult and we want to help you honor your relationship with your pet in the most special way possible. These pages may be difficult to read, but spending some time thinking about how you would like to say goodbye can make the process more meaningful. There are no right or wrong answers during this process, as your relationship with your pet is unique. Making plans prior to your euthanasia appointment will give you time to consult with family members and friends. Having made certain decisions ahead of time will also allow you to focus all of your energy on your pet during the appointment. If you need any additional information or guidance regarding this process prior to your appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us, as we would be happy to help guide you.
Prior to the Appointment
Please take some time to think about any arrangements you would like to make before our doctor arrives, such as which family members or friends would like to be present, any special family or religious ceremonies you would like to have arranged, and the desired location of your pet’s passing. You may want to take or gather photos, poems, and other mementos that will be part of the tribute to your pet. Take some time and plan to have other family members and pets in the home say goodbye if they will not be present for the euthanasia itself. You will also need to begin thinking about your pet’s aftercare and if you would like to arrange for burial, communal cremation, or a private cremation. (See Planning for End of Life Decisions also on our website.)
You will want to select a quiet place for the euthanasia where you and your pet will feel most comfortable. You may choose a favorite room, a special place in the house, or even somewhere quiet outdoors. Really, any place that is comfortable for you and your pet is an acceptable location. Many people ask whether other pets and/or children should be present. Even the youngest child can view a pet’s body or be present during the euthanasia, as long as they are well prepared and supported by the adults in their life. It is often a child’s first experience with death, so openness, honesty, and sensitivity are important. If the parents are comfortable having them there, children should be asked if they want to be present. In my experience, some do, but others want to be part of the good-byes and then choose to leave before the actual procedure. Other pets in the household may also be present. It is not uncommon for another pet to act depressed or “lost” when their housemate is suddenly missing. It seems there is more understanding when they are able to see and smell the body of their friend. Dogs and cats have been known to search the house for days when not allowed to say goodbye.
During the Appointment
When our doctor arrives, they will meet with you to discuss any plans made prior to my arrival to gain a sense of how you would like to say good-bye to your pet. We will also review your options for after-care at this time. You will need to sign a euthanasia authorization form, which gives our doctor your permission to perform the procedure and states that your pet has not recently bitten anyone (for rabies law purposes). If you would like to fill out this form ahead of time you may download and print it here. It is usually best if we take care of the charges at the beginning of the appointment as well so that you may then focus completely on your pet. Payment may be made with cash, check, or credit card (Visa, Master Card, Discover, American Express). An estimate of charges can be provided prior to our arrival. Fees are based on your pet’s weight, your location, and your after-care choices. Please call to obtain a detailed estimate.
After the paperwork is completed and you are ready, our doctor will give your pet a sedative injection beneath the skin or in the muscle to help your pet relax and prevent any unnecessary stress, pain, or struggling. This first shot may sting a little (this is more commonly noticed in cats), but is not painful as a very small needle is used (similar to a vaccination). Your pet will gradually (approximately 5-15 minutes) fall into a deep sleep. During this time, you should feel free to continue to comfort and talk to your pet.
Once your pet is in a state of deep sleep/unconsciousness and you have said your final good-byes, I will inject an overdose of a very powerful anesthetic. This last solution will stop the brain, heart, and respiration, usually within two to five minutes. Although your pet will be unconscious before this occurs, you may continue to comfort and touch your friend throughout the entire procedure. Your pet will remain unconscious during this injection and will not feel any pain or discomfort whatsoever.
After the Appointment
Once our doctors have confirmed that your pet has passed, you may continue to spend as much time as you need with them. They will usually quietly step away to allow you to spend a few minutes alone with your pet. If you have elected to have a clay paw made, this will be done when you are ready. If you have elected to have your pet cremated, we will then take your pet with us to our office for cremation.
Common Concerns & Things to Remember
In most cases, once the pet is sedated and even after death, the eyes usually remain open, even if someone tries to close them. Although euthanasia solution induces rapid clinical death, more primitive areas of the brain can sometimes continue stimulating basic reflex activities. For example, the pet may breathe more rapidly, take a few very deep breaths, have muscle tremors or very rarely even have jerking-type motions. These sights can sometimes be startling or disturbing to watch, but the pet does not feel any discomfort and has often already passed away. In most cases, however, the process is quite smooth and pets simply fall asleep, eventually passing away very quietly.
Remember, it is perfectly normal to cry, be sad, and experience all the emotions associated with losing an important family member. Everyone grieves differently, but you should be prepared to enlist the support of your family and friends during this difficult time. If you need additional help, please refer to the pet loss support resources on our website and in our grief packet– and remember, you are not alone! If you have any questions, need help, or just want to talk, please feel free to call or e-mail me directly. Our pet loss support group meets once monthly and the current dates and location are listed on our website and the group’s Facebook page.
For many people, making a small “memorial table” with items that help you remember your pet’s happy days will help immensely, particularly for children. You may also write a small memorial note about your pet and send it, with a picture, for our “Pet Memorials” webpage.