Making the Choice
No one knows your pet better than you do. Often the hardest part is setting aside your own fear of loss and focusing instead on the best interests of your pet.
Most commonly, owners realize it is time simply based on their pet's general attitude. Illness is often accompanied by some combination of weight loss, change in behavior, loss of appetite, lack of energy, or decreased activity tolerance. There are also many symptoms which may indicate suffering, such as continuous panting, aggression, flinching when touched, excessive sleeping, decreased social interaction, compulsive licking, vocalizing, trembling, apathy, failure to groom, restlessness, discomfort with movement, or isolating. Not every pet will demonstrate these symptoms and frequently, once these signs are noted, the level of suffering is quite advanced. Making the decision to let your pet be at peace often means following your instincts.
Determining whether your pet’s quality of life has diminished is an important step in the decision-making process. If you are unsure, try to think of the 3 things your pet has always liked to do the most. When your pet stops doing 2 of these things, it is probably time to let go.
Remember that pets originally evolved in the wild by learning to mask their pain. Often, especially with dogs, pets continue to strive to please their owners despite their discomfort. We have seen animals with very advanced diseases and symptoms still willing to eat when the owner hand feeds them or pleads with them.
Speaking with a trusted medical professional can help you to make informed decisions about what is ethically and financially best for you and your pet. Realize the goals of treating terminally ill pets—to extend their quality of life. When the treatment becomes worse than the problem without guarantee of significant increase in your pet’s expected lifespan, it is time to consider letting go.
The doctors of Choice Veterinary Care are always available by phone or e-mail to help guide you through this difficult time. Remember that you cannot time things perfectly, but this decision is one of the kindest things you can do for your pet. The reason this process is referred to as “humane euthanasia” is because it prevents suffering.
Trust yourself -- You will know when it is time.
There is no easy way to lose a pet. Some pet owners would rather put off the decision to euthanize, instead waiting for death to naturally take their pet. However, it is an unfortunate truth that “natural death” is often preceded by long periods of stressful suffering and anxiety. Dogs and cats are great at hiding signs of pain and therefore, their discomfort often goes unnoticed for far longer than we realize. As your pet’s guardian, you should consider that euthanasia is a kind way to end your pet’s suffering when their quality of life has diminished.
Many people would say their "ideal passing” would be “to simply fall asleep and not wake up”. This is essentially what we are able to provide, with your selfless love, via in-home euthanasia to pets who have problems we cannot control or cure. The opportunity to fall asleep, surrounded by the people who love him, in the comfort of his home is certainly the greatest gift you can give to your best friend in his final moments.
Traveling to an unfamiliar environment when they are ill can be an unpleasant, painful, or frightening event for many pets. Although a hospital visit is worth the stress if it leads toimproved health and quality of life for your pet, it is our opinion that a pet’s final moments and memories should be as gentle and dignified as possible. We are pleased to be able to offer pets the chance to peacefully “fall asleep” in the comfort and privacy of their own home or yard, nestled in their favorite spot, surrounded by the people who love them the most. We feel that this is a generous and compassionate way to repay the many years of companionship and unconditional love your devoted friend has given. Further, most pet owners who experience the tranquility of an in-home euthanasia say they would never do it any other way.
You and anyone you would like to have with you are welcome to stay with your pet for the entire euthanasia procedure. At any point, however, you are free to leave the room, especially if you feel overcome with grief or prefer your final memory to be of your living pet. In all circumstances, we will be honored to be with your pet, comforting him every step of the way.
Once we arrive at your home, the process can go as quickly or slowly as you would like. Some pet owners prefer to offer prayers or talk about their pet prior to beginning the process while others elect to quickly complete the procedure. When you are ready to say goodbye, we begin by administering an injection of a heavy sedative in as painless a manner as possible. The choice of sedation may vary based on your pet’s health issues, species, weight, age, or other special circumstances. This step will ultimately serve to alleviate pain and allow relaxation, which is often accompanied by a deep anesthetic sleep, especially in pets who have been too uncomfortable to rest well.
Once your pet has become comfortably sedated or drifted into a “twilight sleep,” a final injection is given. This final injection is an overdose of another sedative which allows your pet’s body to slow down and stop. The overdose results in a peaceful passing from life. In many cases, this final injection can take effect within seconds, but in extremely dehydrated or ill pets, it may take a little longer for the drug to reach the heart.
Following this transition, your pet’s body may quiver, she may sigh or take a deep breath, she may urinate, or she may fail to close her eyes. These are all natural processes, which can occur while the body lets go of the functions it has performed for the life of your pet. Once the doctor has ensured that your pet has peacefully found death, you may choose to spend as much time with your pet as desired to say goodbye.
No. There is no specific set-up necessary for our doctors to help your pet. We will provide all the necessary medications, support staff, and tools needed for aftercare transportation.
Some pet owners take this opportunity to prepare a pleasant atmosphere for themselves and their pet, possibly including comfortable blankets, soothing music, or their pet’s favorite napping place. We try to be as flexible as possible to allow a pleasant end to your beloved pet’s time with you.
The decision to have children present for a pet’s euthanasia is an individual choice. In many circumstances, it may be the first time a young child is exposed to the important life experience of dealing with loss and death. If you feel that you are able to guide your children in properly understanding what is happening and why, we certainly encourage you to allow them to be present to say goodbye to their beloved friend.
Absolutely. It is important to realize that other pets may also need time to grieve following the passing of their housemate. Although it is likely that these pets will only demonstrate a brief glance or sniff toward their deceased friend, this experience may help bring closure and decrease the chances that the remaining pets will become depressed or search for the deceased pet later.
If you are considering euthanasia for your pet, phone consultations are offered free as a courtesy to allow the opportunity to obtain answers about your pet’s medical condition, learn how to evaluate her quality of life, and recognize when the time may be approaching to consider saying goodbye to your beloved friend. Call us at (310)956-7062.
No. Although many appointments for in-home euthanasia are scheduled in advance (at a time when the pet owner feels it would be most appropriate), some appointments are requested “as soon as possible.” We do our best to accommodate your requests, arriving at your home at the time most convenient for you.
Although we do appreciate as much notice as possible, we certainly will do our best to work with you when your pet is in need. We understand that the circumstances for which your pet needs our help may arise suddenly. Ultimately, our goal is to end suffering as quickly as possible.
If there is a chance you may be considering our services in the future, please do not hesitate to call and let us know your situation so that we may be able to guide you in preparing for your pet’s final moments.
If you choose individual or communal cremation, we will take your pet with us after you’ve said goodbye. Once we leave your home, we will transport your pet to the equivalent of a “morgue” to await their final arrangement (burial, cremation, etc.). Your pet will be handled with respect and dignity throughout this process.
Following in-home euthanasia, many pet owners elect to have us arrange the details of aftercare. Choice Veterinary Care offers a variety of services, including communal cremation, individual cremation, burial and mementos. However, if you prefer to keep your pet for private burial or arrange your own cremation services, the choice is always up to you.
If you choose individual cremation through Choice Veterinary Care, we will contact you to schedule a time to return your pet's ashes within 10-14 days. Under normal circumstances, we personally return your ashes to you in an eco-friendly Earthurn with a complimentary clay pawprint.
If you choose an independent crematorium, someone from their organization will contact you and let you know how long it will take to have your pet’s ashes returned.
Coping With Loss
The end of your pet’s suffering may not bring an end to your emotional pain.
There are many different ways to deal with grief. Planning ahead and preparing yourself for the passing of a pet can help avoid feelings of anxiety and guilt in the future. Confide in family and friends, talk to your veterinarian, or speak with a professional grief counselor (references may be provided by Choice Veterinary Care upon request or call the ASPCA counselors at 877-GRIEF-10). If children are involved, decide how best to talk to them about the circumstances. Gather photos or memorabilia to help remember your treasured friend. Write a poem, create artwork, or compose a song to express your feelings. And when you’re ready, consider finding the love of another animal by adopting a pet.
Talking to a child about the death of a pet can be a daunting task for some parents. It is usually best to be as honest as possible, without going into more detail than your child requests. Using wording like “putting to sleep” can be confusing for some children. Therefore terms like “helping him to die” may be a more clear explanation of the euthanasia process.
Older or mature children may benefit from taking a more active part in this end-of-life experience, such as deciding where their pet would be most comfortable spending his final moments and allowing them to say goodbye in their own way. However, it is important to ensure that any children who will witness their pet’s euthanasia understand that this procedure is a kind and loving end to the suffering he may be experiencing. Let them know that in your pet’s own special way, he let you know he was ready to pass on. Don’t be afraid to let your children know you are sad or miss your pet. This knowledge can help some children better accept the loss, say goodbye, and begin the process of recovering from their grief.
Because we must be available to pet parents on very short notice, Choice Veterinary Care only provides in-home euthanasia and aftercare services. However, we may be able to offer guidance in finding the right veterinary hospital for you.