Saying Goodbye

Euthanasia for a beloved pet

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.

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? Unable to go to the bathroom? Acting listless, depressed, or lethargic? Is your pet in continuous pain? Any of those criteria may make you question your pet’s quality of life. For some owners, it’s a matter of time before making a decision. For others, the right time is when any of those elements impede further enjoyment of life.

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. If so, have a conversation with your veterinarian: 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.

Coordinate With Your Vet
If circumstances allow, touch base with your vet and schedule an appointment. Even in emergency situations, be sure 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 for you 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, my first dog Riley did depart eating a 3 layer Pepperidge Farm chocolate cake, and he loved every second of it). We encourage owners to keep everything as normal as possible, so consider waiting to remove any collars until afterward. If you need to, call your family, gather around, hug each other, talk to one another, and support each other. Losing a beloved family pet can be as emotionally challenging to navigate as the loss of a human companion. Take time to grieve.

The Procedure
It is becoming standard for veterinarians to use a sedative before administering the euthanasia injection. This is to ensure that the animal will gently drift into sleep during the process. Without a tranquilizer your pet may show some startling and alarming symptoms during the process, and that’s not something owners are eager to experience. In an ideal world, the veterinarian would administer a sedative, and then shortly later the euthanasia injection (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. But please don’t drop your pet off at the vet and leave him alone for these important last minutes of his life. It can be frightening for them, and your presence will greatly comfort them.

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.

Choose Beforehand
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 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.

Making Payment
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 while you are newly grieving. 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. Even if you get a dog of the same breed, color, and gender, 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.

Charlotte Wagner Harvey
About Charlotte Wagner Harvey 21 Articles
Charlotte Wagner Harvey holds a Bachelors of Science with honors in Animal Management from the University of Essex with a special interest in behavior. As a dog trainer and the owner of K9ology in Warrenton, she helps dog owners and dogs find common ground to establish a peaceful life together. Her core tenets: there are no shortcuts, it is hard, and do it right or don’t do it at all. She lives in Rappahannock County with her husband and a farm full of animals including horses, chickens, cats, and, of course, dogs.

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