Euthanasia is derived from the Greek terms eu meaning good and thanatos meaning death. The term is used to describe ending the life of an individual animal in a way that minimizes or eliminates pain and distress. While some pets die of old age in the comfort of their home, many others become seriously ill or injured or experience a significantly diminished quality of life as they grow very old. In these situations, it may be necessary for you to consider having your pet euthanized in order to spare it from pain and suffering.
Here are some suggestions for dealing with this difficult decision, as well as some information about the euthanasia procedure itself.
Knowing when it’s time…
As veterinarians, clients ask us almost daily how they will know when it’s time to say goodbye to their beloved pet. We can help guide you through this difficult process. In some cases, we may have to tell you definitively that it is time to euthanize your pet, but in other cases, you may ultimately need to make the decision based on your observances of your pet’s behavior and attitude. We have found an incredibly helpful tool created by Dr. Katie Hilst in Wisconsin which can help you decide when it's truly time to say goodbye to your beloved friend. Please click here to view the handout.
Once you have made this very difficult decision, you will also need to decide how and where you and your family will say your final goodbye.
- If you have children, make sure that you explain the decision to them and prepare them for the loss of the pet in advance. If you need help discussing this with your child, we can help with this as well.
- It is a very individual decision whether or not you and your family want to be present during the euthanasia procedure. And there is no right or wrong answer, just a personal decision. For some pet owners, the emotion may be too overwhelming, but for many, it is a comfort to be with their pet during the final moments. It may be inappropriate for young children to witness the procedure since they are not yet able to understand death and may also not understand that they need to remain still and quiet.
- Many families ask if it is appropriate to allow their other pets to attend. Although this may seem like a natural course of action to us, it is not for our pets. They do not understand what is happening and often become anxious by either coming to the veterinary hospital or having strangers in their home. We recommend not bringing other pets to a euthanasia procedure. You will want to devote your full attention to your beloved pet your are saying goodbye to.
- Some veterinarians will come to your house, which allows both the pet and the family to share their last moments together in the comfort of their own home.
What to expect…
Making the decision to say goodbye to a beloved pet is stressful, and your anxiety can often be exacerbated if you do not know what to expect during the euthanasia procedure. At Pine Creek Veterinary Hospital, each of us has experienced a personal loss of a beloved pet and understand exactly however particularly stressful this can be.
- We will always explain the procedure to you before we begin. Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions for further explanation or clarification.
- We provide a comfortable, warm, quiet room with a sofa, some ottomans and a floor rug to make you and your family feel more at ease.
- We encourage you to hold your small to medium-size pet in your lap, and larger dogs are encouraged to lay on the floor rug or lay next to your on the sofa. Regardless of the location, we make sure that your pet has a comfortable blanket or bed to lie on as well as a wetting pad under the blanket.
- You are encouraged to spend as much time as you need to say your final goodbye.
- It is the policy at Pine Creek Veterinary Hospital that pets undergoing the euthanasia procedure have an intravenous catheter placed to ensure proper and secure access to a vein. Your nurse will escort your pet to our treatment room where we have all of our supplies to place the catheter and will return him to your directly. If needed, you may spend more time with your pet. We provide a telephone in the room to call the nurse’s station to inform the doctor when you and your pet are ready.
- Your doctor will give your pet three injections. First a sedative followed by saline which will allow your pet to become very sedate. Lastly, we will give an overdose of an anesthetic drug called sodium pentobarbital, which quickly causes unconsciousness and then gently stops the heartbeat. The injection is not at all painful to your pet.
- Once the IV injection of sodium pentobarbital is given, your pet will become completely unconscious within a few seconds, and death will occur very shortly are the final injection.
- Your doctor will use a stethoscope to confirm that your pet’s heart has stopped.
- Rarely, a pet may experience some minimal muscle movement or intermittent breath a few seconds after he has passed. Your pet may also release his bladder or bowels. These events are normal and should not be cause for alarm.
- After we have confirmed that your pet has passed, we will give you a few final minutes alone with your pet.
Body care options…
Pine Creek Veterinary hospital offers you a variety of options for your pet’s final resting place.
- Cremation is the most common choice, and you can choose whether or not you would like to have your pet’s ashes returned to you.
- We work directly with a local crematorium (click here to visit their site) and ensure your pet arrives at the crematorium in accordance with your wishes. They offer a wide choice of urns and personalized memorials that you can chose from when you bring your pet in for the procedure.
- Burial is another option. You may want to bury your pet in your own yard, but before doing so, be sure to check your local ordinances for any restrictions. There are also many pet cemeteries throughout the United States. To locate a pet cemetery near you, check with the International Association of Pet Cemeteries.