How will I know when it is time?
Knowing when euthanasia should be considered depends on your pet’s health and quality of life. It is often helpful to look at the quality of life your pet is experiencing. Does your pet still enjoy eating and other simple pleasures? Is your pet able to respond to you in a normal way? Is your pet experiencing more pain than pleasure? It may be helpful if you ask yourself what is a good day and what is a bad day for your pet. Then over the next month mark the good and bad days on a calendar. If the bad days outnumber the good days it is likely the time to have a discussion with Dr. Lofsky. You will be able to make a much better decision, and be more comfortable in your decision if you get as much information as possible regarding your pet’s condition. If your pet is sick, ask us about the treatment options, possible outcomes, chances of recovery, and palliative care options. In most instances, you won’t need to make the decision immediately, so take the time to think about what you should do. Use the forms below to help you decide. Discuss the decision with all of the other family members, including any children.
Although it is a human tendency to question and doubt our decisions afterward; if you know you made informed decisions it will reduce the ‘what ifs’ you may tend to ask yourself. As hard as it is, you need to consider the financial cost as well as the emotional cost of continuing to care for your pet. Do not feel guilty if you can’t afford expensive treatment; there are many people who cannot. It does not make you a ‘bad’ owner or one who loves their pet any less. You need to consider what is best for your pet, but also what is best for you and your family. Are you physically able to manage your pet’s care? Do you feel ready to say goodbye, or do you need some more time? What will make it possible for you to feel comfortable regarding the decision? We are here to help so please contact us.
What happens during euthanasia?
Euthanasia is a peaceful and pain-free process, but it is best to understand what will occur and how your pet’s body may react. Knowing these things may help with your euthanasia decision, and make the process less stressful for you.
The first step is to calm and relax your pet before the appointment by giving some previsit medications orally. When possible we recommend giving these oral medications in a favourite treat the night before, the morning of, and two hours before the visit. When you arrive for your pet’s appointment please call us and we will let you know when you can come into our separate quiet room. Once your pet has settled in our quiet room we will give a stronger calming agent injected under the skin or into a muscle. This injection may take 25 to 40 minutes to take effect so please bring some of your pet’s favourite things including food, treats, a blanket, or toy. Once your pet is calm and relaxed we will establish vein access; this will allow for the easy administration of a heavy dose of an anesthetic called pentobarbital. In most cases, this injection works very rapidly usually within thirty seconds. At first, your pet will go completely unconscious as if being anesthetized for a surgical procedure, then the pentobarbital will cause the brain and heart to stop functioning. Once this happens we may see a pet’s muscles relax or contract and involuntary muscle contractions may result in a pet appearing to gasp or have muscle twitches. Also, the smooth muscles of the urinary bladder and the anus will relax, and your pet may void urine and stool if the bladder or colon is full, and in almost all cases your pet’s eyes will not close after death. These things can be very upsetting especially if you aren’t aware of this possibility ahead of time, but remember your pet isn’t aware that these things are happening. Knowing what happens may help you and other family members prepare for the euthanasia and decide if they want to be present.
Before the procedure please plan ahead by completing our online euthanasia consent form, consider aftercare options, and arrange to pick up the previsit medications.
Who should be present during euthanasia?
Many people wish to be present during their pet’s euthanasia to say goodbye to knowing what the death was like so they will not wonder about it in the future. Each individual, however, will need to decide for him or herself whether they want to be present during the euthanasia. Sometimes friends may encourage you one way or another, but it is ultimately your decision, and you need to do what is best for you. Please know that if you decide not to be present our euthanasia protocol is still the same; previsit sedation, followed by an injectable sedative, and then the final injection.
If you don’t feel you can be present during the euthanasia, please do not feel you are abandoning your pet. Your pet has experienced your love throughout his life, and if he could talk, you can imagine he would say he understands. Your pet won’t be alone, Dr. Lofsky and his staff will be there with your pet, talking to him and petting him during the procedure.
Whether children should be present during the euthanasia depends on the age and maturity of the child, as well as other factors. If a child is to be present, the child should be counseled ahead of time so they know what to expect. It is also helpful if the veterinarian or staff can speak with the child and explain what will happen and why. Parents need to be ready to provide support and answer any questions the child may have. For more information click on this guide about children and pet loss.
Aftercare, Memorialization, and Keepsakes
You will need to decide how you want to care for your pet’s body. Depending on where you live, your finances, and other factors, there may be several alternatives for you. We use Gateway as our aftercare provider. Gateway provides services including communal and individual cremations, viewing and visitation facilities, and a variety of memorial keepsakes.
Individual Cremation: There are many reasons to choose individual cremation as a meaningful way to memorialize your pet. With individual cremation, your pet’s cremated remains are returned to you as a lasting, cherished keepsake. When you choose individual cremation you have the assurance that you are receiving only your pet’s cremated remains for safekeeping.
Communal Cremation: Sometimes simply saying goodbye is the last memory you want of your pet. In a communal cremation, your pet is gently placed in the crematorium together with other pets. Upon the completion of the cremation, the communally cremated remains are removed and forwarded to the peaceful surroundings at Ancaster Pet Cemetery for internment in a communal burial plot. The communal plots are identified with a special marker. It is important to understand that with this service, no cremated remains are returned to you. If you do choose a communal cremation, you may still consider keeping a lasting memory of your pet with a personalized memorial paw print.
Burial at Home: If it is allowed where you live (check your bylaw restrictions), you may be able to bury your pet at home, but you should consider the fact you may move to a different home in the future.
Mourning and Bereavement
The death of your pet can be a very lonely experience when compared to the loss of a person which involves a funeral and visitations with friends and family. To help, some people find it comforting to have a service by reading a poem and lighting a memorial candle in your pet’s memory. Creating a photo collage of your cutest, funniest, and favourite pictures and posting and sharing them on a memorial website can also be helpful. Consider planting a tree in honour of your pet or donating to a shelter, the SPCA, a veterinary school in the name of your pet. You will need to take special care of yourself in the time immediately after the euthanasia. Understanding grief and the grieving process and using the various resources available such as pet loss hotlines and support groups can also be beneficial.
The decision to euthanize a pet is a difficult one and we are here to help you decide what is best for your pet. It is helpful to plan and prepare yourself for it, if possible, by becoming informed and making choices regarding the details ahead of time. The decision to euthanize is a personal one, and you need to do what is best for you and your family and your beloved pet.
Dr. Lofsky is committed to ensuring your pet’s euthanasia is done using the best and accepted standards of practice. To this end, Dr. Lofsky has completed a ten-hour certification course from the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy.
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