By Dr Karen Whala, Co-founder of CodaPet
Making the decision to euthanize a pet that is terminally ill, has a poor quality of life and/or suffering is believed to be one of the most difficult decisions a pet owner will ever have to make. Sometimes, no matter how ready your pet may be, to be relieved of the pain and suffering, the pet parent may never fully be ‘ready’ for when it’s time and may doubt their ability to make such a weighty decision. As a pet parent, and a veterinarian, who has lost many pets, I too have experienced the burden of such a decision and hope that I can share some tips that can help you prepare for the process of bringing your beloved pets full life to a peaceful close.
We all hope the day will never come, but when faced with the decision of whether it’s time, it can be comforting to know what the process will be like and that you’re not alone making this decision. It is a very difficult decision that many pet owners have to make when their pets are suffering from incurable illnesses or injuries.
Consultation with a Veterinarian
If you’re like most pet parents and you’re not sure if it’s time, the very first thing I recommend as an exclusively in-home pet euthanasia vet, is to consult with your regular veterinarian. The decision to euthanize should consider first and foremost, your pet’s illness or disease. Your vet can recommend palliative care and medications to help relieve suffering or improve quality of life if it’s believed that its not quite time. Your vet is also the best professional to discuss how your pets illness can progress and whether choosing to euthanize before symptoms become unbearable is a more caring and humane option. Once you and your family and veterinarian believe that it is time to relieve your pet of pain and suffering, you can determine if helping your pet pass at your vet clinic or at home is right for you. Either option frees your pet from pain and suffering, but In-home pet euthanasia is the process of putting a beloved pet to sleep in the comfort of your home. Ask your family vet or friends who have experienced an at home euthanasia for recommendations of a vet who can offer this special service if you find this option works best for your family.
What to do prior to an In Home Euthanasia Visit
Once you have decided to proceed with in-home euthanasia, you may choose to prepare your pet or your home in any way that is uniquely personal to you and your pet. Some families want candles and soft music surrounded by comforting reminders, while others want their pet to have as normal a day as possible, with the TV on their favorite sports channel and their favorite forbidden foods. It is completely up to you. Not all situations allow for enjoying precious time with your beloved pet, but if you do have the privilege of sharing those last moments at your leisure, consider taking your pet to the park in a wagon (if they’re aware, yet can no longer walk) or spoiling them with chocolate chip cookies or letting them snuggle in their favorite sunny spot. You know your pet best and how best to spoil them and make comforting memories prior to your vet’s visit.
On the day of your pet’s relief from suffering and your vet’s visit, it is important that your pet be as relaxed and calm as possible. This helps ensure a more peaceful euthanasia experience. If your pet has many furry housemates who are more interested in the vet than relaxing quietly, then it may be better to let them wait in another room until after the process. The same holds true for family members who come to be a part of the process. Some pets become anxious with anything ‘new’ and it may be best in these circumstances to create an environment that your pet feels most comfortable in. A pet that is more excited or anxious can take a bit longer to relax and feel comfortable during the euthanasia process. Your in-home euthanasia veterinarian can help guide you on ensuring a peaceful transition for your beloved pet.
On the day of the euthanasia appointment, your in-home euthanasia veterinarian will take a few moments to get to know you and your pet and ask questions about your pets medical history and any medications as well as inquire to his or her overall quality of life. Once your vet agrees that proceeding is the most humane and kind option, and answers any questions you may have, they will share with you the process which best considers your pet’s pain level, their personality and your wishes.
After assessing your pet and before administering the euthanasia solution, the veterinarian will first give your pet a relaxing and pain-relieving sedative to help them relax and ultimately transition into a deep sleep. This will ensure that they do not experience any pain or discomfort during the procedure.
The sedative is typically given under the skin with a tiny needle and can take anywhere between 2 – 20 minutes, depending on your pet’s disease condition, to take effect. It is during this time that your pet may be free of pain for the first time in a long time, and finally able to truly relax. It’s an opportunity to continue to shower your pet with love and affection as they drift off into a deep sleep. Some rare but normal signs you may see during this process include involuntary twitching, their eyes may not completely close, they may stretch or take deep breaths, or rarely, your pet may regurgitate some of the yummy treats they had. Please note that these signs can occur whether a pet passes naturally or assisted.
Administering Euthanasia Solution
Once your pet is fully sedated and feels no pain, your veterinarian will administer the final euthanasia solution. This is usually done by injecting the solution directly into a vein in your pet’s leg or paw, but sometimes, as in severely dehydrated or ill pets or pets with swollen legs, the solution is given in a vein in your pet’s belly. The euthanasia solution contains a high dose of anesthetic that quickly and painlessly travels to your pets brain which then stops your pet’s breathing and finally your pet’s heart will stop. Your pet will pass away painlessly and peacefully, as if in their sleep, within minutes of receiving the final injection. Your vet will listen to your pet’s heartbeat and let you know when your pet has passed and is no longer suffering.
After your pet has passed away, you can spend some time saying goodbye and grieving with your family members. The veterinarian will then provide you with information on aftercare options for your pet’s remains. You can choose to have your pet cremated or buried, depending on your personal preferences and local regulations. The veterinarian can also provide you with resources for grief counseling and support during this difficult time.
In summary, in-home pet euthanasia is a compassionate way to say goodbye to a beloved pet who is suffering from an incurable illness or injury. It allows them to pass away peacefully in familiar surroundings surrounded by loved ones. Be sure to choose and consult with an experienced veterinarian who can guide you through the process and provide support during this difficult time.