A sad reality of being a pet owner and lover is that sometimes we must say goodbye to our beloved friend. Euthanasia is a privilege we have in veterinary medicine that allows us to end our dear friend’s suffering when they are in pain or no longer able to enjoy an acceptable quality of life. With this privilege comes tremendous responsibility. Many people find the decision to euthanize their beloved pet one of the most difficult decisions they ever face.
While no one wants to see their friend suffer, most people struggle with knowing when to consider euthanasia for their pet. The bottom line is there are no black and white, right or wrong answers. It is a very personal decision and what is right for one person and pet will be different than what is right for another. We know any decision you make will not be made lightly and we will do our best to accommodate and respect your wishes.
Once the decision has been reached to pursue euthanasia for your pet, there are some other decisions to make including whether or not you want to be present and arrangements you would like to make for aftercare.
For some people, it is important to them to be present with their pet when the euthanasia takes place. Other people do not wish to be present. Once again, there is no right or wrong way to do things and it is an entirely personal decision. At Sault Ste. Marie Animal Clinic, we usually tell clients they are welcome to be present for the euthanasia but they should not feel obligated to be present. Our goal is to make the entire process as smooth and non-stressful for the patient as possible.
What is exactly is euthanasia?
Simply put, euthanasia for pets involves the injection of a planned overdose of barbiturate anesthetic into a vein. As the drug travels to the brain via the bloodstream, the patient immediately becomes unconscious. As more drug reaches the brain, the part of the brain that controls breathing and the heart becomes so depressed that the patient stops breathing and their heart stops beating. The patient will become unconscious/asleep within seconds – it may take a minute or two for all heart activity to stop. Occasionally there may be a little twitching or even a gasp from the patient but this is simply reflex activity and the patient is already gone.
I think it is time to consider euthanasia for my pet….now what?
In most cases, you will need to book an appointment to have your pet euthanized. If you are undecided or unsure if it is the right time, just let us know and we can schedule an examination for your pet. The doctor can discuss possible diagnostic or treatment options to help you arrive at a decision.
If you do not wish to be present, you will simply leave your pet with us (or drop the pet off …but please call to arrange a time to do this). The timing for this can usually be fairly flexible but you will need to be prepared to sign a consent form and to pay for the service. If you are taking your pet home for burial, you can usually pick them up a couple of hours later or the next day.
Can I be present for the procedure?
At Sault Ste. Marie Animal Clinic, we usually tell clients they are welcome to be present for the euthanasia if they want to be but they should not feel obligated to stay if it is going to bother them. It is an entirely personal decision. You can trust that we will treat your pet with the utmost kindness, dignity and respect even if you are not present.
If you want to be present, we generally try to schedule the procedure for later in the day when the hospital is hopefully quieter with fewer people about. You will need to be prepared to sign a consent form and to pay for the procedure. For most pets we will place an intravenous catheter prior to the procedure to ensure that the injection can be made smoothly. For most pets, unless they are extremely ill, they will be given a sedative that makes them very sleepy and relaxed over a period of 10-15 minutes. Once the pet is sufficiently relaxed, the veterinarian will come into the room with an assistant who will help hold the pet still. You will be encouraged to stand by the pet, stroke their head and talk to them….whatever you feel comfortable with. Once the injection has been given and the doctor has confirmed that there is no heartbeat (this may take a minute or two), he and the assistant will leave the room giving you and your family some private time with your pet to say goodbye. When you are ready, you will leave the room. If you are taking your pet with you for burial, you will leave them in the room and go wait in the waiting room or your vehicle. We will wrap your pet in a Euthanasia bag and bring them out to your vehicle. Some people like to bring a favorite blanket or towel for their pet to be wrapped in, others will bring a cardboard or wooden box for their pet to be placed in.
Because of the extra time involved, it is slightly more expensive to be present when your pet is euthanized. There may also be a fee for an examination or intravenous catheter placement if required.
What happens afterwards?
There are a few options for aftercare for your pet. The first is that your pet’s remains are cremated by a local pet cremation service who will pick up your pets remains from our hospital. We will look after the arrangements for you. If you would like your pet’s ashes returned to you, you can request a private cremation. Your pet will be cremated individually and their ashes will be returned to us a few weeks later in a temporary plastic container. There are various options available for ceramic or wooden urns if desired.
Another option is for you to take your pet home for burial. Pet burial in your back yard is (technically) not permitted within city limits but many people choose to bury their pet at camp or other rural property. If it is wintertime and the ground is frozen, we can store your pet for you in a freezer until the ground thaws in the spring. There are also a couple of pet cemeteries in the area that will look after burial for you.
Whatever decisions you make for your pet and euthanasia, we recognize how difficult and stressful this time can be. Please to not hesitate to ask questions or to ask for clarification. We will do our best to be to be supportive and to treat you and your pet with kindness and compassion.
*Please note, unless it is an emergency situation, we only perform euthanasia for our regular clients and their pets.