This is not only one of the most difficult decisions for a pet owner, it is also a difficult question to answer as every situation is different and there is not a "one size fits all" formula. Ultimately you know your pet - and yourself, better than anyone. Quality of life is typically the dominant factor in most instances and can vary from one day to the next. Your regular veterinarian who knows you and your pet can be a valuable resource. It can be useful to start jotting down what you observe on a daily basis to help you see if the "good" days are outnumbered by the bad. Things that frequently indicate that the time is right may include some of the following:
Lack of interest in food or water
Increased accidents in the house or unable to support themselves when eliminating. This can further be emotionally distressful to a previously well house trained pet.
Decreased interest or no longer doing many of the things they used to such as greeting you at the door, wagging their tail, playing, or patrolling the yard.
Changes in attitude such as lethargy, confusion, aimless pacing, aggression towards one or more people or other pets.
Lack of grooming, particularly in cats.
Choosing to isolate themselves, particularly in areas that they did not use to frequent.
Being in the comfort of one's own home has direct and indirect benefits for both the pet and their owner, even if trips in the car or being in the veterinary clinic wasn't usually a stressful time for either. When it is time to make an assisted transition, being home with control of the setting, timing, and in their favorite spot can have a tremendous impact on everyone. For the pet, the veterinarian is just a houseguest. They are comforted by the familiarity of their environment and the people they love. For their owners, the ability to part company in the privacy and peace of home can plant that very first seed of healing.
Once the decision is made to euthanize, what other decisions are there to make?
You will need to decide about aftercare of your pet's remains, specifically if you would like Pacific Magnolia Veterinary to transport your pet for cremation. Depending on your pet's size, this may factor directly into your appointment as some limitations or availability may apply. General information regarding aftercare is listed below. For more information, or to discuss your situation please contact me at (541) 968-9979.
No, you need only to focus on loving your pet and what your own needs are during this time. Things you may consider, but are not required, include:
Any potential interruptions that would distress you during the appointment should they occur such as telephones and answering machines. This is absolutely not required and only for your benefit. We ask that you wait to silence phones until we have arrived in the event that we need to reach you before we arrive.
You might consider if you want to have this visit in your pet's favorite place or if elements such as music, candles, pictures, or favorite toys nearby would be comforting.
Aftercare refers to whether you elect home burial, private cremation in which your pet's ashes are returned, or communal cremation which refers to group cremation without the return of your pet's ashes.
With burial, you will need a place to move the body until you are ready to perform it. Please note that we are unable to assist with burial, however we can offer additional assistance in moving your pet if you need. Plastic under the blanket or box is recommended as voiding often occurs after the body relaxes. In addition, you will want to contact your utility providers as you consider any potential hazards digging may have with regards to buried utility lines.
Cremation is a separate service offered by locally owned Rest Assured Pet Cremation of Eugene. If you live within the Eugene or Springfield city limits, they offer complimentary pick up from your home (subject to availability) or you may schedule to drop off with them directly during their regular business hours Monday through Friday. You will need to contact them directly to discuss any arrangements. They can be reached at (541) 746-0244.
In most cases, we are able to offer transportation for cremation service, for an additional fee. Many owners elect our service to eliminate the additional element of coordinating with Rest Assured and simplify their own experience during a difficult time. Due to differences in operational hours between Rest Assured and ourselves, for a given owner this may result in a delay that adds a substantial emotional or logistical hardship, particularly if the euthanasia appointment is scheduled in the evening, or on the weekend.
At the beginning of the appointment there will be a few moments spent taking care of the paperwork, financial portion, and finally some time to explain things or answer questions if you desire. This will then leave you free to focus fully on your pet and yourself. You will be able to be with your pet and hold them the entire time, if you choose.
The first step will be the doctor administering an injection of sedative to your pet that will remove or prevent pain and anxiety. It is typically no more invasive or uncomfortable than when a vaccine is given, but in some they may notice a little sting. Sometimes families have their pet's favorite foods, or even previously "forbidden" foods (like chocolate!) to provide just a bit of distraction. This injection begins to work quickly in most pets, with the full effect of a deep sedated sleep occurring within 10-15 minutes. For larger pets, having them lie on or moving them to a blanket before the sedative (or after if they are in pain) will make moving the body afterwards simpler.
After your pet is resting and sedate, preparations for the injection that gently stops heart and brain function will be made. We will inform you before the final injection, allowing you to decide to stay or seek comfort in another location. Then, once you are ready, that injection will be given. It typically takes effect very soon, however it can vary - particularly in pets that are very old or ill. You can be assured that they will not feel any pain or distress when it is given or while it is taking effect. Occasionally there are body reflexes after the heart stops such as muscle movements or a final breath - this is normal. Please note that the eyes may not close during the sedation or when they leave us in death.
Absolutely, you are welcome to be present for as much of the process as you feel comfortable. Some people elect to stay through the entire procedure while others want only to be present until the sedation takes affect. This is a personal decision and there is absolutely no "right or wrong way to be" during this time. It is equally important to listen to your own needs at this difficult time.
Ideally children should have an opportunity to say goodbye in some manner whenever possible. Saying goodbye is sad, but a loving peaceful transition can be a lifelong lesson about death. Children older than 5-6 years are often remarkably resilient and their honesty and innocence can come through in some amazingly pure and heartfelt sentiments. Ultimately this is the sole choice of the parent. Some parents have elected to have children in another area of the home for the sedation portion or for the entire procedure. This insulates the child from the adult's emotions (which can sometimes be more upsetting than the actual passing of the pet), with the child being given an opportunity to say goodbye before the pet was taken away. This can be a particularly good approach for young children (less than 5-6 years) as they are often confused by what is going on and are therefore even more sensitive to and upset by the heightened emotions. Based on parent's comments this approach worked well for their young children and themselves. Regardless, you will know what is best for your child.
The considerations for other pets during this time can be very similar to those of small children, although the reasoning can vary. If other family pets are easily distressed by visitors or disruption, or if they are just eager to receive attention it may be ideal to remove them to another part of the home during some or all of the actual procedure. This enables you to give your full attention to the transitioning pet during their end of life. You will know what is best for yourself and the other pets in the home. If other pets are removed during the procedure, it is beneficial to give them an opportunity to see their house mate one more time after passing. These pets will instinctually know that the other has passed, and will help alleviate some of the confusion and searching that can result when they don't have the opportunity to investigate for themselves.
Yes, there have been times when a home has two or more pets that are very old or sick and have been euthanized at the same time. In this situation, it may be best that both pets are sedated at the same time so that one pet is not actively alert for the other’s passing. This is a very difficult thing for families and we empathize with the need to say goodbye to multiple pets at the same time. We will try to make the appointment as smooth as possible.
Can you euthanize a pet that is aggressive? What if they have bitten someone?
Yes, a pet that is aggressive can be euthanized however if anyone's safety is at risk then a muzzle may need to be placed by the veterinarian or the family in order to administer the sedative. If the pet has recently bitten someone that resulted in a skin puncture, state regulations prohibit euthanasia until after a 10 day waiting period (quarantine) has been observed.