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The Euthanasia Process

One of my technicians forwarded an excellent article to me on information about the euthanasia process you should know BEFORE the time comes. Based on that article and my personal experience I decided to write the current entry.

Euthanasia is a difficult time. While you can never fully prepare yourself for the process, especially if it must be done suddenly, you can ease the experience for you, your family and your pet. Knowledge is power.

Questions to Consider

To the extent possible, make the following decisions BEFORE the time comes.

Will the euthanasia be performed at the office, at your home or some other special place? We offer house-call euthanasia because we understand many people don’t want the pet’s last memory to be the veterinary hospital. It is important to realize the following about house calls: THEY MUST BE SCHEDULED IN ADVANCE. I am a solo practitioner. If I have a full schedule I cannot just leave the office and cancel appointments. I need to have the time scheduled in advance so I can accommodate other pet appointments accordingly. They do cost more. Simply put, it takes time to drive to your home, perform the euthanasia and drive back. We never rush any euthanasia. There are also insurance requirements and wear and tear on the vehicle, etc.

What will you do with your pet after the euthanasia is over? You have the following options: burial at home, communal cremation or private cremation.

If you choose home burial, you will need to make sure there are no legal restrictions and the hole is deep enough that wildlife and other neighborhood dogs do not dig up your pet’s remains. I know this is difficult to read but I would rather you read it here than wake up to find your beloved pet’s grave desecrated.

Cremation: We offer communal cremation (no ashes are returned) or private cremation (ashes are returned). Private cremation has a number of options with regard to urn, etc. It is best to explore the options BEFORE the day of the euthanasia and have the arrangements in place. You can call the office and talk to Carol to help guide you through the various options.

You need to decide if you are going to be present with your pet at the time the euthanasia is performed. Most clients stay, others do not. Having had three family members die recently, I can honestly tell you my biggest regret is I WAS NOT THERE. Your pet should leave this world hearing encouraging and loving words from you and the gentle touch of your hand.

If you have children, are they going to be present? Pet loss is often a child’s first experience with death. Tread carefully here. This experience could have profound impact on how a child handles the loss of a loved one going forward. Be VERY careful what you say to children. I find many well-meaning people say very inappropriate things at a time of a person or pet passing. I have heard things like: “We will get another (dog or cat).” “He or she is in a better place.” “He/she is just taking a very long nap.” While these may seem innocent, they are harmful. Getting another implies a pet is replaceable. While you can get another pet, you never truly replace the one you had. Each is different and special. When you tell a child, especially a young child, the pet is in a better place they are not going to understand. What better place is there for a pet to be than in the loving arms of its owner? A long nap- really? A young child may then assume anyone who dies may wake up again. Also, saying a pet is being “put to sleep” is dangerous. What if your child needs to have surgery? You or the doctor may explain to them they are getting medicine to put them to sleep. Now you have a child who is terrified. Be careful what you say.

Some resources for children include:

Grief Watch – Children & Pet Loss

Explaining Pet Loss to Children

On the Day of Euthanasia

Adults, PLEASE stop holding back your emotions and certainly don’t apologize for crying. We expect it and respect it. I have had veterans who have watched comrades die in battle tell me they could handle that but then break down weeping at the loss of a pet. IT IS OK. I find many men try to hold back public display of emotion. When I lose a pet, I cry like a baby. I am not ashamed to admit it. IT IS OK TO GRIEVE OPENLY. One of the most profound experiences I had during a euthanasia was an owner that looked like a very intimidating guy. He was very large, very strong, tattooed, part of a motorcycle gang. He was a VERY nice guy but he looked scary. When I euthanized his dog, he buried his face in his dog’s side and started wailing. He could be heard all over the 10,000 square-foot hospital I was working in at the time. I cried right along with him. If you have children it is very important for them to see you grieve. It helps them grieve.

Bring your pet’s favorite things: bed, toys, treats, brush, etc.

Bring pictures to help you remember and celebrate the life of your pet. This will help you talk about and celebrate your pet’s life. It will help you reflect on all the reasons you loved your pet and recall a lot of happy memories at a time when things seem so sad.

Ask about the actual process of euthanasia. We will gladly explain to you the process and what to expect with each step.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Euthanasia is a difficult decision. It is a time of great heartache. The last thing you will want to do is think about all the above details at such a difficult time.

If we can help ease the process for you in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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