Your pet is ill, his quality of life is poor, and euthanasia is inevitable. To honor the unconditional love he has given you all these years, you choose in-home euthanasia as the last way to cherish his life.
How do you prepare for a home visit? What do you need to know?
FIND THE BEST SPOT
The very first thing is to pick the spot where the euthanasia will be performed. This spot should be familiar to the pet and where your pet feels the most comfortable. Maybe it’s your cat’s favorite spot on the couch in the sunlight. Maybe it’s in the backyard where your dog always loved to watch squirrels. Perhaps it’s at a forest preserve, or the spot on the bed where your cat liked to sleep. Or, maybe it’s in the family room, which is large enough to have everyone in the family gather around.
PREPARE THE AREA
You should provide a thick blanket that the pet can lay on during the procedure. It helps to collect any leakage from the bladder or bowels when the muscles relax, and it is also used to gently wrap the pet in afterwards. If the selected spot is on furniture, you can consider putting a plastic bag under the towel, in case fluids leak.
If the pet is taken from the home to have cremation performed, the blanket will go with the pet and not be returned. For large pets, having two people on opposite sides lifting the blanket will help facilitate placing the pet on the stretcher.
While blankets, toys, and other objects cannot be cremated with the pet due to certain regulations, it is allowable to send them along for the ride.
WHO SHOULD BE PRESENT?
Has your pet touched the lives of certain relatives, friends, or neighbors? Do they want to be there to honor your pet’s life? If many people will be present, consider the size of the area in your location decision.
Also, children can be present, in most cases. This may be the first time they encounter a death of a loved one, so by following your example, they will learn a healthy way to say goodbye and grieve, which will serve them well later in life. It’s hard to watch your child in pain, but it’s an unavoidable reality that they must face when the pet is no longer around. In general, children 3 years and younger don’t really understand what is happening and the pet’s loss won’t affect them that much. With children 4-6 years, it depends on the maturity level of the child and should be at your discretion. With children 7 years and older, it is generally best to explain what is happening and ask them if they want to be a part of it or not. At-home euthanasia is a very peaceful process, so you need not worry that kids of any age would be traumatized by watching. Afterwards, kids can keep busy and allay their grief by drawing pictures of the pet, writing stories about the good times they had with the pet, or even collecting photographs of the pet to put in a scrapbook.
A mother once asked me if she should tell her 8 year old son about the euthanasia of their elderly family dog that was going to take place while he was away at school. I told her yes, due to the reasons above. Afterwards, she told me she was thankful for the advice. She told her son, and he replied that he was glad she told him because he would have been very sad if he missed the chance to say a last goodbye to their dog.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR OTHER PETS?
Your other pets should be present if they want. Most will lay quietly out of the way in the same room. The only times pets shouldn’t be present is if they are not fond of strangers in their home, if they bark incessantly, or if they are young and being disruptive by trying to play. Most adult dogs know when their companion is sick and they know what death is by instinct. If the other pets can’t be in the same room for the euthanasia, it is advisable to have them sniff their companion afterwards, before he or she is taken from the home. Sometimes, it may look like the pet doesn’t care much, but if they see or smell the deceased pet, they do seem to know the pet has passed. If they are not allowed to see the pet after the euthanasia, some may think the pet simply left the home and will return later, which makes the transition of not having the pet around much more difficult.
OTHER TIPS TO ENSURE EVERYTHING GOES SMOOTHLY
- If the pet will be taken from the home afterwards by the vet, make sure you have a parking spot available. If you have a driveway, the vehicle will be backed in to make the distance from the home shorter. This also provides more privacy for you and your family.
- Be sure to silence your cell phones and minimize any other noise disruptions that may occur.
- When the doctor arrives, she will greet the pet and allow the pet to get comfortable with her. Often, this entails a lot of sniffing and petting. Then, you will read and sign an authorization form, and take care of payment beforehand, since it’s harder to handle afterwards when emotions can overwhelm you.
- Next, the vet will prepare the sedative and administer it to the pet. Great care is taken to minimize even the smallest sensation of the injection. A fresh, small needle is used for the sedative,and your pet will be distracted with petting, soothing words, and/or treats.
- While the pet drifts into sleep, the vet will prepare for the final injection and prepare the clay for the paw print impression to be taken after the procedure.
- When the pet is fully sedated as determined by the vet, the final injection is given, most typically, in the leg vein. The breathing may become deeper and quicker at first, but then slows down and stops. A couple minutes later, the heart follows.
- If you want to spend time with your pet afterwards, simply let the vet know. It is important for you to do whatever you feel necessary to mourn, and the vet always allows enough time so that you should never feel rushed. This is part of the grieving process and everyone is different in how they choose to express it.
- If cremation is chosen, the vet then prepares the vehicle, and returns with a stretcher (for larger pets). If using the stretcher, another person is needed to help the vet carry the pet out. The back of the vehicle has pillows and blankets for the pet to be placed on in a dignified manner.
- If you opt for a private cremation, you may choose how you receive the ashes: the ashes can be delivered by the vet in 1-3 weeks depending on your location, or you can pick them up directly from the crematory.
(The information listed here is specific to how Peaceful Endings for Pets handles at-home euthanasia. Other vets or companies may use different techniques.)
Dr. Trotsky is owner and president of Peaceful Endings for Pets and it is her passion to help all pets and pet parents have access to a procedure that was once only available to veterinary professionals. The overwhelming amount of cards, gifts, and testimonials of people expressing their gratitude for her help gives her a sense of fulfillment and a realization that this is her true calling.
“I feel it is an honor when I am chosen to be the person that helps your pet at the end of his life, and I do everything possible behind the scenes so that you can be in the moment with your pet and not have to worry about anything else.” Dr. K. Trotsky
“Your pet has been there for you during the worst times of your life, and during the best times of your life. Your duty, to honor your pet’s life, is to provide him the most peaceful, pain-free passing as possible. You love your pet too much to offer anything less.” Dr. K. Trotsky
“By providing your pet with this peace, you will know in your heart that you did good by her. You will look back on her passing with love, not regret. You will give her what she gave you – unconditional love.” Dr. K. Trotsky