The Final Gift: A Vet’s Thoughts on At Home Pet Euthanasia

“How do you do this every day?”

Clients ask us this question a lot. It usually arises as we stand before their beloved pet and walk them through the final moments of their pet’s life.

That pet may have been part of their lives for 20 years, or just a brief moment in time. More often than not there are wonderful stories told of the silly Labrador who counter-surfed and ate a Thanksgiving dinner, or the sweet cuddly cat who was the only comfort through a difficult divorce, or even the Quarter horse who was their child’s first friend.

Family at home with old dog

These stories are glimpses into this pet’s world, and always shed light on how loved and cared for they were.

My answer to their question is often “Saying goodbye is always hard. But you are giving your pet the greatest gift. We are taking away his suffering and giving him the chance to die in a peaceful way.” It does not make it easy, and everyone struggles with the emotions that must be faced.

Compassion and a true understanding of how difficult it is to say goodbye is how veterinarians help pet parents through this difficult transition.

How to Know if Your Pet Is Ready

The decision to euthanize a pet is not always straightforward. Your mobile veterinarian can help counsel you through the questions that arise as your pet ages; When is it time? How will I know? Is it too soon? Is it too late? Is she suffering? What else can I do? How will I go on without him?

Often routine diagnostics, such as blood work, radiographs, or ultrasound will be recommended to determine what is going on with your pet and if there are any other options in the later stages of life. Once the concerns of the aged pet progress, we start discussing the quality of life for both the pet and the owner.

These are all relevant and realistic concerns that must be discussed to fully evaluate the situation. Being honest with your veterinarian about how you are feeling and how the pet is doing are both very important. We want to help, and we want to be able to give advice that is both useful and relevant.

While there is no easy way to determine if your pet is ready, some common signs that your dog or cat may be nearing their end of life are:

  • Change in appetite or drinking
  • No longer interested in playing
  • Uncontrolled pain or breathing difficulty
  • Becoming confused
  • Unable to stand on their own
  • Becoming incontinent
  • Having fewer “good” days

Another thing I often tell owners is to keep a list of 5-10 of their pet’s favorite things to do– the things that really make them who they are. I ask clients to watch for those things and make a note when their pets are no longer able or willing to do those things.

Once the pet is unable to do half of the things on that list, it is generally a good time to make the decision to let them go. This way we are not waiting too long, and we have a way to quantitatively make a decision.

Most often that is the struggle, how to know when it is time. The Ohio State University Veterinary School has a worksheet that can be used to help owners determine what the quality of life of their pet is.

These are all tools that we utilize to help people come to terms with having to make end-of-life decisions for their beloved pet. Euthanasia is a very personal choice and is not right for everyone and every situation.

The important factor is to always try to keep the well-being of the pet at the forefront of your mind when making the decision. You also want to seek help in some capacity to help alleviate pain, infection, and the other things that may be ailing your pet at the end of his or her life.

Our pets are domesticated animals and are no longer faced with the realities of nature which ultimately would bring about the end in a relatively quick manner i.e. starvation, predation, the elements, etc.

So many of us hope that our pets will pass on their own while sleeping. Unfortunately, it is rare for that to happen. The final gift of alleviating a pet’s suffering and giving them relief from pain is selfless and kind.

How Does at Home Pet Euthanasia Work?

The process of at home pet euthanasia varies depending on the veterinarian performing the procedure. At Vet’s Here, we utilize a two-injection technique. The first injection that is given is a sedative and it allows the pet to drift into a sleep-like state where they no longer feel pain. We often step out and allow the owner 5-10 minutes of private time as their pet drifts into peaceful slumber. We then come in and administer the final injection, during which the pet cannot feel anything. Usually, they are gone within seconds of receiving the injection, quickly and painlessly.

One of the benefits of a mobile practice is that euthanasia can be performed in the comfort of your home. The well-being of both the animal and the owner is much improved when your surroundings are familiar. At home pet euthanasia creates much less “windup” anxiety, as there is no need to load the animal into a vehicle and drive to a strange place.

We are able to perform the procedure in a location that best suits the pet and decreases the need for the animal to experience stress. The owner is able to grieve more privately.

We’re Here To Help You

It can be challenging to objectively assess your pet when you see them every day and are emotionally invested. Having a veterinarian that you trust to come to your home and give you an honest assessment of your pet’s quality of life can be helpful in confronting your emotions and planning for the final days.

The topic of euthanasia can be a challenging and emotion filled. As veterinarians, we want clients to know that we are here for them during the difficult time surrounding end-of-life decisions. Most of us have been through our own animal euthanasia experiences and truly understand what you are going through. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions and choose the solution that best suits you and your pet.

Our veterinarians at Vet’s Here are available for exams, assessments, and more with our fully equipped mobile vet vehicles. To set up an appointment and see how we can help your pet, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 1-888-838-2738.

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