Primary Care

Euthanasia Services

End-of-Life Care For Your Cherished Animal Companion

Caring for our patients throughout their lives, we understand the critical role we play as they approach end-of-life. An integral part of our mission is to provide palliative care for pets with terminal illnesses, offer compassionate euthanasia when appropriate, and offer families tools for memorials and grief support.

Many chronic health conditions can be managed medically longer than in the past, and more owners are choosing to comfortably prolong the lives of their senior pets. With proper pain management and other supportive treatment, keeping your old friend around longer can be a happy time for you both.

Acupuncture can be a useful tool in treating elderly pets.

Making the Hard Choice

It can be difficult to manage the decision-making surrounding euthanasia for a pet you love. You may believe this is the right choice, but many caring owners still feel uncomfortable facing such an irrevocable decision for their own pet. You should recognize that making hard choices is one of the responsibilities of animal stewardship. By taking on grief yourself you may spare your pet from a difficult, stressful, or painful end.

Assessing Quality of Life

The decision to euthanize a pet is a difficult one, and people often struggle with knowing what to think about when considering this step.

  • Can your pet move around easily? Elderly pets that have difficulty moving about may still be happy, as long as we can keep them comfortable. However, pets need to be able to manage in their environment ???????? stairs, going outdoors or getting to the litter box, for example. Ill animals may stop moving about due to intractable pain, lack of energy, or dementia.
  • Does your pet eat normally? Happy animals look forward to meals, which provide the energy for life. Pets that need to be coaxed to eat aren????????t feeling good, and it????????s unlikely that they????????re getting the nutrients they need to keep them strong.
  • Can your pet breathe easily? Some patients, such as those with heart failure or thoracic disease, can????????t breathe normally and labor to meet their needs. These pets use their abdominal muscles to breathe because they can no longer fill their lungs to capacity. Fighting for air is exhausting, both mentally and physically, for these animals.
  • Is your pet in pain? Most animals don????????t whine or vocalize when they????????re in pain; in fact, it????????s more likely that they????????ll be quieter than usual. Other signs include a tense posture, negative reactions to touch or other handling, or hiding under the bed, in a back room, or in a closet.
  • Is your pet incontinent? Most pets are careful about where they urinate and defecate; when they????????re not, it can indicate that they either no longer care or have the ability to control their bowels and bladder. Of course, remember that they are unhappy about soiling in the house.
  • Is your pet happy? It may be difficult to know this for certain, but you know them intimately and will notice subtle changes in their behavior. They may no longer engage in their usual joyful pursuits, may be more difficult to please, or grouchier. Purrs or tail-wags may disappear.
  • How is your pet responding to treatment? Even (or especially) when you do all you can for your pet, some treatments will cause stress or lead to unwanted side effects. Your pet????????s tolerance for necessary treatment may diminish.
  • Finally, every euthanasia decision happens in the context of a family, even if it????????s just the two of you. It????????s both fair and reasonable to take into account your ability to provide the support your pet needs, given your other responsibilities and the home environment.


Euthanasia means good death and, as performed in modern veterinary practice, is a peaceful and pain-free process. However, the fact that few people are familiar with the process often adds to their own anxiety and, by extension, that of their pet.

This section is intended to help you understand the steps involved and address other end-of-life concerns. Please know that, above all, we think of our clients and their pets as a part of our own family. We????????ll be there to hold your hand every step of the way, no matter how difficult the situation may be.

What happens during euthanasia?

New York State requires that a specific form be used when performing euthanasia. Our staff will help you fill this out, but you must sign it in the appropriate places as the owner before the procedure can be undertaken. As this is an emotionally complex procedure, we prefer to finish all the necessary paperwork beforehand so we can concentrate exclusively on you and your pet.

All common euthanasia solutions are strong barbiturate anesthetics that are given intravenously, either through a catheter or needle placed directly into a vein. Sometimes a sedative is given first to help the patient relax, making the procedure less stressful for the patient. Most pets react quickly to the medication, and it may seem only moments between the time the medication is injected through the needle and their last sigh. Your pet????????s eyes may remain open after they pass away. Your pet may show some movement after the euthanasia injection, although they will no longer be conscious. The body muscles relax in their own good time.

Should I be there?

Whether you decide to be with your pet as the injection is given is up to you. You may take the option of being present, but please do not feel obligated to be with your pet. The release of emotion that comes with the final moments can be unexpected and overwhelming, and is not the best way for everyone to experience this loss. Sometimes a friend or other family member will be asked to stand in for you, so that your pet has a friend in the room up until the end. There may, of course, be practical reasons why you can????????t be present, but remember that the love you and your pet have shared will be present with them during this time even if you can????????t be.

Please keep in mind that the experience is always emotionally charged for our doctors and staff, as well. We love our patients and respect the human-animal bond. You never get used to it.

What happens afterward?

You will need to make practical decisions regarding the disposition of the body. These are highly personal choices and, again, there is no right or wrong. Most of our patients are cremated; you can elect to have ashes returned to you or have them spread at the cemetery.

If you choose private cremation, your pet????????s ashes will be returned to you in a decorative container. You can be sure that you will receive only your pet????????s ashes from the cemetery; we have used the services of Hartsdale Pet Cemetery for many years, and for good reason: they are local, venerable and dependable, and you can visit the cemetery and the crematorium yourself at any time. The cemetery offers burial services at their location on Central Avenue in Hartsdale, NY.

Of course, you can take your pet????????s body with you if you????????ve made other arrangements for cremation or for home burial. You should check with your town about regulations regarding burial in your back yard, although we know of no one who has gotten in trouble for doing so.

No matter what decision you make, we will be sure that, at all times, your pet is treated with the same care and respect you would give them yourself. In addition, we will do our very best to provide you with emotional support.