When our pets approach death due to age, injury or an end-of-life medical condition, we face many difficult emotions and questions. We address some of those questions that may support and assist you at this difficult time.
How do I know when it is time to euthanize my pet?
This is an exceptionally difficult decision. It is supposed to be hard because life, your pet????????s life, is so very precious. If you are thinking about this question, it is likely that your pet is having at least some difficulty, if not a lot. Our desire would be that if your pet has to pass away, they could do so peacefully, in their sleep. Some questions we often ask are: Is your pet still able to wake up in the morning and enjoy the day? Is he eating and drinking well? Is he able to interact with you and play? One of the hardest questions to answer is: Is he uncomfortable or in pain? Of course, pets may have short term illnesses that cause them to be inactive, not eat or to be in pain. But if the illness is prolonged with little hope of recovery
Unfortunately, all too often our dogs and cats seem to slowly fade away, ???????dealing with??????? their pain and disability quietly. They eat and drink a little, wake from their sleep for moments a day to give and receive a little love. It becomes difficult to see a difference from day to day. If we compare today with last month or last season we can clearly see a difference in their enjoyment of life, in their ability to keep weight on, in their ability to hold their body fluids, or in their ability to remain safe when left alone. But, our families ask, Is it time to make a decision? I would counsel you to consider a few things. I know that you do not want your beloved friend to waste away, or to be inactive because of chronic discomfort or uncontrolled pain or to progress in their disability to a point of great physical risk (such as with severe alzheimers, or serious risk of falling causing a broken leg).
We also understand and respect that there are physical and financial limitations to the level of care that can be provided, especially if the pet needs assisted living or nursing home type care. This is very stressful and difficult for the families of the pets we care for. We will try to listen, provide support and respect as you go through this process.
Will I be able to stay with my pet during the euthanasia procedure?
Yes, some family members want to remain with their pet through the euthanasia procedure. We want you to feel welcome and supported through this. However, we have found that some family members do better to have their last memory of their beloved pet alive. If this is your desire, we will cuddle your pet and comfort them through the euthanasia process as if they were our own. You may say your goodbyes at home and bring your pet to the hospital or make an appointment to come in and stay with your pet.
What exactly happens during the euthanasia procedure?
While you and doctor speak soothingly to your pet, an injection is given via a catheter, usually placed in one of the front legs so the euthanasia solution enters the circulation quickly. This medication is in the barbituate family so it causes an immediate loss of consciousness. Your pet usually takes a deep breath and then its heart stops beating and its lungs stop breathing. This medication is in a form that your pet cannot recover from. This usually takes less than ten seconds and is completely painless. We evaluate and confirm that your pet is completely gone multiple times.
What happens to my pet's body?
The choice is up to you. Some families choose to take their pet's body home for burial. We have available a pet cremation service which provides an optional service to have your pet????????s ashes returned to you in a sealed white ceramic urn. In the latter case there is a metal tag tracking system to insure your pet's identity. You can generally expect that it will take 1-2 weeks for your pet's ashes to be returned to you. We call our families on their primary phone number provided when the ashes arrive at our clinic.
How will I bear the sorrow upon losing my pet?
Grief for our pets who have passed away is very real. We miss them very deeply. None of us want to have to go through that valley of terrible sadness. Our hopes are that the love you and your pet shared will eventually help in easing the pain of their loss. It is often helpful and supportive to have friends or family members available to talk to you during this stressful time. There is also a wonderful organization of people who are there for all of us at Pet Loss Hotlines, such as offered by Washington State University.
Do pets in the family grieve?
The answer to this is as individual as our pets! Some pets sniff about, look for the pet passed away, even sleep in their spot for awhile, but have no real change in life. Other pets show signs of grief that are devastating, even debilitating in rare circumstances. These stop eating, sleep all day and take no interest in interacting with family members, human or animal. They need comfort and they need understanding. We usually recommend allowing them some time, possibly up to a week of letting them be. (Of course they cannot go a week completely without not eating or drinking). Holding them, talking quietly, bringing them food and water are all helpful. After about a week, start to carry or lead the pet to a window to watch the birds or life going on around them. Slowly increase the level of exposure and of drawing them out. These pets often need encouragement with a laser light, toys, slow walks or other similar activities.
Also, be aware that some pets do not seem to notice the loss of a dog or cat in the home. This often makes us a little sad. Remember, each one responds differently to loss.
In Our Hearts - Pet Memorials
Join a number of our families who have posted photos, and words in memory of their pets passed away. It is a lovely place of honor and memorial. VCA Meadow Hills invites you to post a memorial on our website in memory of your pet.