How will I know when it’s the right time to euthanize?
This is perhaps the hardest question you will ever have to answer as a pet owner. Even as trained and experienced veterinary professionals we struggle with this decision with our own pets. This is because there is no ‘right time’ to choose euthanasia and what you decide can be based on many different factors. It can be helpful to use a Quality of Life Scale to determine whether to continue supportive care for an aging or sick pet or whether euthanasia is a more compassionate option.
Though determining your pet's quality of life is the most important factor for considering euthanasia, it’s not the only thing that may impact this decision. Taking great care of an elderly and ailing pet requires committing several resources such as your finances, time, emotion and physical capability. At some point you may become depleted of one or more of those resources and it would not be inappropriate to consider euthanasia.
If after you consider all the options available, you still struggle with deciding on the best end of life decision for your pet, you can reach out to your veterinary hospice team and they, being able, will help to guide you.
What is pet hospice?
The focus of veterinary hospice and palliative care is to provide pain control and physical comfort to the pet in the last phases of an incurable disease, or at the natural end of life. Also, to provide guidance in the form of informational educational support and emotional comfort for the families caring for them. Though pet hospice has been around for the past 3 decades, it has only recently become a more readily available option for families wanting time to prepare for a peaceful and dignified death for their pets, whether this occurs through euthanasia or natural passing. Our veterinarians are qualified to serve as instructors, guiding families to care for their pet’s medical and emotional needs at home. This allows families time to adjust to the progression of their pet's disease and for a loving final departure in a more peaceful and personal way.
How do I decide if I should choose hospice vs euthanasia?
Many pet parents choose hospice to be able to play an intimate role in decision making about their pet's end-of-life needs, giving the entire family time to prepare for the pending goodbye to their companions and to plan for a peaceful death. If you have the resources needed to support hospice care for your pet during the last days or weeks of their life, and a good support team in place, then hospice care may be the right choice for you and your pet. With appropriate pain management, symptom control and client education, many patients can be kept comfortable until an unassisted or “natural passing” occurs. Please keep in mind that a decision to seek hospice care does not necessarily rule out euthanasia. If a pet is experiencing unacceptable discomfort or distress, or the family's needs and decisions warrant, we will consider the option for compassionate, appropriately-timed euthanasia as the best way to relieve suffering.
What kind of service is provided with my hospice appointment?
The hospice appointment includes an examination by a Certified Hospice Veterinarian (thru the IAAHPC), quality of life evaluation, detailed history, previous records review (if available), detailed plan for care which may include prescriptions to fill through a local or online pharmacy, communication with your primary care veterinarian if desired, and 30 days of phone and email consultations for your pet. Care is focused around all areas of your pet’s end of life needs: physical, emotional and social. The goal is not merely to prolong life, it is ensuring a good quality of life for your pet.
Some diseases and conditions which warrant pet hospice care include but are not limited to: Cancer; organ failure: such as kidney failure, liver failure, congestive heart failure; arthritis, cognitive dysfunction (“dementia”), " a failure to thrive, which can be any life-limiting condition that is contributing to an excessive burden of care giving for a family to manage on their own.
How much notice is needed for scheduling a home visit?
It is a good idea to contact us at least 24-48 hours in advance to ensure that arrangements can be made that will accommodate everyone’s schedule. We understand that many ailing pets may show an abrupt and rapid decline in health, hence, many of our calls come with less than a 24 hour notice. We will do our very best to be available when needed and can usually accommodate same day appointments.
Who will come to my home to perform the appointment?
Either one of our Florida licensed veterinarian / co-owners of Heavenly Paws House Calls, Dr. Kara or Dr. Kiva will perform the in-home visit for your appointment. Both doctors are highly qualified to assess your pet’s needs and will provide the treatment and guidance needed for preparing you and your pet for a peaceful and dignified passing when it’s time.
Do you give something to relax my pet before euthanizing?
Before euthanizing, we will give your pet a relaxing sedative of a small injection in the muscle or under the skin. This is given with a tiny needle and your pet may hardly notice. This injection is similar to that which your pet receives as a vaccine.
Is euthanasia painful? How does it work?
The euthanasia is not painful. It is done through an injection given in the vein that produces the feeling of falling into a deep sleep. This is because it is a measured dose of anesthesia that painlessly shuts the brain down which in turn shuts down all bodily functions. This is done peacefully and occurs in a matter of seconds so your pet will not experience any discomfort with the injection.
What should I do with my pet’s body after euthanasia?
The final decision of what to do with your pet after euthanasia is completely up to you. You may choose either burial or cremation for your pet. It is a good idea to think about aftercare arrangements ahead of time since you will not want to be confronted with those decisions at the time.
If you are considering burial then here are a few questions you may need to answer.
Where will it be?
Does this city allow pet burials?
Will I move and not have access to the burial site?
Did my pet like being indoors or outdoors and how will this affect the choice of a final resting place?
Will I be able to prepare the burial site appropriately?
What will I use to surround my pet’s body: special blankets, handmade wood box or a cardboard box or a biodegradable casket?
Will I want to include a special memorial item like a special toy or note?
If you are considering cremation and want your pet’s ashes returned to you with the assurance that your pet is individually cremated, then you should request private cremation. With a private cremation, pets are cremated alone and will be the only body within the cremation chamber.
If you are considering cremation but do not want your pet’s ashes returned to you, then you should request communal cremation. With this process, your pet will be cremated together with no body separation and no ashes return to the pet owner. The ashes are then scattered.
If I decide on private cremation through Heavenly Paws House Calls, how will I know I’m getting my pet’s ashes back?
We have partnered with The Pet Loss Center as our cremation services provider. The Pet Loss Center is a reputable licensed crematory. The Pet Loss Center’s mission is that every animal receives dignity and respect in life and death. They have incorporated the use of a digitized dual tracking system. Your pet’s end of life care veterinarian performs the initial steps of tracking and identification, then through the web based tracking system, is able to follow your pet through each stage of the cremation process. This ensures the authentication, safety and security of the cremation process that will give you the peace of mind in the knowledge of your pet’s aftercare.
Can my other pets be present for the euthanasia?
It is important for the other pets in your household to have an opportunity to say a final goodbye, as long as they are not being disruptive or too distracting for the final moments you will be spending with your ailing pet. Pets are also capable of experiencing grief from the loss of a friend. It is not uncommon for the surviving pets to search the house, looking for their friend or even show signs of mourning such as decreased appetite and activity, loss of interest in the usual activities or seeming a little more withdrawn. These signs are usually temporary and your pet will need extra TLC and attention as they also process the loss of a companion.
Is it appropriate for children to be present for the euthanasia?
Many parents struggle with this decision because it can be hard to talk to your children about death, especially when it involves their own pet. Children should be given simple and honest information about death. They have been known to be resilient and open-minded and may impress you with their comments and questions as they process the occasion in their own special way. We suggest giving them a choice about how they want to be involved as they may need the opportunity to say goodbye. You may elect to have your child at home but only closely involved at the beginning, end or at any other specific stage of the euthanasia process. Your child may also wish to be a part of any burial or pet memorial plans, this can be helpful for working through their grief. In the end, you are the parent who knows your child best, so the decision is completely yours.
What form of payment is acceptable?
Cash, check, and all major credit cards are acceptable forms of payment. You can choose to pay with a credit card prior to the appointment. We also offer payment plans through Scratchpay.