Why choose home euthanasia?
In-home euthanasia can provide you and your family with a number of benefits prior to, during and after the visit. If you choose to have an in-home consult prior to the date of euthanasia this can aid with end of life decisions for your companion. This visit can provide you with the resources to prepare for the euthanasia visit, including reviewing and deciding on aftercare arrangements and memorial options.
Choosing in-home euthanasia will allow you and your pet to remain in the comfort and privacy of your own home. If you wish, you have the potential to have the company and support of friends, family and other pets. It allows you to avoid the stress of driving and navigating the veterinary clinic during this difficult time and also avoids you having to move a pet with mobility issues, chronic pain or other anxieties to the veterinary facility.
We dedicate an adequate amount of time for this significant visit so that you will not feel rushed or pressured during the final moments with your pet.
How do I know when the time is right to choose humane euthanasia for my pet?
Making decisions regarding euthanasia for a beloved pet may be one of the most difficult decisions you will face during your lifetime.
There is no right or wrong time to make this decision. There are occasions when your pet will be obviously ill, suffering or diagnosed with a terminal illness in which their quality of life can no longer be supported and improved with the treatment options available. At these times, you will know that it is time to perform euthanasia to ease their suffering.
At other times, the decision may not be so straightforward. At times like these, a pre-euthanasia consult and quality of life assessment may aid with your decision making. Another helpful tool is to sit down yourself or with your family and use a quality of life assessment tool, such as the “The HHHHHMM scale” by Dr. Alice Villalobos to aid with this difficult decision.
What can I expect during the euthanasia visit?
You may choose a location in your home or on your property where you and your pet are comfortable and feel most at peace. The veterinarian will then administer an injection of sedative that will cause your pet to become very relaxed. Once your pet is deeply sedated the veterinarian will administer an intravenous injection of pentobarbital that will gently cause your pet to pass away.
Can I hold my pet during the euthanasia?
You may absolutely hold your pet during the sedation and euthanasia. The veterinarian will find the best position to allow you to hold and comfort your pet and also allow access for administration of the sedation and euthanasia solutions.
Do I need to be present during the euthanasia?
While the passing of your pet will occur in your home, you may choose to be present for all or only some of the steps during the euthanasia visit. Some prefer to stay for only the sedation and move to another room in the house for the euthanasia itself, returning afterwards to say a final farewell. It is a personal decision and you may be present for as much or as little of the procedure as you are comfortable with.
Should children be present during euthanasia?
Having children present for the euthanasia of a family pet is a very personal decision and should be made in light of many factors including, but not limited to, the child’s emotional maturity and ability to understand what is occurring.
If your child is of an age that they are capable of understanding, it may be extremely helpful to clearly explain what death is and allow them to make the decision as to whether they wish to be present or not. Openly discuss death and euthanasia. Explain to them the reasons why their pet is being euthanized, discussing your pet’s quality of life and why it is no longer enjoyable for them to be alive. Be direct and honest and allow them to ask questions. It is important to ensure that the child knows that the pet has died and will not be coming back. Using terms such as “put to sleep” can be confusing and misinterpreted.
You may consider having a friend or family member in attendance and able to assist with children if they become too upset or do not wish to continue to be present during the euthanasia. Alternately it is possible to have your child say goodbye while your pet is still awake and return following the euthanasia to say their final farewell.
Many of the pet loss resources on this website include ways to assist you in explaining pet loss and death to your children, managing their grief, as well as ideas for memorializing their companion and aiding with closure.
Should my other pets be present? How will they manage with the loss?
It can be helpful for closure for your other pets to be present, or at least to have the opportunity to say goodbye before the euthanasia and to be allowed to view the deceased pet following to aid with the understanding that their friend has passed. Some pets may be too excitable with strangers in their home, so it may not be appropriate for them to stay for the entire procedure. This can be decided during the visit.
Pets may show and express grief in different ways. Many pets may seem unaffected by the loss, while others may show signs of distress such as being unable to settle, may appear to search for their companion or even become depressed, subdued and lose their appetite. If there are multiple pets in the home, there may be fighting as the hierarchies change and a new balance is established amongst them. If your pet seems to be having a difficult time, is extremely distressed or refuses to eat, please contact your primary care veterinarian for assistance.
Is euthanasia painful?
Euthanasia itself is not painful. At the beginning of the euthanasia visit your pet will be administered a sedative via an injection with a small needle. For some pets, mild discomfort can be associated with this injection as it can cause a slight stinging sensation as it enters the body tissues. This discomfort quickly subsides following the injection. Each pet responds differently, with some not even noticing the injection. The sedation injection provides both sedation and pain relief and will cause your pet to become very relaxed and comfortable. Once your pet is deeply sedated the final injection of pentobarbital will be given intravenously (into a vein).
What can I expect to see as my pet passes away?
Most heavily sedated pets will take a few slow, deep breaths and within seconds their heart will stop as they pass peacefully. During and after your pet has received the intravenous euthanasia solution it is possible that you may see and hear the last breaths as their diaphragm contracts and relaxes. Muscle fasciculation such as twitching and mild tremors of the skin or movement of the tongue may occur. Occasionally as your pet’s body fully rests and relaxes they may release their bowels and bladder. In very rare occasions your pet may whine or vocalize as the sedative and euthanasia solution can cause a mild dysphoria or their entire body may become briefly rigid before finally relaxing.
Most often the pet is so relaxed from the initial sedative that these events do not occur and the transition to death is very subtle. Some pets may need a little more sedation or euthanasia solution and your veterinarian will administer these if required.
Your pet’s eyes will not close once it has passed away. Your veterinarian will listen for the lack of a heartbeat and confirm to you once your pet has passed.
What happens to my pet’s body afterwards?
There are several options for aftercare following the euthanasia of your pet.
- Communal or Group Cremation – pets are cremated along with other pets and their ashes scattered over the Honor Your Pet family acreage. You will not receive ashes, but may consider a keepsake or memento such as a hair clipping or paw print (additional charge) provided by South Island Mobile Veterinary Services.
- Private/Individual Cremation – your pet is cremated alone and their ashes returned to you in a scatter box (included in private/individual cremation fees) or in a memorial product (urn, jewellery) of your choosing (at additional fees). Visit the Honor Your Pet website for details and inquire with South Island Mobile Veterinary Services for options and pricing.
- Viewing & Visitation with Private/Individual Cremation – includes the opportunity to say a final farewell at the Honor Your Pet cremation facility and witness the cremation. This service can be arranged via South Island Mobile Veterinary Services in coordination with Honor Your Pet.
- Home Burial – please ensure that your regional district/municipal by-laws allow for this in advance and view the recommendations below regarding home burial advice.
All cremation options include transportation to Honor Your Pet Aftercare Services. You also have the option of making your own arrangements for transportation to Honor Your Pet or to any other cremation facility that you may choose.
What if my dog is very large/heavy?
We are able to accommodate very large or heavy dogs, we simply ask that for any dogs weighing over 20 kg (45 lbs) that a willing and able family member or friend assist with carrying the pet to the veterinarian’s vehicle following the euthanasia. In the event that this is not possible we may make arrangements for an assistant to come along. There may be additional fees to provide this service.
Do you have any advice or recommendations if I choose home burial?
If you choose to bury your pet at home, please ensure that your local municipal by-laws allow for this. Be cautious on where you dig to avoid power/gas lines and water pipes. Ensure that you dig a hole at least 5 to 6 feet deep to discourage wild life or other pets from accessing the burial site. The euthanasia solution (pentobarbital) will be toxic to any animal that unintentionally ingests it. Consider fencing off the area for a period of six months to prevent access by other animals.
Plan ahead and ensure that the ground is not frozen. You may wish to arrange your pet in a nice position wrapped in their favourite blanket or a box soon after the euthanasia, prior to rigor mortis, and plan their burial ideally within a few hours, sooner in warm weather.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with additional questions or concerns.