End-Of-Life Pet Care
End-of-Life Care: Hospice and Euthanasia
When it’s time to say goodbye, we understand how important it can be for you and your pet to be in familiar and comfortable surroundings. Euthanasia at home offers a peaceful and compassionate farewell to a beloved friend and companion.
We know this can be a very difficult and emotional time. We find it helpful to know what to expect, so what follows is a summary of the process. If you have further questions, please let us know.
Scheduling the Appointment
We understand that scheduling an appointment for euthanasia can be a difficult step to take. We will do our best to accommodate your request for an appointment on short notice, but because we may not have availability at the last minute, we encourage you to schedule the appointment as far in advance as possible. Essentially, as soon as you know when it will be the right time, let us know so we can work together to find a suitable appointment time. In some cases, this will be a week or two ahead of time, and in others, it might be within a day or two or even less. Our regular appointment days are Monday through Saturday, though depending on availability, we may also be able to schedule a euthanasia appointment on a Sunday.
We monitor phone messages more frequently than e-mail, so please call and leave a voice message if you are trying to schedule an appointment on short notice.
What to Expect at the Appointment
The doctor will begin the appointment by spending a few minutes meeting with you, getting to know your pet, and discussing your pet’s recent health history. In order to offer you peace of mind that euthanasia is appropriate and to gather the information needed to perform the euthanasia in a way that will be very easy on your pet, the doctor will examine your pet. Though this exam may seem unnecessary, it’s an important step, and in the end, most clients appreciate knowing the doctor has evaluated their pet and confirmed that it is the right time to say goodbye.
After meeting and examining your pet, there will be some paperwork before performing the euthanasia. The doctor will ask you to sign a form giving your consent to the euthanasia and will take payment and provide you with a receipt.
The euthanasia process is peaceful and compassionate. Your pet can be in a comfortable, familiar spot, such as on a favorite chair or in a cozy corner of the room. The doctor begins by administering a sedative that, within a few minutes, will help relax and sedate your pet. This period of mild sedation offers you a calm, quiet moment you can share with your pet. Following this, the doctor will administer a second medication that gently lets your pet pass. Throughout the visit, you may choose to be at your pet’s side, or you may choose to take some time to yourself. Afterward, if you wish, you will have a few minutes with your pet to say a final goodbye.
Parents often ask us about explaining the visit to their children and about whether or not their children should be present for the euthanasia visit. NPR published a thoughtful and insightful piece about talking with children about death. One approach that many families find helpful is to be present with their pet for the first stage as he or she relaxes from the effects of the sedative and to use that time to say a final goodbye. Parents may then choose to spend some time with their children in another room during the final step of the euthanasia, reflecting on the joy the pet has brought to their family and also, as discussed in the NPR piece, helping their children feel safe and hopeful for the future.
Before the visit, you should give some thought to your wishes for final arrangements. Many people choose cremation, and with that option, you have the choice of a private cremation in which you receive your pet’s ashes back or a group cremation with no return of ashes. Though less common, you also have the option of burial in a pet cemetery.
With any of these options, we will take your pet’s body for cremation or burial at Final Gift. If you choose to receive your pet’s ashes back, you typically can expect to receive the ashes back in one to two weeks.
You can view choices for urns and other memorial products at www.finalgift.com/memorial-products. The standard urns ordinarily available at no additional charge are:
- Scattering Urn (dark cylinder with silver paw prints, holds ashes until ready to scatter)
- Trail to Heaven (black-finish urn with silver paw prints)
- Cedar Memorial Urn (cedar box)
- Hand-Carved Rosewood Urn (rosewood box with carved floral pattern)
- Serenity Urn (mahogany-finish box with space for you to add your pet’s photo)
- Remembrance Urn (classic wooden design with latch)
- Paw Print tin (white metal box with black paw prints)
- Decorative Metal Urn (classic urn shape in blue or tan)
Other urns also are available, as shown on the Final Gift website, at an additional cost and additional time because they are special order items. You can let the doctor know at your visit what urn you have selected.
In most cities and towns, burial at home is prohibited. If you make your own burial arrangements, you should check with your local authorities to ensure your plans comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
Sometimes the most respectful and understanding way to help your ailing pet is to offer supportive and palliative care. While veterinary medicine offers many of the same cutting-edge and aggressive treatment options as human medicine, we recognize that there are times when our job is to step back from this state-of-the-art medicine and instead provide more humble care, such as the comfort of home and relief from pain.
If your pet has a terminal condition, we can work with you to provide the care and support at home that will help keep your pet comfortable and dignified even as he or she approaches the end of life.
We each experience the loss of a pet in our own way. For some, it is a very private and individual matter, while others may want the support of counselors trained to help with the loss. For those seeking further support, we recommend the following resources:
Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline
Staffed by Tufts University veterinary students trained to support you in dealing with your loss. 508-839-7966. https://vet.tufts.edu/petloss/
Pet Bereavement Group for LGBT Adults
Run by the LGBT Aging Project of The Fenway Institute, this pet bereavement group is for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults of all ages who are experiencing the loss of a beloved pet: http://fenwayhealth.org/the-fenway-institute/lgbt-aging-project/programs-support-groups/
Animal Talks | Kaleel Sakakeeny
Animal Talks offers grief counseling for individuals as well as grief management workshops, small group discussions, a monthly pet-loss support group, and informal talks.