Considerations PRIOR to your at-home euthanasia visit

Posted on December 12, 2014 by Lynn Henderson

Making the decision to euthanize an animal you have loved is the hardest decision an animal lover will make. I believe strongly in offering euthanasia at home, and aim to make a difficult time just a bit easier by being in a safe and comfortable place for both animals and human family members. There are always questions to be asked by the veterinarian at end-of-life consultations, and answers that can be hard to come by when you are emotional. Giving thought to the things that matter most to you with respect to your pet’s ‘death-experience’, will help make the at-home euthanasia visit as easy and comforting as it can be. The following are my suggestions…

 

WHO

  • Who will you invite to be present?
  • Family members, friends, neighbours?
  • Children? – This is a personal decision based on your beliefs, and what you will tell your child about the pet’s passing. Honesty about death is important when helping children understand why their pet is no longer with them, but being present for the act of euthanasia may be difficult for them to come to terms with. Other children may need to see a loving doctor help their pet in order to understand that the procedure was performed with love, and their pet was not afraid or in pain any longer. Feel free to discuss your children(s)’s involvement with your veterinarian prior to the visit. 
  • Pets? Many people ask me whether the other family pets should be present for the euthanasia procedure. I have heard all opinions on this. A certain group of people say ‘absolutely not!’,  another group is open to having the pets present or not depending on my professional recommendation, and another will have all the pets and family there for the entire procedure, and will not consider anything else. None of these scenarios are wrong. Again, this depends on how many other pets you have, whether you believe personally that they understand what death is and might be bothered by people ‘causing death’ in their friend. Will the animal to be euthanized be more anxious if all the other pets are around. Many families opt to allow the remaining family pets to visit the deceased pet’s body after the euthanasia procedure is over. This allows them to understand whatever they might understand about their friend being gone, without their possible fear or interference with the procedure when in progress. 

 

WHERE

  • Where will the procedure take place? (I can’t speak for any vet other than myself, but I will work where the family and/or pet need me to be. Pets can be on the floor, a bed or couch, in their owner’s arms, outside under their favourite tree. 
  • Be creative with this choice, and make this moment what you want it to be. 

 My opinion is: This decision should have little to do with concern for MY comfort as the vet, or an owner’s concern re: their hospitality towards me, or vanity or embarrassment about their home. This is your time, plan what makes sense to you.  

 

QUESTIONS

Prepare a list of question for the veterinarian, so that you have all the information you need to feel comfortable throughout the procedure. ** And DO NOT feel silly or annoying for bringing all of your questions or concerns to my attention before we get started, or at any point as we move along. **

 

PAYMENT

Have payment ready – Ideally get an estimate of fees for the procedure from your veterinarian before the appointment and then choose what method of payment you will use. 

  • Does your veterinarian accept credit cards, or cash only? Ensuring you have enough cash on hand prior to the appointment, and then taking care of the bill before any procedures begin, allows both the family and the veterinarian to focus solely on caring for the pet. Once paid, we can then respectfully and smoothly transition into body care after the euthanasia procedure is complete without interrupting the moment with discussion of payment. 

 

TRIBUTES

Give some thought to what tributes you would like to use to honour your pet and this transition. Some suggestions include:

Readings

Poetry

Letters written to pet

Pictures, Videos

Music playing

Candles

Sunlight/Natural light

Flowers

Blankets, Beds

Toys ***  Our crematory allows most items to be cremated alongside pet. Please inquire*

Snacks, Treats

Other pet friends 

Casket, Shroud, Basket, dad’s favourite old shirt?

  • If planning to keep pet at home to care for his/her body, pre-plan your body care supplies (Impermeable diaper or pet pee-pad for floor, plastic tablecloth or shower curtain, garbage bags, tarps, a large comforter works well to help carry heavier large -breed dogs)

 

AFTERCARE

There are two main options with respect to the care of your deceased pet’s body – Cremation vs. Burial. 

  • Would you like your pet to be held at memorial centre or veterinary hospital for some period of time Cremation – communal, partitioned, or individual. Please see our previous blogpost on ‘your cremation options’ for more information about your choices and what they entail.  
    • (Ex. our memorial centre offers the option of ‘holding’ a deceased pet in cold storage for a declared period of time for families that request this service.). 
    • This might be ideal for a situation where an owner was out of town when pet died, and wishes to have a chance to see pet before cremation or burial. 
    • Holding is also suitable for owners who wish to bury their pet at home, but are precluded from doing so due to frozen winter temperatures. 
  • If you think you would like a special urn for your pet’s cremains, or a tribute box, choosing this prior to the procedure allows you to make less decisions on the day of the appointment. 
    • (Urns and other memorial items can ALWAYS be added on after the procedure as well, even wekks or months after a pet has passed)
  • Burial – At your home/cottage/rural property?  or at a local Pet Cemetery? 
    • We can provide information about local cemeteries, or the guidelines for at-home burial in your area 

 You may also find helpful ideas at this link:

Pet Loss Professional’s Alliance Pre-Planning Brochure. 

 

TIME AFTERWARDS

  • How much time do you think you might want after the euthanasia procedure is over to be with your pet’s body?
  • It is not weird or inconvenient to need time. This is YOUR journey. 
  • There is no rush.
  • I can come back for at a later time to pick up pet’s body, or you may bring him/her to me when your family is ready. 
  • If you choose to bury your pet at home, you choose when you are ready to bury, hold a vigil or ceremony for as long as you choose. 

 

TIMING – (Morning, Evening, Weekend?)

When you are considering the timing of an at-home euthanasia visit, think about your answers to all of the above…

  • Who may wish to attend, and their availability (ex. children away at school, or out of town)
  • How much time you want with pet before or after the procedure; How quickly you wish to go back to ‘real-life’. Are you hoping to bury pet at home? (Consider outdoor temperature, lighting needed, etc.) 
    • Ex. would you like the appointment to be at the end of a weekend where you have had time to be with your pet prior to the euthanasia visit, or perhaps at the very beginning of the weekend so you have time to grieve prior to Monday’s return to your ‘normal’ life?

 

YOUR STORY

  • Children – what will they be told about pet’s death/euthanasia?
  • Family and close friends – what will they be told about pet’s death/euthanasia?
  • Nosy neighbors – what (if anything) will they be told about pet’s death/euthanasia?
  • Make your safe list and your ‘unsafe’ list. 
    • If there is someone you know will likely not be supportive of your grief or your choice, acknowledge that gap ahead of time and choose how you will handle it. Let their calls go to your answering machine for a few days? Pro-actively speak with them ahead of time telling them what you need and why this choice is important for you? This is a personal list and you must be sure anyone you welcome into your circle surrounding the death of your beloved pet is supportive and will not hurt you further by not understanding your grief, or shaming you into hiding it altogether. 

Please NEVER hesitate to contact us for further information, or to discuss your individual situation. My passion is to be compassionate and creative in making this difficult transition in our lives as pet-lover’s as seamless and beautiful as it can be. 

 

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