The Pet-Parenting Journey
Saying goodbye to a furry family member is by far the most difficult part of being a pet-parent. Still, it’s something that is an inevitable part of the journey; because their lives are shorter than ours it means we’re with them through every stage of life, from playful puppies and kittens into the golden years and beyond.
The prospect of euthanizing a pet can bring up a lot of questions and uncertainty. For some, it may even be their first close experience with the death of a loved one. This can be scary and heartbreaking all at the same time.
This article from Treatwell Pet Care and the Mobile Veterinary Services of Ottawa is meant to help answer some questions about our at home euthanasia service, and to provide resources that can help you with this part of life’s journey.
Euthanasia is Not Giving Up
It’s normal to feel anxiety when making end-of-life decisions about your pet. This is something most people struggle with, and the process can often bring up feelings of guilt. It’s very important to remember, however, that having your pet euthanized humanely is not “giving up”, rather it’s the kindest, most compassionate gift you can give them.
When used appropriately, euthanasia is meant to alleviate physical pain and suffering for the pet, and emotional suffering that can affect the entire family.
The word comes from the Greek euthanatos, which means “easy death.” In English, euthanasia has been used in exactly this sense since the early seventeenth century, when Francis Bacon described the phenomenon as “after the fashion and semblance of a kindly & pleasant sleepe.”
When is the Right Time to Say Goodbye?
The question we are asked far more often than any other is “when is the right time to say goodbye?” While there are tools that exist to help you assess a pet's quality of life (like this simple one from Clinician's Brief, or this more advanced one from Ohio State University), we’ve come to believe there really is no single “right” answer to this question.
When a pet is seriously ill or injured, there is a subjective time window that opens, within which euthanasia is an appropriate treatment decision. That window may be very short, for example with a pet who has just suffered severe trauma, or it could be many months in length, as is the case with many chronic diseases.
During this time, different people will make different decisions, and it’s ok if you need some time to come to terms with the decision at hand. Just remember that your veterinarian is there to offer you guidance in a non-judgemental and supportive way.
The Process - Step by Step
For many, using a mobile veterinary service in order to say goodbye at home where a pet is most comfortable can make a challenging time just a little more bearable. We are aware that saying goodbye is the last loving thing you will do for your pet, so we do all that we can to help ease the process. If there are any special requests, please don’t hesitate to ask, we will do our best to accommodate them.
We take the time to get to know you and your pet, and to make sure all of your questions are answered before moving forward with the procedure. This is also a good time to take care of any paperwork and payments as it allows for a quiet and discreet exit once your pet has passed.
Once all family members are ready, we will give your pet an injection of a sedative to make them very sleepy and unaware. This sedation is injected into their muscle, and usually takes 5 - 15 minutes to reach peak effect. You’re welcome to stay by your pet’s side as they fall asleep, and for the rest of the procedure as well.
IV Catheter Placement
Once the pet is appropriately sedated an intravenous (IV) catheter is placed in one of their limbs. This is a small plastic port that gives us direct access to your pet’s veins, and because your pet will be quite sleepy at this point, they typically don’t react to the placement.
The last step in the process is the injection of the euthanasia drug into the IV catheter. This medication is effectively an overdose of anesthetic, and it will stop your pet’s heart. Patients generally take their last breath very shortly after the final injection has been given, and the process is quite peaceful.
We will of course be sure to make sure you are ready to proceed before this injection is given, and we’ll also listen for your pet’s heartbeat afterwards to make sure they have passed.
While some pet-parents elect to bury their pet on their own property, the majority of clients elect to have their pet cremated. We work with a service called Gateway Pet Memorial, who have always been very respectful and transparent in their work with our patients.
If you choose to use this cremation service, we will bring your pet’s remains with us, and will make sure they arrive safely at their destination. You’ll have the option to choose between communal cremation and private cremation, and you can also choose from a number of memorial products if you so choose. If you do select private cremation and/or any memorial products we will deliver them back to you personally once they are ready.
What Happens Next?
Saying goodbye to a beloved pet can be one of the most difficult things you will experience, and sometimes it can be difficult to find someone who understands this.
Grief is a healthy and normal response to loss, and many of our clients find that a little extra support can help them through this difficult time. To that effect, the following are all good resources:
- Pet Loss Support Group of Ottawa
- Gateway Pet Memorial | Pet Compassion Careline
- OVC Pet Trust | Pet Loss Support Resources
- Pet Loss Books
- Children’s Books on Losing a Pet
In loving memory of all our walking buddies, naptime partners, laptop creepers, hometime greeters, furr babies, and best friends.
We realize cost can be a sensitive subject when discussing end-of-life-care for a loved one, but because we believe in transparency we have decided to list our current prices here. If you have questions about this, or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact us using the information below.
Last Updated November 2022 - Subject to Change