Saying Goodbye to Your Pet by Jenna B., RVT

Unfortunately, at some point, we all have to go through the loss of a beloved pet.  For most pet owners, their animal is part of their family and it’s a very difficult thing to go through when you are faced with the decision to possibly euthanize. A lot of owners will ask us questions like; how do I know if this is the best decision? What would you do? The truth is, nobody can make the decision but you. This is a very personal decision, and you have to make the call if you think your pet is suffering or if its quality of life has diminished. Here are some answers to some very frequently asked questions.

How does euthanasia work?

Euthanasia is a very humane way to put an animal to sleep. It is essentially an overdose of a barbiturate drug administered in the vein. It shuts down the brain, heart and all major organs within seconds. This process is painless and peaceful.

What can I expect when coming in for a euthanasia appointment?

When you come in to our hospital, we will give you the option of staying or dropping off your pet. First thing, we will get you to sign some consent forms and take care of the bill first. This way, you don’t need to worry about coming to the reception after the procedure; you’ll be able to leave privately. If you decide to stay, once all the paperwork is complete we will bring you to our family room if it is available, if not an exam room.  The family room is a private room where it is a little bit cozier than an average exam room and has a private exit door. It has furniture and refreshments for the client’s comfort as well.

The doctor will come in and we will at that point give an injection for sedation. This will relax your pet and make the procedure more comfortable for the pet, as well as for the owners. After about 10-15 minutes, your pet will be sedate and we will then bring your pet out back to our treatment area. We will place a catheter in an accessible vein, and then we will return them to you in the family room. At that point, when you are ready and comfortable to proceed, the doctor will come in with an injection. The injection is administered through the IV catheter, and as mentioned earlier, will only usually take seconds for your pet to pass away.

It is usually very peaceful and it seems like your pet is just falling asleep. The doctor will check the vital signs to confirm the pet is deceased. You then have the choice to stay for while or leave when you choose. There are things you should know or be prepared for after your pet is gone: There may be some muscle spasms, your pet may urinate or defecate, they may take what looks to be irregular breaths which are associated with the muscle spasms, and unlike with humans, their eyes will usually stay open.

What options do I have concerning aftercare?

As you are signing the consent form, we will ask you what your wishes are. You may choose to bring the body with you and have an at-home private burial, you may want them cremated, or we also offer a private cremation where you get the remains returned to you in a beautiful wooden urn (prices vary with each option). We also offer to make a complimentary paw print for you if you wish to have one.

Euthanasia is definitely a big decision and should be discussed and thought through.  Unfortunately it is not always black and white and it’s hard to make the decision on when it’s the right time to let your pet go. Having a good support system and being surrounded by people that you love is definitely helpful, and you might find it easier to bring someone with you to the appointment.  Remember that it’s okay if a family member does not react that same way as you do; everybody grieves differently.

We know that this decision is the toughest for pet owners, the team at Riverview Animal Hospital would like to ensure that all Riverview community members have the information they are seeking about euthanasia. If you have any questions about saying goodbye to your pet please do not hesitate to contact our veterinary team.