We are never quite prepared for the death of a pet. Whether death is swift and unexpected or whether it comes at the end of a slow decline, we are never fully aware of what a pet has brought to our lives until our companion is gone.
Everyone secretly hopes for a pet’s peaceful passing, hoping to find it lying in its favorite spot in the morning. The impact of a pet’s death is significantly increased when, as responsible and loving caretakers, we decide to have our pet euthanized.
Preparing for the end of your pet’s life is a difficult process and requires you to make many decisions. Because your veterinarian and the veterinary staff cares about you and your companion animal, they are prepared to guide your decision-making and offer you support along the way.
Pet Loss Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
How will I know when it is time?
Knowing when it is time is a difficult and sensitive decision. There are no specific questions you can ask to get a fast answer. Talking with your pet’s veterinarian for reassurance and guidance will be helpful. Lean on your family and friends for additional support.
Do I schedule an appointment for this?
Arranging a time at the hospital or your home is a good idea but we understand that you can’t always plan and predict such a decision, and we will work with you during this difficult time.
Can the euthanasia be done at my house?
Yes, a doctor can come to your home to perform the euthanasia.
Will it hurt my pet?
We try to make this a peaceful experience and as comfortable as possible a process for both owners and pets.
How long does it take for the actual euthanasia?
An injection is given into the vein and travels through the body to the heart. This is fairly quick, 1-2 minutes. At that point the doctor listens to your pet’s heart to insure it has stopped.
Do I have to stay with my pet?
This is optional, but a meeting with a doctor is required before euthanasia is performed.
What happens afterwards?
There are several bodily functions that could occur: Eyes will remain open, muscles may contract or spasm, urination or defecation may occur, the pet may take a gasping breath, this is an unconscious effort.
Should I tell my child the truth-that our pet died? Or say that it ran away or was stolen?
Be truthful with your child. Children can tell if a parent is lying. Even if they don’t question you outright, they can become confused and anxious, and very young children have trouble putting their doubts into words. Telling a child that his or her pet ran away can create anxiety, depression, and guilt; young children in particular may believe they did something to make the pet afraid or stop loving them. If the pet was ill, gently explain that the animal was too sick or in too much pain to live any longer. If an accident killed the pet, say that the animal was too badly hurt to survive.
How can I help my children handle their feelings?
A bereaved child desperately needs support from his or her parents, and home may be the only place the child can share his or her feelings. Try to help your children understand that it’s normal to have painful feelings after a loss and that it helps to express them; young children may have an easier time drawing and using other forms of nonverbal expression. Grief resolves more quickly when other people are accepting and understanding, so don’t try to talk to your children out of their feelings or minimize the loss.
It’s also helpful for the child to see that you are grieving. You are a role model for handling difficult situations and feelings. While many parents are reluctant to have their children see them upset, when you say, “I am sad because I miss Boots, too,” you show your child how normal it is to grieve.
Should we get another animal right away, or wait awhile?
Many adults say they felt disloyal to the deceased pet when they got another pet too soon, and bringing a new animal into the home right away doesn’t give a child a chance to deal with the reality of loss. In fact, replacing a pet prematurely can prolong denial, and children may not bond to the new animal. Generally, it’s best to wait until everyone feels ready for a new pet and to include all family members in the decision and choice of animal.
Should my child be present at the euthanasia of our pet?
The answer depends on the age and maturity of the child. As a rule, children younger then 7 or 8 shouldn’t be present. Watching a beloved animal die is extremely traumatic; adults often report having nightmares and flashbacks for weeks or more. We risk overwhelming a young child by subjecting him or her to such an emotional experience.
With elementary-school-aged children, err on the side of caution. Some 8-year-olds can handle the experience and some 11-year-olds cannot. Adolescents can decide for themselves whether they want to be there, but parents still should offer guidance. Talk with your teenager about his or her reasons for wanting to be present.
Like adults, all children need to be thoroughly prepared for what happens or could happen during the procedure; be certain to discuss this subject in detail with your veterinarian. Regardless of the situation, never force a child to be present at euthanasia, and don’t ask any child to take full responsibility for the euthanasia decision.
Private Cremation: the pet is individually cremated and the ashes are returned to the hospital in an urn for you to pick up. Personal items may not be cremated with your pet such as leashes, collars, or blankets. There are several different options for urns to choose from. Please contact us to learn about available options.
Non-Private Cremation: the pet is cremated with a group of pets and the ashes are not returned.
Personal Aftercare: you are responsible for the aftercare of your pet.