Lydia Sullivan, DVM, CCRP, CVma
The gift of home euthanasia
Home euthanasia gives a family the opportunity to provide their loved one a peaceful passing surrounded by the love of their family in the secure comfort of their home. It is also an opportunity for the family to say goodbye in a calm, comfortable, and private environment.
One of the greatest advantages of planned euthanasia is the opportunity to spoil your loved one. This is their day to finally have that hamburger or filet of fish they’ve always begged for. Additionally, this can allow the family to gather to participate in having one last enjoyable day before saying goodbye.
Scheduling an appointment with as much advance notice as possible is ideal, not only to have the best chance of finding a time that works for both your and my schedules, but also to allow you the time needed to mentally and emotionally prepare for the day. The least ideal situation is finding yourself in an emergency crisis surrounded by stress and anxiety. I do my best to accommodate short notice requests, as a pet’s condition can at times have an abrupt turn. However, this is not always possible, and so preplanning is strongly recommended.
If your pet has anxiety with strangers, I can provide anti-anxiety medications to be given prior to my arrival to minimize undue stress. Beyond this, merely select a place well loved by your pet, be it indoors or outdoors, and have them settled on a soft blanket or bed. The rest will be taken care of.
What to expect
Initially there will be a meet and greet with the family and the pet, followed by a discussion of the procedure and any questions or concerns you may have. You may elect to remain with your pet throughout the entire process, or just part of the process. Please know you do not have to stay if you do not wish to do so. Your loved one will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.
As with all of life’s big events, there is the inevitable associated paperwork. If you so choose, you may facilitate this by downloading, filling in, and signing the euthanasia consent form prior to the visit. Payment is often addressed at the beginning of the appointment so as to not be a distraction later. However, if need be, an invoice can be emailed or mailed to you later with payment options.
With rare exceptions, your pet will receive a small injection with a combination of pain medication and sedatives. Most often you will see them visibly relax and then simply drift off to sleep over ten or fifteen minutes.
Once they are asleep and you are ready, a second injection containing euthanasia solution is typically given in a vein whenever accessible. This drug is fast acting and causes the brain to shut down and stop sending signals to the heart and lungs, ensuring a peaceful passing as the brain is fully sedate and completely unaware of the body. Occasionally, vocalizations and irregular breathing can occur, however these are normal reflexes of the body, and not a sign of distress. Afterwards, you will be given time to grieve and say goodbye. During this time a complimentary paw print will be made if you so desire.
If you elect for cremation, I will provide for transportation of your loved one to the crematorium and handle all arrangements. You have the option to have the ashes returned to you (private) or spread on private grounds with the ashes of other pets (communal). Otherwise, should you wish to have a home burial, your loved one will remain with you.
How will I know it’s time?
This may be one of the most gut-wrenching and agonizing questions a pet parent will ever face. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by fears, doubts, and even a sense of guilt. All of these emotions are completely normal. After all, our pets are a piece of our hearts and of our lives.
Just as each pet is unique, as is each family and situation, so too is the answer to this dreaded question. This is part of why consulting with a veterinarian, be it your primary care vet or scheduling a home hospice visit, can be crucial in formulating an answer that fits for your pet, your family, and your situation. However, there are some commonalities and general principles that may help you form a clearer picture of what is best for your pet and your family.
One very important understanding is in the absence of extreme and immediate pain and suffering, you are not limited to a single perfect or correct moment for euthanasia. Instead there is a transitional period between the time quality of life is first compromised and the beginning of sustained or extreme suffering or natural death. At any point during this period, the gift of euthanasia is appropriate. I have often found once a family begins to question if it might be time, they typically have already entered this transitional end of life period or are very near it. Often their questioning is more a process of acceptance and less the act of decision making.
Ideally, we would wake up one morning with a sense of peace and certainty in our heart that today is the day, or that our beloved pet would give us the sought after fabled “look” that would tell us without a doubt they are ready. Unfortunately, this rarely occurs. More often we are faced with making the best decision we can, given our understanding of the situation and our pet’s needs. Hence why tools such as quality of life assessments and keeping a quality of life journal, or even something as simple as marking their “good” and “bad” days on a calendar, can be so useful in creating a clearer picture of our pet’s wellbeing.
If one has never been faced with this decision, it can be particularly difficult to balance the sometimes seemingly conflicting desires of not wanting your loved one to suffer with that of wanting to have every last day you can with them. Fortunately, many families experience a sense of relief and not of regret after euthanasia. In fact, the only regrets pet parents have expressed to me is of waiting too long. There is often a fear of feeling like you’re giving up too soon, and with it a sense of guilt. However, the gift of a peaceful passing is ultimately a truly selfless act by doing what is in their best interest in sparing them suffering even though we are breaking our own hearts in the process.
Should Children Be Present?
This is a highly personal decision, and as such resides wholly with the parent’s wishes. It also can be a very challenging topic as the loss of a pet is often the first introduction a child has to the concept of death. However, with good preparation children are able to handle the passing of a pet with remarkable resilience. This begins with a simple and honest discussion about death and the euthanasia process prior to the visit. It is best to avoid euphemisms such as “putting the pet to sleep” or “going to a better place”, as these can create confusion and even fear of going to sleep at night. It is also important to give the child a choice in whether they wish to be present during the visit. Attending the euthanasia can be beneficial in helping the child to understand what is happening, which in turn helps in the development of healthy coping skills. It can also be very meaningful for the child to feel included in an important family event. However, if they are not comfortable with it, they should never be forced to attend or stay for the entire visit. It is extremely helpful if young children are present, to have an additional adult who can take them into another room if they become uncomfortable. This will allow you and any older children to be free of distraction and fully in the moment with your beloved pet. Ultimately, whether the child is present or not, it is critical for them to have the opportunity to say goodbye before the euthanasia.
Below is an article concerning how to start the conversation surrounding pet loss with your child. For more links to helpful articles and books on this topic please visit our resources page.
Should Other Pets Be Present?
Like people, pets also experience grief, thus it can be beneficial for them to be present for the passing of their housemate. However, their temperament is a factor, and it may not be appropriate for a high energy or very anxious pet to attend, as they would be a distraction to the family. Importantly, as with children, regardless of whether they are present or not for the actual euthanasia, other pets should still be given the opportunity to say goodbye by sniffing their housemate one last time after their passing. This allows them to have a sense of closure as they seem to instinctively understand that their housemate is no longer with them.
In Mobile, AL and surrounding areas
Weighing less than 40 lbs … $215
Weighing 40 – 100 lbs … $235
Weighing more than 100 lbs … Call for pricing
In Spanish Fort / Daphne / Fairhope, AL
Weighing less than 40 lbs … $230
Weighing 40 – 100 lbs … $250
Weighing more than 100 lbs … Call for pricing
In Loxely / Robertsdale / Point Clear, AL
Weighing less than 40 lbs … $250
Weighing 40 – 100 lbs … $270
Weighing more than 100 lbs … Call for pricing
Cremation options available upon request. We use two locally operated crematoriums: Eternal Pet and Pet Angel (fees vary by weight and crematorium).
Additional fees may be applied for aggressive pets, exotic pets, extended travel, holidays, and when arranged, appointments outside of normal business hours.
Payment Methods Accepted
Cash, checks payable to EverLoved Veterinary, and major credit cards accepted.