Euthanasia is a compassionate way to end a life. While losing a beloved pet is sad, euthanasia itself is peaceful. Knowing what to expect will help you be comfortable with what is being done - so you can focus on saying goodbye.
How to prepare
Friends and family members who are close to your pet may wish to be present. Those who do not want to be present may appreciate a chance to say goodbye beforehand. If you are the only one to be present during the euthanasia, consider having a friend at home with you, so that you are not alone.
Select a location in your home or yard that will be comfortable for you and your pet - this may be a bed or a chair, or a spot where your pet is accustomed to lying. In most cases, your pet can rest on your lap or next to you. If your pet has settled and does not prefer to be moved, Dr. Ivey will help your pet in the location that your pet has chosen. Some pets will urinate or defecate when the body relaxes - for large dogs, a layer of plastic under the blanket or bed will protect against soiling. For small pets, a towel or blanket is enough to protect your lap or furniture.
If your pet has an appetite, preparing a special treat can be a good distraction during the first sedation step. This could be meat or or anything you think your pet would most love to eat. Some people like to have candles, flowers, photos, music, or other beautiful or meaningful things close by.
Having paperwork completed in advance allows you to focus on your pet. You can email or give the form to Dr. Ivey in person. It is also ok to fill out the form at the time of the visit.
If your pet has bitten a person within 10 days prior to the euthanasia, or has been exposed to rabies within the past 6 months, please complete this form: Bite/Rabies Report
Payment can be made in advance with PayPal (Dr.Ivey@PeaceForPets.net), or you can use a check, credit/debit card, or cash in person.
Many pet insurance plans help cover euthanasia expenses. If you need a receipt, please ask for one before or during the visit.
Prior to your visit, please let Dr. Ivey know if your pet has labored breathing or is very fearful of being touched by an unfamiliar person.
Should Children be present?
Children who are old enough to understand and accept euthanasia as a loving gift (typically kids 9 years and older), are old enough to decide for themselves if they wish to be present or not. Some kids will want to be present for the sedation steps, but not the final euthanasia injection.
Some children, particularly in the 6 - 8 year range, understand what death is, but may have great difficulty accepting euthanasia as a loving act of kindness. For these kids, observing the euthanasia may be upsetting.
Very young children (typically 3 years and younger) usually do not understand what death is. These kids are not usually upset by euthanasia, but they may react to strong emotions from adults or older kids.
Young children may need attention, ask lots of questions, or create other distractions when the rest of the family would prefer to quietly connect with their pet - so please consider your own emotional well-being when deciding whether to have children present.
More information for parents can be found HERE. Please feel free to discuss your concerns for your kids with Dr. Ivey.
Should other pets be present?
Dogs, cats and other pets will not be traumatized by being present. Most pets do not seem to understand what is happening, but some will react to the owners’ emotions. It is absolutely ok for other pets to be present for the entire visit, or to allow them to have a viewing/sniffing of the euthanized pet afterward. More information on pet grief is HERE.
What to expect
Dr. Ivey uses a method that is very gentle, and you can hold and stroke your pet the entire time. The medications used are sedatives and anesthetic medications. The types and the way the medications are given depend on your pet’s condition and special needs. The medications will be explained to you in as much detail as you would like, but here is some general information:
The first step is a sedative. Usually, it is an injection given under the skin with a tiny needle that is inserted very gently. Many pets do not notice this at all, but it may sting a little bit for a very short time. The sedative is given very slowly, and then it takes about 5-10 minutes to help your pet relax. Some pets may need a second dose of sedative to go into a deep sleep. If it is needed, your pet will not notice this second dose, because the first sedative will have caused enough relaxation. You can hold your pet and talk to them as they fall asleep. The mind will be at rest after the sedation. The eyes usually remain open, and the tongue may protrude; there may also be a change in breathing or some muscle movement after this step, but your pet will not be aware of these effects.
After your pet is fully asleep, the last injection is given. It is an anesthetic drug (given in a larger dosage than used for anesthesia). Your pet will not feel this injection, and he or she will not be aware of anything that happens during or after this injection is given. Your pet’s breathing will cease and the heart will stop beating. Rarely, there will be muscle movement or a gasp - these are unconscious reflexes (usually after the heart has already stopped), and the mind is not aware of them. Many pets will urinate after the body relaxes.
PLEASE NOTE: The eyes usually do not close(this is natural for humans too).
Also, please be aware that, like humans, not every pet will respond the same way to sedation. Age, illness, and individual differences can influence how fast a pet falls asleep, how much sedative is needed, and whether there is muscle movement or a change in breathing. So, even if you have been present for euthanasia before, please understand that each pet may respond somewhat differently. The important thing is that your pet will be asleep and comfortable at home.
If you wish Dr. Ivey to take your pet’s body with her, your pet will be cremated by Pets at Peace Pet Cremation Services. For more information about cremation, please see the page on Aftercare.
If you are to take care of your pet’s body yourself, you will need a place to put the body until you are ready. Plastic underneath the blanket or box is recommended, as voiding can occur as the body relaxes. If you wish, the eyelids may be closed with drops. For more information about body care options, please see the page on Aftercare.
Pet loss and grieving are unique for everyone. If there is anything that Dr. Ivey can do before, during, or after a euthanasia that will help provide meaning or comfort, please let her know.