Parting with any loved one for the final time is heartbreaking, and this includes our furry family members. If your pet is getting older or has become very unwell and you think it might be time for euthanasia, you might have some questions. Keep reading to find out how to monitor your pet's quality of life, what to expect if you have your pet euthanized at home and ways you can hold on to treasured memories forever. Don’t forget, if you have any questions or concerns you can book an appointment with one of our veterinarians.
How do you know when it’s time to euthanize your pet?
Assessing your dog or cat’s quality of life isn’t easy, especially if their health or mobility has been gradually declining with age. When monitoring their quality of life, it's important to consider your pet's appetite, their mobility, and any signs of pain. If they are not eating or their appetite is severely reduced, this could be a real concern, but more likely they will have days when they eat a bit more and days where they eat less. Mobility can also be a little bit vague because if your dog has arthritis, they might also have good and bad days. Unfortunately, it’s not much easier to spot when your cat or dog is in pain as the signs can be very subtle. A dog in pain might pant, be restless, or be very lethargic. They might yelp, groan or whine, but they might not make any noise at all. Similarly, a cat who’s in pain is more likely to withdraw and hide than make any noise.
When your dog or cat gets older or their health deteriorates, it's not easy to know exactly when it's time to say goodbye. You want your pet's company for as long as possible, and saying goodbye is a distressing thought. Add to this the fact that your pet might seem to be struggling one minute, then rally the next, and you can see why it's so difficult to make the call. If you want some help assessing your pet’s quality of life, book a quality of life assessment with our empathetic team.
Why consider euthanasia at home?
In-home euthanasia for pets can be a more relaxed, peaceful, and personal option. If your dog or cat dislikes traveling in the car or is fearful of the veterinary clinic, you might want to consider booking a veterinarian to come to your home. This will also give family members the chance to say goodbye in a private and personal setting. If you think in-home euthanasia is the best option for your furry and human family members, you can schedule an appointment. You may also want to read our other blog post – In-Home Euthanasia: How It Works? [link]
How to prepare for an in-home euthanasia
If it's time to say goodbye to your beloved furry friend, try to make their remaining time with you special. Before the veterinarian visits, you could take them to their favorite park or spoil them with their favorite food. Whatever you do, if it's time spent with you it will be meaningful.
If you're preparing your home for the procedure, try to plan which room you'd like it to take place in. Find a position where there is good lighting available, and plenty of space so it's not too crowded. Place your pet's bed or a blanket in the area to make sure they'll be comfortable. It's an emotional time, so keeping some tissues handy is a good idea.
What to expect from in-home euthanasia for dogs
When the veterinarian arrives, they will have all the equipment that they need. They may come alone, or they might be accompanied by a veterinary technician to assist them. They’ll introduce themselves and spend some time greeting your dog and answering any questions that you have. They’ll also need you to complete a small amount of paperwork (if not completed prior to the appointment) to give your consent and organize cremation if that’s what you want.
Once everyone is prepared, they will begin the procedure. They might give your dog an injection of sedation to make sure that they are calm. If this is the case, your dog will gradually drift off to sleep over about five to ten minutes. When it's time to give the euthanasia injection, they will clip some hair off your dog's leg and use a tourniquet or the vet tech's fingers to raise the vein. Sometimes, a catheter is placed into the vein and taped in place, to allow good vein access. The injection itself is a type of anesthetic, and it is given into the vein as an overdose so that your dog gradually goes into a deeper and deeper sleep. After a minute or two, your dog's breathing and heartbeat will have slowed down and stopped.
The veterinarian will use their stethoscope to check that your dog's heart has stopped, as well as check their eyes for any reflexes. You might still notice some muscle tremors or gasping. This is quite normal even after death and will stop after a few minutes.
What to expect from in-home euthanasia for cats
Euthanizing your cat at home can help to reduce their anxiety. The procedure itself doesn't differ much from dogs, aside from sedation is almost always used so that your cat doesn't need to be restrained much. This means that your cat can be curled up on the sofa, your bed, or even your lap. Wherever they are most comfortable and at ease will be the most suitable spot for your final farewell.
After the euthanasia at home…
Once the euthanasia has been performed, you might decide to bury your pet in the garden, but you should make sure you know the laws and regulations for your area. On the other hand, you might decide to have your pet cremated so that you can keep their ashes in a cask or urn or scatter them in a special place. Everyone grieves in their own way, and different types of keepsakes serve different people. You might decide to remember your beloved pet by planting a tree or plant for them, or you might want to get their ashes made into a piece of jewelry. Whatever you decide has personal meaning for you and will be the perfect way to remember them.
If you're daunted by what to expect from in-home euthanasia, hopefully, the information above will have helped reassure you. Saying goodbye to your pet is the hardest thing for any pet parent, but with the support of your veterinary team, it can be dignified and peaceful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do dogs feel pain when euthanized?
There is no pain associated with euthanasia, other than the small scratch of the needle. If you are concerned about your dog being in pain, your veterinarian will be able to give them some sedation so that they are asleep for the euthanasia itself.
When should a pet be put to sleep?
There’s no easy answer about when to euthanize your pet, but it’s very important to monitor their quality of life. If you think that they are not eating or not moving around as much as they should, or if they seem to be in pain, speak to our veterinary team.