The Home Vet of Boulder: Pet Euthanaisa in your Home. Is it for you?
Answers to one of life’s most difficult decisions.
Ideally, our pets would die peacefully in their sleep….I hear this request often. On rare occasions some do, but often our dogs or cats will linger on in old age, with incontinence, unwillingness to eat, kidney failure, dehydration, or the inability to rise or walk around normally. Other illnesses such as cancers or deteriorating conditions are often described by the owner as a “roller coaster”.
Making the decision to gently and peacefully end the suffering of your companion with a house call vet , can be the final act of kindness to a friend who’s brought you years of love and companionship.
What is euthanasia and how is it performed?
Euthanasia means “gentle death”. It is a painless procedure performed by a mobile vet in the safety of your own home. Surrounded by people whom the pet is comfortable, and in any location that you decide. I often enter a home, greet the pet, and let the pet decide where to settle and be relaxed.
After giving the go ahead, I give a small injection (with a very small needle) under the skin behind the neck. This is similar to a vaccination ……most pets feel nothing, some are more content with a treat offered to them at this time. This injection is a sedative that will make the animal fall asleep within 5 to 15 minutes. They then will become unconscious. During this time I like to slowly pet the animal, or give them space with you….depending on their temperament. We talk to them, tell them how much they are loved and truthfully anything that comes to mind. A song, stories of their youth, or many, many thanks for their friendship.
When I am assured that they no longer feel pain, I then give a 2nd injection into the vein (usually in a limb). The onset of this drug is almost immediate.
I will then listen to their heart, check for other vitals and quietly leave the room so that you can say your goodbyes privately.
When should you consider euthanasia?
This is probably the last question you want to think about but is also the MOST important question to answer. My answer is usually this-
- If your pet has an incurable condition, is visibly suffering, or on the whole, the bad days are outnumbering the good it is time…
- Discussing with your veterinarian the likely progression of the disease will also help you make an informed decision. For example- kidney failure…. when the cat is hiding, tucked in a ball, unwilling to eat any longer. OR knowing the type of cancer will allow your vet to describe to you how it will progress.
- If your animal is in pain despite giving him pain medication.
- If there is no other (reasonable) treatment for this condition. I say reasonable because veterinary medicine has caught up with human medicine in our ability to offer you options. I say to many clients….” Just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we should.” It is OK to say, “that is enough for MY dog.”
- Consider the temperament of your animal, the cost of what is being offered and the likelihood of long-term benefit. What would your pet want?
- If the particular condition that your pet has is one that will likely create a medical crisis .ie, severe cardiac disease….where in the middle of the night you will have to make an unwanted stressful emergency decision.
Symptoms of a suffering animal include-
- note- animals will rarely cry in pain unless there is a traumatic event such as being hit by a car.
- unwillingness to eat or drink
- hiding in places they don’t usually seek
- certain postures – cat: a sphinx or meatloaf type of posture with little movement.
- withdrawn or lethargic, often not wanting the owners attention.
- ongoing incontinence.
- unwilling to rise or move about.
Should the owner be present?
Having done euthanasias many times in peoples homes I can definitely say …… If you think you can keep it together during this time, I know that the pet feels safer with you there. In the end you will feel that you have done your best as an owner. I will compassionately talk you through it. If you feel that you would be too emotional (the pets can sense this) I believe it is best for you to say your goodbyes and leave the room. I will do the procedure as if he or she were my own…
I do not think that children under 7 or 8 have a full grasp of us “having a hand” in sending them to a peaceful place, so I usually ask that they not be present.
What do I do with the body?
There are several options available. You may bury them in many locations or we can arrange for cremation of the body. As a house call vet I can take the body when you are ready and arrange either a private cremation or group/scatter cremation.
Documentation and payment
I will ask you to fill out and sign a small form with your pertinent information that allows me to do the euthanasia. Please call me for current rates, as the euthanasia is based on your location, the pets weight and your wishes for cremation.
I realize if you are reading this that you are likely enduring a very difficult time.
If I had to give any advice in closing I would say please make this decision based on YOUR pet, not what your friend experienced or did with their own pet. You know your own animal best and what is right for them.
I would be glad to answer any additional questions if you have any. Please contact me at 303-502-5500. I wish you the best.
Kim Basher, D.V.M.
The Home Vet of Boulder