One of the biggest concerns that our clients typically have when discussing quality of life is that they will either euthanize too soon, or wait too long and allow undue suffering. So, how do you know when it is “time”? Unfortunately, once our patients reach the front door, we do not see their normal day-to-day personality and behavior. This makes it really difficult for us to help you assess quality of life, except in the more dire situations. You are with your pet every day and you know best what makes them happy. One of the best ways to assess quality of life at home is to pick out a handful of things or activities that make your pet enjoy life. A few examples are: the cat that enjoys basking in the sunny spot on the couch or the Labrador who loves to play catch with the Frisbee. If you think back to your pet over the past few weeks or months, focus on those “favorites” to determine if your pet is having a good quality of life. As your pet loses interest in these “favorites”, you may need to consider that there may be underlying illness, pain or discomfort that your pet may not be showing outwardly. Another helpful “trick-of-the-trade” is to use stickers on a calendar to track good and bad days. Use a smiley face sticker on the calendar when your pet is having a good day and a sad face sticker on a tough day. If the sad stickers start to outweigh the smiley ones, it may be time to consider humane euthanasia.
Once you make this very difficult decision, we are here to help make the process as smooth as possible for you. We provide a “Sympathy Room”, which is a quiet, comfortable space to spend your final moments together as a family. The room is located near the exit from the front office, so that you can come and go without passing through the regular waiting area (see photos below). Our goal is to provide privacy and the comforts of home, as much as possible during this difficult time. An at-home option is also available, through Dr. Sarah Francis at “Loving Hands Home Euthanasia” http://lovinghandshome.com. It is a very personal decision about whether or not to be present with your pet through the euthanasia process. We can accommodate your level of involvement, whatever that may be. In most cases, an initial sedative injection is given. This injection will make your pet very relaxed and may take 10-15 minutes to take full effect. Alternatively, we may place an IV catheter to give us access for the final injection without having to poke your pet again, making the process that much smoother. The final injection is an IV overdose of an anesthetic medication. It is not painful or uncomfortable and your pet will go to sleep, just as if it is going in for surgery. The final injection works very quickly to stop the heart, usually within seconds to a minute. The doctor will monitor the heart rate and let you know when your pet has passed. The entire process is typically very smooth, though some reflexive breathing after your pet has passed may be possible.
We offer many different options for aftercare of your pet. We can provide a discreet coffin for you to transport your pet home for burial. If you prefer cremation, we work with a wonderful service, called Faithful Pets. They provide 3 different options for cremation. Group cremation will not have any returned ashes, but the ashes are spread on the crematory property. Partitioned cremation involves separation of the crematorium into segments where multiple dogs are cremated at once, but you are guaranteed to get 100% of your pet’s ashes back. Private cremation means that your pet will be in the crematorium alone and you will have 100% of your pet’s ashes returned. The ashes are returned in a memorial container, though more elaborate options are available at an additional cost. See: www.faithfulpets.net for more information on cremation options and memorial gifts.
Discussing this topic with children can be very sensitive. Please see a staff member for recommendations on children’s books that may be helpful. If you have any further questions regarding quality of life or euthanasia decisions for your specific pet, please make an appointment with one of our veterinarians. We would be happy to take the time to discuss all of your questions.