Pet Euthanasia – Putting Your Pet to Sleep?

Pet Euthanasia – What to Expect When You Make This Choice
Written by Jocelym Husch, AHT

It is never an easy aspect of pet ownership; often we try to avoid the idea altogether. I know I personally have told my dog he isn’t allowed to die, but knowing in my heart that it is an honourable decision my husband and I will need to make in the future.

What I am talking about is when the decision to euthanize your furry family member. A lot of thought and care are put into making that final choice, but the process can often be overwhelming. Having some decisions made and an understanding of what will happen before the decision needs to be made can be one less thing to worry about.

Once you have decided that euthanasia is the best option for your pet (dog euthanasia and cat euthanasia) and you have a couple of decisions to make. First, a call to us will allow us to book the initial appointment. It will be scheduled with a veterinarian, depending on the situation, there might be an exam before the decision to actually euthanise. While you are still on the phone, the receptionist will probably ask you if you want ashes back, this is where there are some options. The pets we have at Mill Creek are cremated. They are either sent as a general cremation (their ashes will be spread out on a beautiful farm land), or you can request to have the ashes returned to you. Typically the ashes are returned in a scatter box, allowing you to keep them how you wish, or you can select from different urn options.  We also offer clay paw prints. These make a beautiful keepsake. An impression of your pet’s paw is taken in clay and then sent to Pear Tree Impressions in Calgary; a small fur clipping is also sent to match the colour. Although it can take a while to get back, they are a beautiful way to memorialise companion animal. By no means do you need to have a final decision made while on the phone, but it is best to know before your arrival at the clinic what your wishes will be.

The appointment day has now arrived. You make the trip to the veterinary hospital. Once here, our receptionists will have a room ready for you (on the rare occasional there might be a wait due to unforeseen circumstances). If an exam is required first a veterinarian will come in, if not, our receptionist will find out your final decisions on ashes and clay paw print. All the paperwork and payments will be done before the procedure so that you do not need to worry about anything afterwards. Once the exam is done of your loved pet, paperwork and payments are done, the veterinarian will more than likely bring your pet into the treatment room for a technician to place an IV catheter. If sedation is needed to make the process easier for your pet (the last thing we want is for them to be stressed) it would be given at this time as well. Once the catheter is placed, your pet will be brought back to you in the room. If you want a little bit more time with your furry family member, that is fine. Once you are ready, the veterinarian will return to the room with the euthansol (an anaesthetic drug used at a high concentration), usually dyed a noticeable colour. The euthansol will be given through the IV catheter that was placed. Your pet will look as though they are falling asleep, but will usually have departed before the injection is even finished. The veterinarian will then confirm by listening to their heart.

Once done, you are more than welcome to take your time in the room. Just be aware that it isn’t uncommon for your pet to release their bowels and bladder, or even take what is thought to be a breath (this is just a muscle twitch). The one thing that most people are not aware of, but that animal’s eyes don’t close once they are gone. When you are ready to leave, your pet will be taken into the back and shown the utmost respect. If you have requested ashes back, you will be notified once they are delivered to the clinic, usually around the one week mark, and clay paw prints will be mailed to you; this can take 8-12 weeks. Although it is a tough decision to make, being prepared can sometimes make it easier to bear. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at Mill Creek Animal Hospital.

Making this choice is a personal one that we do not take lightly at our clinic. If you would feel most comfortable coming in to speak to one of our compassionate veterinary staff before making this choice and the cost of our services, we encourage you to give us a call. Though letting go of your pet is so difficult, it is a brave move, and we hope that this piece has answered some of your questions.

Some resources to help to grieve the loss of an Animal Companion