Although death is inevitable, suffering need not be.
The word “euthanasia” is derived from the Greek word “eu” meaning goodly, or well, and “thanatos” meaning death. Euthanasia literally means “good death” and a natural death does not guarantee a good death. Providing a good death for our pets is not quitting, it is an essential treatment option.
As veterinarians, we take an oath that we will alleviate our patients suffering. And as pet owners ourselves, we believe that providing a peaceful death is as essential for responsible pet ownership as all other aspects of their care.
Almost always, our clients describe the decision to put an animal “to sleep” as the most difficult and agonizing decision that they have ever had to make. The emotional journey is gut-wrenching and can feel immoral or unconscionable. There is also fear in not knowing how the procedure is performed. As caregivers to your family, it is our role to guide and support you, in every and any way we can, as you face end-of-life decisions for your pet.
How do I know when it is time to let my pet go?
This is a tough question to answer as there are many components to this decision. First and foremost, it’s important to assess a pets “quality of life.” A medical assessment can be made by one of our veterinarians, but at this juncture, a pet owner becomes the expert in determining if a pet’s “bad days” out-number its “good-days”. A pet’s appetite (or lack of it), inappropriate urination or defecation, or a pet’s inability to toilet outside, can be some determining factors. There is also quality-of-life assessment questions available online that may help you determine whether it is time to euthanize your pet.
I’ve made the decision to put my pet to sleep. Now, what should I do?
When you have decided that “it’s time” call our practice to schedule an appointment. You will be asked if you want to witness the procedure, or if you want to drop your pet off and let our staff perform humane euthanasia without your presence. Typically, if you choose to leave your pet with us, final care options will be discussed over the phone. If you choose to stay with your pet, final care options will be presented to you in the exam room by the doctor.
How is the euthanasia performed?
When you feel you are “ready” the doctor will administer a mild sedative to your pet and then leave the room to get the euthanasia solution. During that time, the sedation will take effect. When the doctor returns to the room, he or she will intravenously administer the medication (a concentrated barbituate) to your pet using a vein in a front or back leg. Your pet will appear to fall asleep and within a minute or two, your pet’s heart will stop beating. Most people are surprised at how quickly and peacefully their pet dies. At this point, the doctor will offer you time alone to sit quietly with your pet. You are welcome to stay as long as you need. You may leave directly from the exam room when you are ready and if there is a charge for the visit a bill will be mailed to your home address.
What happens after the euthanasia?
After your pet has died, we will offer to take ink and/or clay pawprints from your pet as a remembrance. You may choose to take your pet home for burial or you may choose to have him/her cremated. If you choose cremation, your pet’s body will remain here with us and will be picked up by Forget-Me-Not, a pet crematory based in Northborough, MA. If you choose a “group” cremation, your pet’s ashes will not be returned to you, but rather buried with other animal’s remains at Pine Ridge Pet Cemetary in Dedham. If you choose a private cremation and wish to have your pet’s ashes returned to you, a client care representative will contact you directly from Forget-Me-Not, usually within a couple of days of your pet’s passing. A variety of final care options/ services will be discussed with you at this time.
What happens if my pet passes away at home?
If your pet dies at home, please call our office to tell us what has happened. Weather permitting, you can bury your pet at home, or you can bring your pet’s body for final care to our practice.
Can you help me and my family with the grieving process? This has been harder than I thought it would be!
There are many services available to people who are grieving the loss of a beloved member of the family. In addition to telephone hotlines, there are many sites online that offer support and strategies to deal with the profound sadness you might be feeling.
ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline: 1-877-grief-10
Iams Pet Loss Support Center: 1-888-332-7738
Tufts pet loss hotline: 508-839-7966
Anne M Abeloff, LMHC: 508-816-4952 (Medway, MA)
Natalie Femino, LMHC: 978-745-8311(Salem, MA)
Methuen MSCPA: 617-522-7400
Dr. Monica Mansfield D.V.M: When You Have to Say Goodbye
Marilyn George – Helping Children Through Pet Loss and Color the Rainbow Bridge.
Harold Ivan Smith – When a Child You Love is Grieving (2005)
Marty Tousley – Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping (1996)
Cheri Ross Barton – Pet Loss and Children: Establishing a Healthy Foundation (2005)
Cardeccia, Kimberly A. – Healing Your Heart When Your Animal Friend is Gone: A Children’s Pet Bereavement Workbook. Bree’s Gift Publishing, Howell, MI (2004)
Cochran, B & Andreasen, D. – The Forever Dog. Harper Collins. (2007)
Rogers, Fred (Mr. Rogers) – When a Pet Dies (1988)
Rylant, C. – Dog Heaven. Blue Sky Press (1995)
Rylant, C. – Cat Heaven. Blue Sky Press (1995)
Pet Loss Books
Betty J. Carmack – Grieving the Death of a Pet (2003)
Wallace Sife – The Loss of a Pet (2005)
Gary Kowalski – Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet (2012)
Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD – When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing (2004)
Niki Behrikis Shanahan – The Rainbow Bridge: Pet Loss Is Heaven’s Gain (2007)