"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated"
- Mahatma Gandhi
When is the Right Time?
Assessing Quality of Life:
Determining when it is time to euthanize your pet can be a very difficult decision.
We understand that this is often times one of the most painful processes to lose a pet we love. You may start to wonder if your pet is still able to enjoy life as they get older or have more advanced illnesses. We hope this page will help you to make a more informed decision with more clarity.
It is easy to feel guilty when making this decision, but always remember that you have taken care of your pet to the best of your abilities, for as long as you were able, within the circumstances of your life. Because of you, your pet has lived a longer and happier life than he or she would have lived if they had not been adopted into your family.
At some point you will have to decide if your pet's quality of life is a good one or not. There can be many factors that play into making this decision. Some of these factors may revolve around circumstances of your own life. Perhaps your debilitated pet is too large in size for you to easily manage or comfortably care for. Perhaps your work life is too busy to adequately meet the needs of a debilitated or geriatric animal? Perhaps your family's financial situation prohibits you from treating an expensive or terminal medical problem that your pet may have.
All of these factors are fair to consider when you make the decision of whether or not it is time to euthanize your pet.
Do the Good Days Outnumber the Bad?
Start asking yourself if your pet's good days are outnumbering the bad days, or if it is the other way around?
Consider using a calendar to mark how you think he or she is doing each day so that you can track the trend. When the bad days consistently outnumber the good days then the decision to euthanize is probably a fair choice.
Some Medical Reasons to Consider Euthanizing your Pet:
- If your pet has stopped eating for more than 3 days.
- If your pet continues to vomit and the vomiting cannot be controlled with medication.
- If your pet is extremely weak or so debilitated that he or she can't stand anymore.
- If your pet has lost the use of his hind legs and can no longer get up. You may have concerns that your pet may fall or hurt him or herself when you are not around.
- If your pet is incontinent, perhaps because of mobility issues, and you feel that this is not a dignified life for him or her.
- If your pet is in extreme pain and medications are no longer able to keep the pain under control.
- If your pet is having trouble breathing and you do not want to see the breathing issues worsen.
- If your pet is not mentally aware of what is happening and is easily confused, frightened or disoriented.
- If your pet has a seizure disorder which can no longer be controlled or which is severe and happens without warning.
- If your pet has a progressive or debilitating disease that you can no longer manage physically, mentally or financially.
- If your pet has a behavior issue and his aggression is becoming dangerous to other animals or other people and behavioral intervention did not work.
All of these reasons listed above are valid reasons to consider euthanasia. It can be particularly difficult to make this decision if your pet still seems mentally normal but his or her body is not cooperating.
The Following Medical Conditions Should Prompt a VERY Quick Decision to Euthanize:
DIFFICULTY BREATHING - signs of this include - Extreme respiratory effort, unable to lie down or sleep because they are unable to sleep in certain positions, loud open mouthed breathing (especially in cats), blue or purple gums, inability to stand or walk without needing to rest to breathe.
EXTREME PAIN - signs of this may include - not wanting to stand or move, inappropriate aggressive behavior, screaming or vocalizing uncontrollably, being unable to comfortably lie down.
UNCONTROLLED SEIZURES - signs of this may include - persistently seizuring, convulsing, shaking, unable to walk, disorientation or decreased awareness.
Although it is normal to feel uncertainty about when the correct day is, try to use the tools here to assess the happiness of your pet. If your pet is not happy, then as owners, the last stage of care of your pet may be to ensure that your pet is not suffering.
Sometimes to alleviate our pet's discomfort or pain we have to take pain or discomfort upon ourselves. If you are still not sure if the time is right please contact your primary veterinarian to discuss your pets quality of life.
Dr. Sarah can also consult to help you determine if the timing is right to say goodbye. You may call, text, or e-mail if you need further advice or have specific questions.
Click the phone icon above to call or text Dr. Sarah right now at: 916-582-1821
"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's."
- Mark Twain
Why In Home Euthanasia?
Many pet owners make a decision to have their pet euthanized at home for a number of reasons. It is generally less stressful for the pet to not have to be transported to the veterinary hospital and to deal with the other animals, loud noises, bright lights, lots of people, etc. In an attempt to alleviate as much stress on your pet as possible, allowing them to remain in their home for the euthanasia is preferred. This enables your pet to be where they are most comfortable, in whatever bed or comfortable area you choose. If your pet has a favorite space, even outdoors, we can arrange for the euthanasia to take place there. Dr. Sarah is generally very flexible about the location.
An in home euthanasia may allow more family members to be present for the euthanasia and time to say goodbye in a comfortable and familiar environment as well. If you wish for children to be present for the euthanasia that is okay. Most parents know if their children are mature enough to handle being present for the process. It is also okay for them to only be present before and possibly after the euthanasia but not during the actual process if that is too sad for them. Other pets in the household will also get a chance to say goodbye which can be helpful for them to have some closure as well.
Dr. Sarah feels that home euthanasia is ideal for almost all pets and situations and this is why she is devoted to making this service available for as many pets as possible. As discussed in the When is the Right Time? section there are some instances where a pet is too ill to wait for a home euthanasia. In those times including severe respiratory distress, intractable pain, unrelenting seizures, or collapse it is likely best to take your pet to an emergency veterinarian.
Sometimes your primary veterinarian can provide in home euthanasia services and if you have a relationship set up with a veterinarian already we urge you to call them to see if they offer these services. Many veterinarians who work in a clinic setting are not set up to offer in home euthanasia services or cannot take time away from busy hospitals to provide these services.
In the Roseville and surrounding area when emergency euthanasia is required please call Atlantic Street Pet Emergency Center at (916) 783-4655.
Or visit their website at: www.erpetdoctor.com
Click the phone icon above to call Atlantic Street Pet Emergency Center right now at: 916-783-4655
"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."
- James Herriot
Home Euthanasia Appointments
You will have an appointment time at your home that will be scheduled with Dr. Whitley at a time that works for you. When you make your appointment you may ask questions about when is the right time to let your pet pass. (See When Is the Right Time? section)
It is not uncommon for animals with long term disease processes to decompensate rapidly towards the end of their lives. If this happens it can make having an in-home euthanasia for your pet more difficult to achieve if he or she is in an emergency situation.
A euthanasia should be considered an emergency if your pet is having trouble breathing, is in an unbearable amount of pain, is persistently seizuring, or is suddenly collapsed.
Dr. Sarah will arrive at the pre-scheduled time. She appreciates having the opportunity to meet your pet at his or her own home. Dr. Sarah enjoys learning some of the things that make your pet unique or hearing any special stories you want to share. She will also take time to answer any questions you may have at this time.
If you have not already done so, Dr. Sarah will create a comfortable bed for your pet and get any supplies ready. She will then ask you to sign a consent form which gives us permission to proceed forward with the euthanasia. The consent form also asks you to verify that your pet has not bitten anyone in the past 10 days which is a state law requirement.
Our policy is to settle any paperwork/financial transactions at the beginning of the visit which most pet owners prefer as it makes it easier for them to focus on their pet during the euthanasia and will give them the opportunity to grieve privately and peacefully afterwards.
Before the euthanasia is performed Dr. Sarah will sedate your pet in most circumstances. Sedation is the process of giving a drug which will make your pet extremely sleepy and relaxed. This sedated period will allow you to have a transition period with your pet where you can sit with him or her in a state where they are calm and sleeping deeply.
Sedation is typically given as an injection with a small needle under the skin. In some pets, the sedation is broken into two separate injections to allow for them to become gradually more sleepy rather than all at once. Also, in some small dogs we may start with oral sedation prior to the injection of sedation. The sedation does not hurt any more than a tiny needle poke and once that is done they are generally so comfortable that they are not aware of the final injection.
The euthanasia solution is administered once the pet is sedate and you are ready. We will communicate with you along the way to make sure you know what is coming next.
The euthanasia solution is most often given intravenously in dogs and most cats. If getting access to a vein in your pet may be difficult (such as with pets that are small, very dehydrated, etc.) then we may opt to give the euthanasia drug as an injection into the abdomen. If this is the case, your pet will be heavily sedated before the injection and it will not be painful. With this process the euthanasia may take longer, several minutes rather than just a couple but will be a relaxed and calm euthanasia process. Many pet owners appreciate this time to hold their pet and say their final goodbyes.
When your pet passes you will first notice your pet's breathing cease. In a few minutes, the heart will follow. Sometimes there will be post-life breathing motions or muscle twitching. These are normal reflex motions that occur after your pet is deceased. Dr. Sarah will confirm your pet's death with a stethoscope.
The majority of the time death will occur gently and peacefully with the injectable sedatives and euthanasia medications that we use. These drugs have been developed just for this purpose. On rare occasions there can be some adverse reactions.
If you have any concerns, please feel free to discuss them with Dr. Sarah before or during your appointment.
After the Euthanasia
If you do not wish Dr. Sarah to take your pet then she will leave you and your family with your pet to celebrate his or her life and to mourn his or her passing. We recognize how huge this day is to your family and the impact that your pet's death will have on your lives. We want you to be able to grieve comfortably and privately.
If we are taking your pet for cremation purposes Dr. Sarah will step outside to give you time to grieve alone as a family. When she returns she will respectfully carry your pet outside to her vehicle. Dr. Sarah has a stretcher to help move larger pets. For dogs over 40 pounds she requires that you have someone who can help her lift your pet into her vehicle or for an additional charge and with advance notice she can have an assistant there to help. Dr. Sarah will arrange to have your pet brought to the crematorium.
If you requested to have your pet's ashes returned there are several options. Typically Dr. Sarah will have the crematory call you when the ashes are ready and you can arrange to pick them up at the crematorium directly. If this is not something you wish to do we can also arrange for the ashes to be mailed to you. Dr. Sarah promises to treat your pet's remains carefully and with dignity and respect.
Please refer to the Cremation Services page for more information about the cremation process.