EUTHANASIA AND FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The loss of a pet is a highly emotional time and the end of life decisions that owners are faced with can be the most difficult decisions to make and seem overwhelming at times. We have provided the answers to many frequently asked questions and are here to help with any questions that you may have about the timing, the euthanasia process itself or with aftercare of your pet.
How will I know I am making the right decision?
This can be difficult as there is usually a time of grieving and acceptance for the owner. Accepting at some point that things are terminal, then the decision, I believe comes earlier as it becomes clear that quality of life for our pet is foremost. With this in mind, after a really rough day or night many decide it is time. I support this even with the waxing and waning of a pet’s attitude that generally happens. If things are indeed terminal and quality of life becomes paramount, then the reality is, we don’t want our pet to have another or worse time and we don’t want things to end up in a crisis.
Sometimes events and illnesses are more acute or things are not necessarily terminal. Here, we should consult with a veterinarian. We are there for you to help you navigate this very emotional time.
Do I have to stay for the procedure?
This is an individual preference and you may choose to be present for the entire process or stay just until your pet is sedated. Over 95% do stay, and I believe it healthy and facilitates acceptance, closure and grief.
Can I hold my pet during the euthanasia?
You can absolutely hold your pet during the sedation and euthanasia. You can choose to be where you and your pet are most comfortable.
Should my children be present?
This also is an individual preference. It may indeed be a healthy experience and healthy way of dealing with the loss of a beloved pet. There is quite a variety of opinions on this, so it is up to the parents on how to handle it. There are many resources available to help children deal with grief associated with pet loss that help children find the closure they need. (link to resources/literature section)
Should other pets in the household be present?
Most of the time pets are present but if they are getting in the way and are a distraction, they may be disruptive to this “sacred” time and so could be put in another room, taken out for a walk or other form of separation. It can be helpful for your other pe to view the deceased pet after passing as a means to understand what has happened to their friend. I believe pets are sensitive and grieve in their own way.
Some pets seem unaffected after a loss, while others seem to mourn more outwardly. If you are concerned about how your other pet is managing and seems distressed, please consult your veterinarian.
What if my pet has bitten someone?
We cannot euthanize such an animal until a 14 day quarantine has passed. The public health department needs to be notified.
Is euthanasia painful?
Euthanasia is not painful. We do give 2 injections. The first is a sedation which ensures there is no anxiety. The sedation injection can sting, however, this only lasts for about a second. There is also a pain medication in this injection so your pet will gradually become relaxed and pain free. Once deeply sedated, the final injection in given into a vein. The injection is not at all painful and will cause your pet to go deeply to sleep and then we continue with an overdose which stops his/her heart. It is very gentle and peaceful.
Will my pet be given a sedation?
Yes. We give a sedation to relax your pet so there is no struggle for the injection. The sedation we use for dogs takes about 10 minutes to take effect and after that your dog will get sleepier with time. He/she will not go right to sleep and will be aware of your loving presence for the procedure. The sedation we use for cats is heavier and will take effect much quicker. Your cat will be asleep for the final injection.
What will I expect to see as my pet passes away?
After sedation, the final intravenous injection takes between about 5 seconds in cats and small dogs and about 20 seconds in larger dogs. Usually, we see a few deep breaths followed by slowing of the breathing. The breathing will slow until it stops and the heart will stop shortly after this. It is possible to see muscle twitching or movement of the tongue during or after the final injection. On occasion, a last breath can be seen or heard as the diaphragm contracts. The final transition is a very smooth and gentle process.
How will you know my pet has passed? Could he/she wake up.
I always check after the procedure to make sure the heart has stopped beating and your pet has indeed passed. There is no chance your pet will wake up, however, there can be some reflexes or twitches that can be detected within the first few minutes after passing.
How long will the process take?
We don’t rush the process. Every situation is different and we make sure that you are ready and have spent sufficient time with your pet saying your goodbyes before the injection happens. (see above for how long the sedation takes and the final injection). Once your pet is passed you are welcome to spend more time if needed to help with closure.
What happens to my pets body afterwards?
We are partnered with Gateway Pet Memorial Services. After a pet passes, the body will be delivered to Gateway a very compassionate and reputable company that has been serving pet owners and their beloved pets for over 25 years. There are several options for aftercare to consider after euthanasia:
- Communal Cremation Pets are cremated with other pets and the ashes are not returned to you. Ashes from such are caringly buried in a beautifully kept grave at one of a few cemeteries that Gateway maintains. These cemeteries are beautiful places that pet owners are welcome to visit and reflect.
- Private/Individual Cremation Your pet is cremated alone and their cremains are returned to you. For memorial products available please visit https://www.gatewaypetmemorial.com/memorial-products-ontario/ .
- Home Burial – Some owners choose to bury their pet’s bodies at a home plot after their passing. Please check with the municipal by laws in advance as there are restrictions on some residential properties.
How do I know the ashes I get back are from my pet?
This is a common question. Gateway Pet Memorial Services understands how important this is and tracks your pet through the entire aftercare and cremation process. Gateway ensures 100% traceability and transparency and treats each pet with dignity, compassion and care.
How do I cope with losing a pet?
Losing a pet is one of the most difficult experiences to endure. Grief is a natural and healthy response to loss. There are many ways to cope with the loss of a pet. Grieving owners often benefit from reflecting on the time with their pet and celebrating their lives. Sometimes, we need support and it is important to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed with grief. You are not alone.
Where do I turn for support?
There are many resources available to those enduring grief from the loss of a beloved pet. There are counselling services, support groups, pet loss hotlines as well as much literature.
Some recommended links include:
- The University of Guelph’s Pet Trust Pet Loss Support
- Pet Loss Canada Pet Loss Canada | mourning is a journey as well as an experience
Are there books that I can read?
Some recommended books for adults and children are available at your local book store or online :
- Going Home: Finding peace when pets die by John Katz
- Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping by Marty Tousley
- Pet Loss and Children: Helping Your Child Cope with the Loss of a Pet by Erainna Winnett