It is our philosophy at Snug Animal Hospital that our ability as animal companions/animal owners to humanely euthanize our sick or debilitated pets when they reach that stage of life should be viewed as a gift of love. From the Veterinarian’s Oath: “…I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge for…the relief of animal suffering.” It is therefore our obligation as veterinarians and paraprofessionals to help you with this most difficult process and make your decision-making as straightforward and comfortable as possible.
The material provided here is intended to make the process as clear as possible and to inform you of all your available options. It also provides grief resources. The loss of a pet is the loss of a loved one — no different than the loss of a family member, for many people. Many of your closest friends and family may not understand your loss. Be assured that we here at Snug Animal Hospital realize the pain and difficulty of losing a pet, and we want to be here for you if you need anything during this process.
When do I let my pet go?
The answer is very simple — and completely unsatisfying — to most people. Only you can decide when it is the right time. The question of a pet’s “quality of life” has many levels. I like to say when they no longer have the energy to keep living (eating, drinking, urinating/defecating normally (and in the correct places!)), euthanasia needs to be considered. It is OK to let your pet go. It should be done with sadness, as this is a terribly sad thing to go through. It is real grief; it is a real loss. But, at some point, it is also our responsibility to our furry friends to do the right thing for them. We believe here at Snug that acting on this responsibility is an act of kindness and love for our pets in their time of need. In our opinion, if you weigh your decision carefully and make your decision with your pet’s best interests in mind, there is no reason to feel guilty about this decision. Sadness and grief have a way of feeling like guilt, but we would urge you to give yourself a break from this guilt. You are truly doing the right thing.
What is Euthanasia
The term means “good death” in ancient Greek and has come to be understood as the ending of a life in a painless manner.
In veterinary medicine, the standard for humane euthanasia has been seen via many different procedures and processes through the years.
Today, in our practice, humane euthanasia refers to delivering a fatal overdose by injection of a concentrated barbiturate anesthesia agent that has been compounded with additional painless drug agents that stop the heart and brain function. As the injection is delivered, the patient is rapidly anesthetized within 1-2 seconds of delivery. Complete cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest occur within 10-30 seconds of injection.
Most animals show no visible reaction to the injection being delivered. They simply fall quietly into apparent sleep; thus the term “putting to sleep”. A very small number of animals show a response to the injection. Some animals feel the injection going in and react with a whimper or cry. For anyone who has had an intravenous injection, you’ll recall that you can feel the injectable material sometimes going in your vein. That can be an odd feeling and it probably is disquieting to the animal. Also, some animals react with mild anxiety, crying and/or excitement because this is one of the first phases of anesthesia (referred to as the “excitement phase” of anesthesia induction), again, the euthanasia drug is an anesthetic. Most of these mild issues are rare and pass within seconds as the animals succumb to the anesthetic effects of the drug.
Dogs and cats who are euthanized do not close their eyes upon death. This can be quite alarming to some and it makes some wonder if they are really gone. Your Snug Animal Hospital veterinarian or technician will listen to the chest with their stethoscope to insure the heart has completely stopped. If it makes you more comfortable, do not hesitate to ask to listen with our stethoscope. The quiet of not hearing a heart beat can be a moment of closure for some.
To Be Present Or Not To Be Present:
Many people find it comforting to be present during the euthanasia process. Some do not want to be present when it happens. This is an individual choice. There is no right or wrong here. It is what you feel you need to do! Whatever makes you and your family comfortable! If you don’t feel you can watch the process, do not feel guilty for not being there. It is perfectly acceptable to say your goodbyes and leave the room. Your pet will be treated with the utmost respect in both situations.
If you choose to be present during the procedure, we will place an intravenous catheter so that you can hold your pet. Once the process is completed, you can spend as much time with the pet saying your goodbyes.
If you choose not to be present, you are also welcome to spend as much time after the procedure with your pet’s remains to say goodbyes.
Children: Each individual family is the judge of when it is best to allow a child to be present in the room during a euthanasia. We generally do not recommend that children under 14 years of age be present for this process. This age cut-off comes from recommendations we have received from psychologists who work with children. However, this is a decision that we leave ultimately to discretion of the parents.
Care For My Pet’s Remains:
You will need to be prepared at the time of euthanasia or upon the death of a pet to decide what type of care of remains option you want to go with for your pet.
- Home Burial: Only recommended if legal in your area and if you are able to bury the body deep enough on your property. You would simply take the body with you following the euthanasia procedure. You would want to plan to bring a carrier or blankets to transport the remains home.
- Private Cemetery Burial: We recommend San Diego Pet Memorial Park. We can provide you with extensive information on this service or refer you directly to their Counselors.
- All of our cremations are performed with San Diego Pet Memorial (SDPM). They offer a variety of services. They welcome our clients to be present during the procedure or to tour the facility prior to the process. We offer communal, private and individual cremations. We also offer next day service.
- Communal Cremation: The body is cremated with other animals at the same time. Their ashes are collected together and scattered at sea. SDPM picks up your animal’s remains at our facility.
- Private Cremation: The body is cremated individually be separating the remains between blocks. Four animals are usually cremated at the same time, but this process keeps the cremains (ashes) separate. The ashes of each individual are collected and placed in a cedar urn (included in the cost). Different styles of urns are available at additional cost from the service. Pet pictures laser etched into the urns can also be done with some additional expense. Again, the remains are picked up from our facility and returned directly to our facility. You will be called when the remains return. This process usually takes 7-14 days.
- Individual Cremation: The body is cremated by itself without any other bodies present in the crematoria. The ashes are collected and placed in a cedar urn. The urn is returned to our facility within 7-14 days. There is a premium for this service. The price listed below for this service is for all weight classes and species (dogs, cats and other small animals).