Frequently Asked Questions about Euthanasia and Aftercare
Does euthanasia hurt?
Every pet responds differently to pain but there is very little discomfort associated with euthanasia. Your pet will be sedated either by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection based on a short assessment at the beginning of the appointment. There may be some discomfort associated with this injection but in some cases, your pet may not even notice what has happened. Once your pet is deeply sedated and very relaxed, the final injection of pentobarbital will be given intravenously. Your pet will not notice this injection and it will not cause any pain.
How long does the euthanasia process take?
The typical in-home euthanasia appointment generally takes about an hour. However, the length of the appointment will depend upon your pet’s response to the sedation medication. Every animal, just as every human, responds differently to sedative drugs. The sedatives that are given are carefully selected by Dr. Dailley based on your pet’s body weight, body composition, age, stress level, character, disease process, seizure threshold, and a number of other factors. Generally, most pets will fall asleep within 20-30 minutes of receiving one dose of the sedative drugs. If your pet is taking a little longer than this, they may require more medication or a different medication. The beauty of in-home euthanasia is that we have the time to sit and support a pet through the progression to a very sleepy state. It is important to be patient with the process and remember that your pet will dictate the pace at which we let him/her go.
When your pet has reached an acceptable level of sleep, the IV administration of the final medication will allow your pet to pass within a minute or two.
Can I hold my pet for the sedation and euthanasia?
Of course. We can work with you to find the best position that still allows us access to those areas of your pet's body where the sedation and euthanasia solutions will be administered.
Do I need to be present for the euthanasia?
Although your pet will pass away at home, you may choose to be present or in another room for as much or as little of the euthanasia procedure as you wish as long as there is someone available to hold and distract your pet for the sedation administration.
Will other pets in the home grieve?
Some animals will pace the house or yard and be unable to settle, search for their missing pet companions, become depressed or subdued for days to weeks, bark or yowl and wait for response, or lose their appetite. However, many animals may seem completely unaffected. It is also possible that as pet hierarchies change with the loss of one pet, other pets in the home may fight as they re-establish a new hierarchy. If your pet appears to be distressed or refuses to eat, please contact your primary veterinarian for advice.
Should other family pets be present during the euthanasia?
Most of the time this can be very helpful for closure. At the very least the other pets should be able to say their goodbyes before the euthanasia and then come in again to sniff or view the deceased pet so that they understand that their friend is gone. Some pets become too agitated or hyper when strangers come into their home and it may not be appropriate for them to stay for the entire procedure but this can be decided at the time of the visit.
What about children, should they be present for euthanasia?
Children should be considered carefully when making the decision to euthanize a family pet.
Consider each child's emotional maturity in the decision to have them present for the entire procedure.
If your child is old enough to understand, it may help to clearly explain what death is and what is about to happen and give them the choice to be present. Allow them to make a grown up decision and prepare them for the event. Openly discuss death and pet euthanasia and let them ask questions about it. Try your best to be direct with children and tell them the truth as you know it to be and share your feelings. There is no harm in telling your children that you don’t know where pets go when they die if you do not have any beliefs about this yourself.
Never imply to a child that they were at fault in the departure of a pet or that the separation isn’t permanent.
If children attend the euthanasia, consider having a partner, friend or relative present to assist with the children if they become too upset to stay.
It is also possible to have children say goodbye while the pet is still awake and then return once the euthanasia is complete to say a final goodbye for closure without having to watch.
Another way to create closure is by having a small funeral or candle-light ceremony at home, or burying or scattering a pet's ashes together as a family in the pet's favourite place.
What can I expect to see as my pet passes away?
By the time the intravenous euthanasia solution is given, many pets are already so relaxed from the sedation that the transition to death is very subtle.
Most heavily sedated pets take just a few deep breaths and within seconds their hearts will stop. Some pets will be snoring or even panting as they pass but this is NOT a sign of distress or pain. This is simply the body’s unique response to the medication.
Urination and defecation often occur during the sedation or euthanasia period.
Shortly after death there may be muscle movements such as contraction of the diaphragm or fasciculations of the tongue, skin or other muscles in the body – this usually only lasts for a few minutes and does not occur in all animals.
Some pets will need a little more sedation than other pets or a little more of the euthanasia solution. Your vet will know what to do.
In rare occasions, a pet could make a noise or cry out as it passes away or may very briefly become rigid and arch its head backwards. Not to worry, this is not a pain response and lasts only a few moments.
Will my pet’s eyes close once it has passed away?
No. It is typical that the eyes remain open after a pet has passed away.
If I choose to bury my pet at home, what recommendations do you have?
If you choose not to have your pet cremated, and choose to bury your pets body instead, it is always best to plan ahead:
Several hours after death, your pet’s body will become stiff (this is known as rigor mortis). This can last for many hours, after which the body will become relaxed again. For this reason, it is best to arrange your pet's body in a nice position soon after the euthanasia (curled up in a blanket or placed in a small box).
Contact your city to inquire about by-laws (some cities do not allow backyard burials)
Avoid pipes and power/cable lines (check with the city/gas company before you dig)
Ensure that the ground is not frozen
Dig a deep hole – 5-6 feet is recommended. The euthanasia solution, pentobarbital, is toxic to any animal that ingest it, including other family pets. You may wish to place fencing around the burial site for 6 months’ time to protect your other pets and wildlife.
What if my dog is very heavy?
In the event that your dog weighs more than 40 lbs, we would ask that a family member or friend helps the vet to carry your pet to the vehicle for transportation to the crematorium. If this is not possible, we will try to make arrangements for an assistant to come along. There may be an additional fee for this service.
Can I transport my deceased pet to the crematorium myself?
You may transport your pet but it is not necessary. Transportation is included in all cremation options but you are welcome to deliver your pet's body to Pets Above for cremation or to any other crematorium or cemetery with whom you have made prior arrangements. Please discuss alternate arrangements with Dr. Dailley before your appointment date.
What will happen with my pet’s body after euthanasia has occured?
You have several options:
communal cremation without ashes (includes transport to Pets Above and cremation with other deceased pets. The mixture of ashes are interred at Pets Above’s pet cemetery in Ancaster, Ontario)
private cremation with ashes (your pet's body is cremated entirely on its own in the cremator)
viewing and visitation with private cremation and ashes (you will have the opportunity say your final goodbye to your deceased pet at the Pets Above facility where you will wait during the private cremation and take your pets ashes home with you when you leave – this service must be coordinated with Dailley Mobile Veterinary Services and Pets Above).
home burial (please check your city by-laws in advance)
You also have the option of making your own arrangements to transport your pet to a crematorium or pet cemetery of your choice.