How will I know when it’s time?
This is one of the hardest decisions you may ever have to make. While sometimes there is a terminal illness and it is clear your pet is suffering, more often it is not so clear cut. Often there is a slow decline over weeks to months. Frequently there are good days and bad days. Assessing some objective criteria can be helpful. Some of the signs that it may be time include:
- Loss of appetite, especially in a pet that is normally a good eater or if it is accompanied by significant weight loss.
- Difficulty walking or difficulty getting up or down, especially if there is pain or if your pet is starting to get sores from being unable to move around.
- Incontinence that is leading to your pet frequently soiling themselves, in particular if your pet is starting to get painful rashes or infections from it.
- Nighttime distress that is not responding to medical treatment. Like humans, pets can experience cognitive decline as they get older that can lead to anxiety and often fear, especially at nighttime. Signs of this may be nighttime crying, howling, pacing, wandering, and panting.
- Chronic frequent vomiting and diarrhea that is not responding to medical treatment and is accompanied by weight loss.
- Chronic pain that is not controlled with medications. Sometimes this can even manifest as inexplicable aggression towards loved ones.
- Any difficulty breathing that is not responding to medical treatment.
- Loss of interest in the things that used to bring joy to your pet, whether that’s playing with toys, going on walks, getting pet, seeing people or other dogs, or getting treats.
- The bad days are outnumbering the good days, or the bad days are really bad.
But even knowing these things, it can be nearly impossible to objectively make decisions during this difficult time. If you are unsure if it is time for your pet, consider schedule a complementary video consultation with us.
How does the process work? What should I expect?
Every situation is different and our goal is to make this be peaceful, beautiful, and free of fear and pain. When we schedule the appointment we will discuss arriving at your home to ensure our visit causes no fear or stress for your pet. In situations where a pet is scared of strangers or the vet, we may have you administer an oral sedative prior to or upon our arrival. We will also discuss details like performing the procedure in a comfortable or special place of your choosing, or if you would like any special words said or ceremonies performed.
Euthanasia is usually a two step process: first we inject a sedative under the skin that will cause your pet to fall fast asleep over 5-10 minutes. It is a tiny pinprick just like when your pet gets a vaccine. Once your pet is fast asleep, we administer an overdose of anesthesia and your pet will pass peacefully away in their sleep. The entire procedure takes about 10-15 minutes, and it is peaceful and comfortable every step of the way, with no fear and no pain. Through the entire procedure you can be with your pet – hugging and kissing them, talking to them, or the entire procedure can even be performed in your lap.
Once your pet has peacefully passed, the doctor will confirm the passing. We will give you as much time as you need or want to pay your respects and say your final goodbyes. When you are ready, we will respectfully remove your pet from the premises and carry out your aftercare wishes.
How does the cremation process work? How do I know I am getting my pet back?
There are two types of cremation: private and communal.
With private cremation, your pet is cremated individually in the chamber without any other pets. The ashes will be returned to you in one of a variety of beautiful urns. If you like, the urn can be engraved with your pet’s name or some special words. When the cremains are ready to ship, they will be shipped securely via UPS. You will receive a tracking number in your email. The entire process takes 1-2 weeks.
With communal cremation, your pet will be respectfully cremated with other pets and their ashes will be interred in a communal burial plot on the beautiful grounds of Angel View Pet Cemetery in Middleboro, MA.
We chose our cremation partner, Final Gift, for their integrity and accountability. Following euthanasia, your pet is taken to our office where we have a small morgue, and an identification tag is placed on your pet. Within a few days, your pet will be picked up by Final Gift for cremation. Final Gift uses an advanced tracking system that is utilized through the entire aftercare process, to ensure that you are getting your pet back and only your pet.
My pet is scared of the vet and/or strangers in the house. How can we make sure this is fear free?
The pre-visit consult can be helpful to discuss specific triggers or fears (for example, if your pet does not like the doorbell or knocking we will make sure to call or text instead). In addition, we do not wear white coats, which can be scary to some pets, and we dress in colors that are comforting to animals. We may give a medication within a treat when we first arrive to help your pet relax, and if your pet is very scared of strangers entering the house we may work with your primary veterinarian to prescribe anxiety medications for your pet to take so they are relaxed before we even arrive.
Everyone at Paws at Peace is a certified Fear Free practitioner and has signed the Fear Free pledge. This means we have advanced training to ensure the emotional and physical well-being of pets. We are trained to take a compassionate and gentle approach in our handling of all pets to minimize fear, stress, and anxiety.
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Why is this so hard?
I felt guilty that I failed her – that somehow I should have discovered her terminal cancer sooner and have been able to fix it. And I felt anger at other pet parents for having healthy pets that were not dying. It seemed unfair that my pet should die. And on top of that I felt ashamed and guilty for experiencing these negative emotions.
People frequently remark that losing a pet was harder than losing a parent or a spouse. And then they feel guilty that they experienced more grief losing their pet than they did when they lost their spouse or parent.
I’ve since come to learn that all these thoughts and feelings are normal. Mourning is a biological process through which we heal from the loss of a deep attachment. We often spend more time with our pets than with any other living thing on the planet and are closer physically and emotionally to our pets than to any other human or animal. The body and spirit need time to heal, and it is normal to experience intense and surprising emotions during this healing period.
It may be cliché, but it does get better with time. Hang in there. It may be weeks or months, but it gets better. And eventually you will start to remember your pet with fondness, love, and joy and not despair.
You shouldn’t have to go this alone. There is nothing shameful about what you are experiencing. I encourage you to seek support from close family and friends, religious leaders, and therapists during this difficult time. We are working to partner with counselors and support groups that specialize in pet loss. Please see our resources section for more details.
What areas do you serve?
Does my pet insurance cover this?
Do pets understand death? Should my other pets be present for euthanasia?
Often when we are at a euthanasia appointment, a dog that starts off rambunctious sits down quietly or even falls asleep as the pet being euthanized falls asleep. They will often try to comfort their grieving owners by snuggling with them or licking them. Cats occasionally will act fearful, and occasionally even hiss, when they see their housemate falling asleep from the sedative or passing away.
Whether or not other household pets should be present is a highly individual decision, and depends on the temperament of the pet and whether or not the other pet is likely to be disruptive to the process. We would be happy to discuss with you whether or not it’s a good idea in your particular situation.
How do I talk to my children about the loss of a pet? Should my children be present for the euthanasia?