Hospice & Euthanasia

What do they mean?


At Greenwood Veterinary House Call Services, we offer animal hospice and palliative care services for pets with life-limiting or incurable diseases and their families.

Animal hospice includes the following services:

  • Care focused on providing pain control and physical comfort to the pet, as well as educational support and emotional comfort for caregivers.

  • A "Hospice Team" of veterinary professionals and support service providers that offer assistance in providing quality of life for the patient that includes palliation of pain and preparation for death.

  • A veterinarian serving as a teacher, enabling family members to care for their pet's medical and emotional needs at home.

  • Time for families to adjust to their pet's progressive disease and say goodbye in a kinder, more personal way.


Many pet parents choose hospice care in order to participate in decision making about their pet's end-of-life needs, giving the entire family time to prepare for the pending goodbye to their companions and to plan for a peaceful death.

If you have the resources to support comfort care, the time and desire to care for your pet during the last days or weeks of their life, and a good support team in place, then hospice care may be the right choice for you and your pet.

To learn more about the animal hospice and palliative care services offered at Greenwood Veterinary House Call Services and whether they are the right fit for you and your pet, please call us at 289-987-7297.

For additional resources and a list of Frequently Asked Questions about animal hospice and palliative care, visit the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC)'s website.


The term "euthanasia" is derived from two Greek words, eu meaning "good", and thanatos meaning "death", so the two words combined mean "good death".  Euthanasia is carried out by injecting the pet with a calculated dose of a barbiturate.  This will stop the pet's heart, brain activity, and bodily functions.  The pet has no awareness that this is happening, and death comes quickly usually within one minute.
Although euthanasia is painless and peaceful, pets respond to the barbiturate in various ways.  For instance, the pet may urinate, defecate, twitch, or even make a sound.  The pet is completely unaware of these things.  It is also important to know that your pet's eyes will not close completely after death, because it takes muscles to keep the eyes closed.  Every veterinarian has his or her own procedure, and many use a combination of drugs to put the pet into a soothing state of relaxation.  This approach prevents some of these unexpected reactions from happening.  Greenwood Veterinary Hospice will always provide injectable sedation prior to euthanasia, to ensure that your pet is as comfortable as possible.

How Will I Know When It's Time?

If you are struggling with the euthanasia decision, go no further until you discuss your pet's situation with your hospice veterinarian.  What are your pet's chances of recovery from this illness and having a reasonably good quality of life?  Understanding your pet's medical prognosis can help you sort out your feelings.  As the days pass, you may feel that your pet is suffering so much that you must consider euthanasia.  
Pain and suffering are really two different things.  Pain can be managed, whereas suffering is a level of ongoing discomfort or distress that goes beyond what pain-management strategies can do to help.  This can be the hardest and most painful time you've experienced up to this point, and seeing your pet suffering may prompt you to make your decision.

Also, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have the time that would be necessary to continue taking care of my pet properly while he or she is ill?  (This may include feeding the pet by hand, for example, and going outside with the pet when he or she needs to go to the bathroom.)

  • What will I do if my pet becomes gravely ill at a time when I cannot reach my hospice or regular veterinarian?

  • What final acts of love for my pet are important to me?

You should also ask your veterinarian about the euthanasia process itself.  Make sure you fully understand what to expect before you make this important decision.

When you are grieving, it's completely normal to want to delay euthanasia, but remember, a delay can translate into extended pain and suffering for your pet.  In fact, most of the people who feel guilty about their pet's death after it occurs are those who think they waited too long and allowed their pet to suffer needlessly.

Ultimately, most people report that they just know when the time is right for euthanasia.  Trust your instincts and have faith in your love for your pet.  As long as you are considering your pet's well-being, you will make a decision that is right for both of you.