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What to Expect and Helpful Tips

Below you will find some helpful tips to consider prior to your pet's appointment, as well as a description of what to expect at the various stages of an in-home euthanasia appointment. 

Of course, if you have any other questions or concerns, or would like to review what to expect with one of our team members, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. 

Helpful Tips 
Prior to an Appointment

Prior to your pet's appointment, there are some things you can do, and things you may want to consider to help make the time with the doctor as comfortable as possible for everyone.

  • Consider what area of your home you would like to be in.  Weather permitting outdoors may be suitable for pets who are comfortable outside, or a room indoors that has plenty of room for those who will be in attendance to move about comfortably.

  • If your pet is able, having them take a bathroom break before the doctor arrives will help to ensure that they are as comfortable as they can be.

  • If your pet is anxious around new people, be sure to discuss with either your regular veterinarian or one of our hospice veterinarians the possible use of medications that can be given ahead of time, to help keep your pet more relaxed.

  • If your pet is still interested in eating, the hours leading up to their appointment is the time to really indulge them!  All of their favourite treats can be kept available for them.

  • Ensure that you have plenty of tissue available, and consider turning phone ringers down as soon as the doctor arrives.

  • If the doctor will be transporting your pet, please ensure that there is a parking spot close to the door for them to use.

Upon Arrival
Sedation
  • Typically, we will request that a family member help to keep your pet distracted - either with treats or ear scratches, etc. while a sedative injection is administered.  Some pets may react somewhat to the injection, but any minor discomfort is very brief, much like getting a vaccination.  Many pets do not react at all to this injection, and simply remain focused on treats and/or family.

  • Once the injection is administered, the doctor will remove herself from the immediate area to allow you private time with your pet while the sedation takes effect.  

  • As your pet becomes sedated, you may notice changes in their breathing (panting or heavy breaths).  This is a normal response to sedation and is not painful.  In many cases, dogs will start snoring or can be seen dreaming.  Even when they are sound asleep, it can be normal for their eyes to remain partially open.

  • After about 10 minutes (5 minutes for cats), the doctor will return and assess your pet's level of sedation prior to moving forward with euthanasia.

Euthanasia
  • The final injection for euthanasia is typically administered into a vein on either the front or back leg.  In some cases, the injection may be administered into the abdomen instead.  While we will always do our very best to access the vein quickly, just like us, some patients have 'tricky' veins and illness, dehydration, and medications can make accessing the veins more challenging.  This is why we always want to ensure our patients are asleep for this part of the procedure.

  • Once access to the vein is established, the injection is administered.  This process takes only seconds for small pets, and under a minute for most larger dogs.  As the injection is administered, your pet may take a few deep, more rapid breaths, or you may notice that your pet's breathing simply stops.  This is typically followed by cardiac arrest within just seconds.

  • As with sedation, it can be normal for pets to pass with their eyes open, and they may not stay closed as is commonly depicted in television and movies.

  • The doctor will confirm death by observing respiratory arrest, listening for the absence of a heartbeat, and checking reflexes.  

Following Euthanasia
  • Following death it can be normal (albeit, creepy) for pets, just like people, to have some muscle activity.  This may appear as tiny muscle twitches or tremors, a stretch, or if the chest muscles contract, it can appear as though they are taking a gasp of air.  When any of these signs are seen, we take them as a sign that your pet has been freed from their body that is no longer supporting them.  Fortunately, cats rarely exhibit muscle activity after death, but both cats and dogs will frequently pass with their eyes open. 

  • As the body fully relaxes, it can also be normal for urine or feces to be passed.  We will provide a diaper pad to place under your pet to help ensure that any soiling can be quickly cleaned away.

  • Following confirmation of death, you may take a few moments with your pet while the doctor packs up their belongings.  If you wish us to assist with collecting a fur clipping or creating ink paw or nose prints, the doctor will do this prior to taking her things to the car. 

  • Unless you have requested family-directed aftercare, the doctor will take her things to her vehicle and return with a large blanket to lovingly wrap your pet in, and will help to transport them to her vehicle.