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5 Things You Should Know Before Euthanizing Your Dog

Discussion in 'Memorials' started by Vicki, Oct 25, 2016.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    5 Things I Wish You Knew Before Euthanizing Your Dog

    Kelsey Beth Carpenter July 19, 2016

    Euthanasia. The word itself makes all our stomachs drop. It is a gift to pets and a curse to owners – having the power to decide is something we are not comfortable with. However, when going through the euthanasia process with your own pets, you are in a position to make numerous decisions that can change the course of the overall process. As a Veterinary Technician, I witness euthanasias on a daily basis. Let me share from personal experience the 5 things I wish every pet owner knew.

    1. It’s ok to cry.

    People apologize to me all the time for crying over their pets. Whether it’s time to say goodbye, or you are simply having a hard time watching us draw blood on your dog, I wish you knew that I GET IT. Many of us who work in animal medicine (myself very much included) are totally neurotic, hypersensitive, and obsessive when it comes to our own pets. I may seem calm and collected while working with your cat, but that’s because it’s my job and I can’t afford to be any other way if I’m going to be good at it. You best believe that the second my dog so much as sneezes, I go into a total state of panic, lose all common sense, and forget everything I learned in tech school. So, when you are crying over the pet that you have loved for years, I assure you, I have nothing but respect for you. I respect how much you care. I respect your ability to make such difficult decisions. I respect your bravery. And please know that no matter how demonstrative you may be with your emotions, you are still keeping it together more than I would be in your shoes.
    dog laying down

    2. Be there, if you can.

    I am lucky to work in a hospital where the vast majority of pet owners stay with their pets for the euthanasia process. However, this is not always the case. I urge you to stay with your pets, if you can, for multiple reasons. First, for my sake. One of the absolute most difficult things I do as a Veterinary Technician is take on the role of comforting and loving a pet as they pass on when their human is not there to do so. It is an incredible weight to try to act on your behalf, and it is emotionally exhausting in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. When you stay with your fur baby, I can focus on my own job, instead of doing both of ours.

    Second, for your pet’s sake. The vet can be a very scary place for animals — they don’t understand what all these noises and smells are, or why these strangers are poking and prodding them. Do you want them to experience that fear alone? And have it be their very last memory? Your pet doesn’t know what we are doing or why — they only know that you are there, that you said it’s ok, that you love them. I remember being a child, and how scary going to the doctor was, but how much more confident I felt with my mom there reassuring me. I imagine that is exactly how pets feel. If you can find the strength to be there, please do so. Please let your love, your touch, your presence be the last thing your pet experiences.
    pit bull face

    3. Keep the collar on.

    One of the saddest things I witness during the euthanasia process is when humans take their pet’s collar off when they are still very much awake. To many pets, taking their collar off can have negative associations. For example, I know my own dog panics when I remove her collar as she knows it’s bath time! I want your pet to be as comfortable as possible, and that means not making any major changes immediately prior to euthanizing. Pets are much smarter than we give them credit for, and they pick up on the smallest of cues. The unknown is scary to your pet, so even if they don’t know what the cues mean, the idea that something is new and strange and out of the ordinary is enough to cause them some sense of anxiety. So, keep the collar on until your pet has passed. Let them go in the state that they always were.

    4. Make it a celebration.

    Bring treats. Tell stories. Laugh and cry at the same time. Surround yourselves with all his/her favorite toys and beds and blankets. It’s ok to cry, and it’s also ok to celebrate! I love when people tell me they took their dog to the beach or napped in the sun with their cat right before coming in to the hospital. This is going to be one of the hardest days of your life, but it doesn’t have to be for your pet. I promise that the more you celebrate your pet’s life, no matter how long or short, the easier it will be to continue to live your own once this is all said and done. It is ok to cry in front of your pet, to tell them how much you will miss them, to let them see you be absolutely beside yourself. I’m sure your pet has seen you at your worst before — I know mine has. But remember to celebrate, no matter how miserable you are. I promise it will make it easier for both you and your pet. What’s more, It will allow you to reflect on the euthanasia experience with positivity — you will remember that you celebrated and you will feel good about having done so.
    dog laying down

    5. Prepare.

    I want this moment to be entirely about you and your pet. In order for that to be the case, several things must happen. First, you must understand the euthanasia process. If possible, talk to your Vet or Tech prior to coming into the hospital, or prior to starting the process – ask them to walk you through the steps of euthanasia so that you know exactly what to expect. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the process (or at least, as comfortable as you can be). Know what you’re walking into, so that your focus can be entirely on your pet. Second, take care of business ahead of time when possible. Sign any required paperwork. Pay the bill. Decide on after care. Even go so far as to prepare you next meal ahead of time, arrange a ride, rent a movie, invite friends over — whatever you think might help you cope when you return home from the hospital without your pet.

    The less you have to deal with during and after euthanasia, the better. I want you to be able to focus entirely on your pet during the euthanasia, and then entirely on yourself afterwards. Let’s do whatever we can to make that possible.

    Every euthanasia is different. Some are planned, some are sudden. Some may happen in your home, some in the hospital. Regardless, they are difficult – to prepare for, to cope with, to experience. I hope these 5 things will help you to plan ahead and to make the process as beautiful as it can be for both you and your pet.

    APBTCourageatitsbest and Cofla like this.
  2. Michele

    Michele Chi Super Dog Staff Member Administrator


    Number 2....please, please try to be there....
    Pamela Bates, Madeleinemom and Vicki like this.
  3. Derek1

    Derek1 Big Dog

    Powerful stuff, brought back memories from a hard day. Thank you for showing me the point of view from the other side of my best freind.
    Pamela Bates and Madeleinemom like this.
  4. Noah George

    Noah George Little Dog

    Reading this (and typing my response, in fact) had me choking and tearing up, but it's well-written and every point is a good one. I'm fortunate in that with my girl I was able to do 4 of these 5 (it was sudden and devastating, and while I knew how it would end I dared not fully admit or acknowledge that until it was confirmed and could not have prepared for what I would do afterward regardless). I could never bear the thought of not being there for a pet during euthanasia, let alone for my girl when we went in on an emergency basis and to a vet office neither of us were familiar with -- in a way, that ended up being a blessing: we had to wait for a while to be let in but that gave use time to just sit, relax (she even napped a tiny bit), listening to Johnny Cash while I reminisced and kept telling her what a great dog she was. I will forever be grateful for that time I had with her that day.
    Pamela Bates and Madeleinemom like this.
  5. Madeleinemom

    Madeleinemom MS Bites, My Dog Didn't Staff Member Super Moderator

    With Madeleine, the end was sudden and very unexpected. We went from healthy (or so it seemed) to very ill the following mornng. After a brief visit with our regular vet, we were at the emergency, full service hospital, based on his recommendation.
    The rest, to the end of my days, will remain a sad cyclone of diagnosis and euthanasia ... a kind vet named Dr. Angel gently reading the x-rays that showed hemangiosarcoma, inoperable. The clinic is high-end, for-profit, yet the vet said that she recommended against surgery. Madeleine's chances of surviving the surgery were at most 20%, long term prognosis poor.

    The vet in the most kind manner said it would be best to let her go ... I just remember holding on to Madeleine and my husband. We both fed her treats ... vet techs brought in even more blankets to make her comfortable. The vet was crying as well.

    And I admit to being a coward here: just before the final injection into her IV, I could not handle it anymore. It was too much, too sudden. My husband knows that I have difficulties with this and understood as I kissed my little girl on the head and bade her good-bye, and thanked her for being the most terrific breed 'converter' you could have asked for. My husband cradled her and snuggled her, as I stumbled out the door of the room and to the lobby. She was protected by the man who had saved her years before, and it was right this way too.

    A part of me of me will never forgive myself, yet, I admit to my own shortcomings ...
    Pamela Bates likes this.
  6. Noah George

    Noah George Little Dog

    I'm sorry to hear you had such an experience as well. My mother is similar in that she has an enormous difficulty being there when we've had to make such a decision about a family pet. At least you were able to say your goodbye to her, and at least your husband was with her the way he was -- there is something to be said of that.

    With my girl it happened on a Sunday, so no one was actually open. I lost her to hemangiosarcoma as well: she was her typical self that morning, ate fine and everything, even chased one of the neighbor cats a little (not maliciously). I noticed her foot hit the step at the door as we went back inside (though she took the few steps onto the porch fine) and was sort of concerned, but she seemed fine otherwise. After that though she was noticeably uncomfortable and, knowing someone else who had recently lost their dog to an abdominal bleed, I started keeping an eye on her gums. We cuddled most of that day rather than go for the hike I had planned (and my girl was typically a limited cuddler). Her gums went pale and I made the call because I couldn't stand to see her uncomfortable and wanted her seen.

    So I took her to the vet knowing what the likely diagnosis was (the vet agreed and an ultrasound confirmed)...I also knew the likely prognosis. We discussed it, and she basically presented three options: she could give her sub-q fluids and we could go home to let her pass there, she could refer me to Cornell where they would be able to offer blood transfusions during the surgery if she needed (she could not provide the blood transfusions, which was the reason she was not comfortable doing the surgery there), or I could decide to euthanize. Surgery would have likely only given us another few months at most, if my 12-year-old girl even made it through (depending on the bleed) -- it would have been $5-6k, which I didn't have, but I would have seriously considered it had the possibility been another year. All things considered, and with her already being alert and responsive, but clearly very uncomfortable and weak, I decided the best option was euthanasia...

    I took her alone, and I'm glad I did, actually, because it let me focus on her and just bawl my eyes out (I think my girl may have even been a little embarrassed). I managed to compose myself enough to address what I needed to afterward, and when I initially got home, but on the drive back and afterward I just bawled even more. Both of my parents cried, or at least teared up, when I got back and told them (and my father, like, never tears up), which actually meant a tremendous amount to me (my mother told me she cried all day the next day in between patients as well -- I barely managed to keep it together at work when I was around co-workers or commercial accounts). A lot of people were confused because of how sudden I lost her and, honestly, it was that suddenness that made it so devastating (as I'm sure you can relate).

    I don't know how many times I told her that day that she was a truly awesome, great dog and I meant it with every fiber of my being -- she was a special dog, and I was enormously lucky to have found her and to have called her mine.

    Haha, this is a huge wall of rambling text but...so be it.
    Pamela Bates and Madeleinemom like this.
  7. Madeleinemom

    Madeleinemom MS Bites, My Dog Didn't Staff Member Super Moderator

    Noah - thank you for your 'ramble', and I am glad that you had each other, and I am glad we had Madeleine ...
    Noah George likes this.
  8. Noah George

    Noah George Little Dog

    Thank you for not minding my ramble, hah, and for the opportunity to do so. It's so easy to ramble about the dogs we love.

    I'm glad as well -- for both of us. I've said before I would have gone through that pain all over again if I had to choose, or if I could have had her for even another year, and I still feel very strongly in that.
    Madeleinemom likes this.
  9. Pitbullmom1

    Pitbullmom1 Big Dog

    So sad, its been almost a year since we had to have Dozer put down and he was my best friend, I have his grave on my property with solar lights on it. His was lung cancer, and I'm still cigarette free since the day of his diagnosis.
    Pamela Bates and Madeleinemom like this.
  10. catchrcall

    catchrcall Good Dog Staff Member Super Moderator

    What a great article.
  11. leavesofjoy

    leavesofjoy Big Dog Premium Member

    Don't be so hard on yourself- you didn't leave her alone, Madeleine was loved until the end and she knew it. She would forgive you, I'm sure.

    Madeleinemom likes this.
  12. leavesofjoy

    leavesofjoy Big Dog Premium Member

    With our previous dog, it wasn't a surprise at all, he was 16 and starting to lose interest in things, I could see he was ready to go. I was on a business trip and had a dream he was gone, and just a few days after I got home, he fell and couldn't get up.

    It was a Friday night, and there is no emergency vet within 200 miles of us, but I talked with our vet over the phone, and she walked me through what to watch for, how to keep him comfortable, and how to know if we did need to make that long drive if things got worse before she got back to town on Monday.

    We all camped out together on the living room floor, and I held him and talked with him, narrated imaginary walks, got him to eat a little turkey, and just held the space for him. He got up and walked around our deck in the sun once, but otherwise slept. He didn't seem to be in pain, but he did get distressed whenever I left the room.

    Monday, our kind and wonderful vet came on her lunch break to help him across. When I saw her pull up, I wanted to run out the back door and away into the woods, but I stayed, and hubby and I held him while she did her work. It was fast and so peaceful, I remember looking into my boy's eyes and thinking he thought he was just falling asleep.

    We didn't own our house, and so wanted to have him cremated, so they took his body for that. I held it together all weekend and for the procedure, but I knew I would totally lose it if I had to watch him get carried out, so I ran to the back porch as soon as it was done. I feel a little weird about that, not sitting with him some, but I just couldn't watch that, I don't know why, but I knew that would be the thing I couldn't handle.

    I don't know if euthanasia house calls are a common practice, but it was worth every extra penny for the process to be peaceful and in a familiar place with our old boy. He was my first dog, and it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I think I kept it from being too hard on him.

  13. Pamela Bates

    Pamela Bates Little Dog

    Gratz on staying cigarette free, it is never easy to quit. The best thing is you are saving your pets now from going through that.
  14. Pamela Bates

    Pamela Bates Little Dog

    Yours is the first I heard of, I would guess it is not commonplace.
  15. Pamela Bates

    Pamela Bates Little Dog

    I had a dog named Mongo that was 2 years old when he started getting very aggressive with me (snapping and growling when I would be near him). I kept trying to find a way to correct the behavior but nothing worked. Since my son was about to come home, I had to do something fast. I called several places and most of them recommended euthanasia. It wasn't until I was told that animal control ordered him to be euthanized or be responsible for any bill's from him biting someone, that I knew there was nothing I could do to help him.
    I was so upset, I had a friend drive us to the vet. When it came time, I couldn't make myself go in there, it was just too much. I left Mongo to face his final moments alone, to this day, I still berate myself for it.
  16. leavesofjoy

    leavesofjoy Big Dog Premium Member

    That was a really special, dedicated and kind vet, she works at a vet school teaching gentle animal handling now, so we don't have her as a vet anymore, unfortunately (although I can't imagine anyone better qualified to teach that)

    We're in a rural area, which might be part of it, lots of big animals that can't be taken in to town for work. I never would have thought to ask for a home visit before Dante, but he was too weak to walk and over 100 lbs., so I didn't know what else to do at the time. I'm glad I asked, it was only $75 extra, and well worth it. Such a small thing, but it somehow made the day a little less awful.

  17. Noah George

    Noah George Little Dog

    I know quitting cigarettes is far from easy: that's perhaps one of the best things, I think, you could do in his memory is to quit and remain committed to that for yourself and future pets. That's speaking as someone with a "to each their own" mentality regarding smoking.

    I had my girl cremated as well -- she loved my folks' property, but she wanted nothing more than to be with me and so I thought it only fitting that I be able to bring her with me no matter where I end up. I still wish she could have passed at home, or at least on grass, and had I the option I would have most definitely inquired about an at-home euthanasia (I'm not sure that them taking her away would have been any harder, easier, or otherwise than leaving without her). I've heard of a few vets in the area, or at least a few vets generally, who offer house call services, including euthanasia. A part of me thinks that my folks' dogs' reactions to someone coming to the house, and having to deal with that (I would have been home alone), may have made things worse but I'm sure my girl would have probably been much more comfortable. It's perhaps the one thing I would have changed (if changing the fact that I lost her were not an option, of course).
  18. Madeleinemom

    Madeleinemom MS Bites, My Dog Didn't Staff Member Super Moderator

    Thank you for your kind words. And, in the end, Madeleine was with my husband - the man who had scooped her up that rainy day in 2001. The man who was furious as to how the puppy was being kept, and who decided to save her on the spot. The man who was so enraged that he icily informed Madeleine's "caregiver" that his choice was turn her over, or meet at the DA's office the next day ...
    So, it was good that way; he protected her, even in the end.
    Noah George likes this.
  19. Mollie's Nana

    Mollie's Nana Krypto Super Dog Staff Member Super Moderator

    Excellent article... about a gut wrenching decision. I made a promise to my first dog, (who I wasn't with when she passed), that if there was any way possible, I would be with every dog from there on out, and I have kept that promise. My heart is broken today, but my voice was the last thing she heard. I hope she knew just how much she is loved, & how my life will never be the same.
    Madeleinemom likes this.
  20. Capt. Roxy

    Capt. Roxy Good Dog Premium Member

    I'm sorry for your loss Mollie's Nana. :( *hugs*

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