In order to have a peaceful goodbye, some planning ahead is beneficial.
While we are thankful for our veterinarians in emergency medicine, most families want to avoid an emergency with end-of-life care.
Think about who will want to be present - will they need time off from work?
Will you need a babysitter?
Who will want to come and say goodbye beforehand?
Will you have cremation or a service/burial at home?
When possible, it is best to schedule at least 2 days in advance
If this is not possible, will you be able to be flexible with timing or will you be willing/able to go to the emergency clinic/regular veterinarian?
What To Expect
Each appointment will begin with a discussion of exactly what will be taking place, followed by time to answer any possible questions you may have about the process.
A sedative will be administered either orally or by injection so that your pet will relax and have no anxiety during euthanasia. The oral medications may cause some drooling occasionally, but may be more acceptable than an injection in some cases. Most of my patients do not react to the injection because I use a very small needle and inject slowly so that it is minimally painful. During this time you are able to offer love and support for your loved one. However, remember that we want to provide a peaceful experience, so it is best to remain calm and quiet during this transition so that your pet is not frightened or upset.
After the sedative has taken effect, the euthanasia drug is given. Individual family members can stay for a little or as much of the procedure as they like.
Should my Child Be There?
Helping children through the death of a pet can be difficult and rewarding. Many parents struggle with how to talk about death with their kids. However, NOT talking about death can actually make everything more difficult for both children and adults.
Children of ALL ages need honest, easy to understand information about death. Use concrete words to tell what happens to the body during death. Do NOT use words like "put down" or "putting pet to sleep". These only leave children confused about what it means to sleep or rest. Younger children need to understand that bodies stop working when they die (bodies no longer hear, see, taste or feel). Older children may be more interested in what caused the body to stop, and may need help understanding why the condition could not be cured. Avoid using words that confuse children, and instead explain euthanasia as a way a veterinarian can assist pets so that they can die peacefully and without pain.
Offer to answer any question your child may have. Be open to the questions about silly things as well as more difficult topics.
Offer the child a CHOICE. If your family is preparing for euthanasia, explain what death may look like and ask how your child wants the goodbye to look and feel. Children should also be given a choice about seeing the body after their pet has passed. And many times a burial or memorial service can help.
Never judge anyone in how they grieve. It is okay to cry, be nervous, have trouble sleeping and have difficulty in work or school. Feelings are normal. Allow children that may have trouble using their words to draw pictures or create scrapbooks of memories.
Children can tell stories about their pets to help them remember the happy times. These memories can help provide comfort.
Sometimes we need a break from sadness, so it is okay to plan something fun in the coming days. Make sure your child knows that being able to laugh doesn't mean they didn't love their pet, and laughter is a way to heal.
Stick with routines to help your child adjust as much as possible.
Ultimately it is up to the children and the family what is best. However, I have always found that learning about death is something many of us hide from due to fear, and this life lesson can come to be very valuable in the future. We don't give children enough credit for being able to handle difficult situations.