Making the decision to euthanize your pet is not an easy one, and at 911 VETS® PriVET, we understand that this can be an extremely emotional time for you and your family. It’s never easy knowing when is the right time and whether or not the procedure is necessary, so we’ve compiled a few commonly asked questions about our home-euthanasia services.

How do I know my pet is in pain?

How can we recognize pain and suffering in our non-human companions? It is the instinct of the animal to NOT vocalize its pain — this is a survival instinct. When debilitated, the animal must lie quiet or even hide from would-be predators who would have them for dinner. Therefore, we must look at the type of human conditions that cause pain and make inferences with regards to our pet. Animals will refuse food when in pain or nauseated. Sometimes this is the only symptom we notice. Even pets with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) or pancreatic cancer, which are extremely painful in humans, may not exhibit any outward signs of pain other than loss of appetite. Non-use of a limb would indicate pain in that limb. Inflamed reddened areas are are also usually painful to your pet. Some of the other signs you might observe include failure to groom, restlessness, or abnormal elimination habits. Very few animals vocalize their pain. However, if they do, it is certainly indicative that there is a bigger problem.

No creature should be forced to endure pain. There are pain medications available that can be prescribed by your veterinarian. If you have decided not to further investigate the cause of your pet’s malady and no longer wish to treat, your pet should be afforded to ability to relieve pain.

When is the right time for euthanasia?

When your friend has reached an irreversible, debilitated state AND you have decided not to continue treatment. If your pet is too impaired to safely move about, is covered in waste, attracting insects, or emitting a foul odor, this is an inhumane condition, and it’s best to help bring your pet peace.

There comes a time when suffering of the animal is all too apparent. There may be shallow, rapid breathing, pale gums, dangerous stumbling, flailing, or seizures. The natural process of death may continue, and the pet may linger for a long while. How do we avoid this dire situation? In a situation such as this, an “emergency euthanasia” is required.

The decision to end the life of a dear pet is never a simple one. We, as human beings, have an awareness of the condition of pain and suffering. We can recognize and verbalize our own condition and attain help in the alleviation of pain, if not suffering as well.

So, when is the right time? Dr. Weinberg suggests you use the following rule of thumb: If you have decided not to pursue further treatment, look back at the last seven days. Were there four good days of quality existence that you and your friend have enjoyed in that amount of time? If not, the quality of your pet’s life has deteriorated and the time is here to end suffering and prevent the inevitable decline. Chances are if you make the call or are reading this now, the time is here. We have never made an appointment more than 48 hours in advance. This is because most clients have recognized suffering and the decay of quality life. The pet rarely lives beyond the next 48 hours in our experience once the owner has recognized these signs. There are exceptions, true, but not many. The last 48 hours, or longer, of suffering is avoidable, and the animal must be provided with effective pain relief as prescribed by the veterinarian.

Sometimes there are few outward signs of suffering other than the cessation of eating. Remember, the pet is a part of a pack — the family. The pet wants to be a part of that family and will attempt to show no weakness that may cause the pet be shunned or left behind. The pet remains silent and does not vocalize the pain. The pet wants to maintain her/his position in the hierarchy and survive. The survival instinct is strong, and the pet may crawl into a closet or hide in the bushes to survive as part of the pack or to prevent an attack by a predator due to their vulnerable state.

Certain conditions, however, will cause the pet to continue eating even though a severe medical condition exists. We must remember that diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hyperthyroidism, severe malabsorption due to severe intestinal disease, and the use of steroids (prednisone) will all cause the pet to eat, sometimes voraciously. One should realize that continuation of a pet’s appetite in these conditions is abnormal and should not be used to gauge the quality of life.

Why euthanasia at home?

The most comfortable, least stressful place to end the suffering of our dear pet companions is at home — a non-threatening, familiar environment with the rest of the pack (family). A home is a place where a private ceremony may be conducted; where family members both human and animal can participate.

One of our veterinarians at 911 VETS PriVET will briefly examine the pet and administer a heavy sedative. This will smooth the transition and make the pet unaware of the second injection, which will ease the pet to final peace. Quiet last moments with family members and allowing the surviving pets a moment of closure is invaluable.

What options do I have after my pet dies?

Burial of an animal on private or public land depends on the laws of the local, state, and federal government that holds jurisdiction over the land. In general, it is not legal to bury your pet in your backyard or on public land. If buried improperly, a future, unwanted unearthing of your dear friend may occur either by man or animal. There are generally three main options for the aftercare of your pet: communal, private cremation, or private burial in a cemetery. 911 VETS PriVET can handle your preference at the time of euthanasia, or if your pet dies at home.

Communal or standard aftercare refers to the grouping of animals together for cremation. The ashes are scattered by the crematory.

Private Cremation is where your pet is individually reduced to natural elements of ash and returned to your home in decorative urn that we provide. Please ask our dispatcher for a selection or urns.

Private Burial is where your pet makes a final resting place in a licensed Pet Cemetery.

If you are interested in determining the cause of death, we can offer a post-mortem examination or necropsy if requested. Laboratory samples may be submitted as needed to aid in the diagnosis. Remember, 911 VETS PriVET will never sell or donate deceased pets for use in scientific experiments or for use in commerce.

How do I cope with the loss of my friend?

It is never an easy process losing a member of the family. Our pet companions have given us unconditional love and a life filled with joy. There are no universal answers for everyone. That being said, most people deal with the loss through:

Grief – Even those who share their lives with many animals may experience intense grief when they lose their companion. You may chastise yourself for grieving just another animal, but you will need to realize that your pet was not just another animal. Pets are part of our family, and you build a special bond with them, and that bond cannot be replaced by another.
Reaction – With intense emotion, you may be tempted to not react to the loss, but it’s best to give yourself permission to react in any way that you see fit. Grief can occur either before, during, or after the loss of your furry friend, and it’s normal to feel profound sadness.
Recovery – It’s never easy to lose someone you love, and no two losses are ever the same. With that in mind, with each loss, you may feel like you will never recover, especially if the loss of your pet is the first one you’ve ever experienced. It’s important to remember that grief doesn’t magically go away after a certain number of days, but with each day that passes, the sadness you feel will get easier to bear.

You are not alone. Please feel free to discuss your feelings with friends and family. If you have any questions about the euthanasia process, or an opinion regarding the timing of such, our team at 911 VETS PriVET offers a free phone consultation for this issue.

Here are some other resources to help you deal with the loss of your pet:

Can I put my pet to sleep myself?

This is definitely not recommended. Before the advent of humane euthanasia for animals, the method of choice would involve the use of a firearm. You must be a trained animal control officer to accomplish this without inhumanity to your beloved pet. Sometimes animal control must use this method in the field with a wild animal. Your pet deserves better. Attempt to transport your pet to a local veterinary facility, have 911 VETS PriVET or another pet transport service transport for you, or contact our mobile veterinarian to provide your pet with the most humane, least stressful way of easing your pet out of misery.

Doctor, how do you cope with performing euthanasia all the time?

It is the veterinarian’s ethical duty to see that no creature suffers in pain when the condition is untreatable, or when treatment options are of little benefit to the animal. It is a positive, caring act to release an animal from the pain and fright of the disease process, including the inevitable panic, loss of oxygen, and/or excruciating pain. It is inhumane to extend life without relief of pain, hunger, reduced, or substandard life quality. To intercept this process and prevent another moment of discomfort is the kindest, proactive gift for a beloved pet.

If your pet’s quality of life has diminished and the time has come to say goodbye, 911 VETS PriVET is here to help make this process as easy, humane, and stress-free as possible for you, your family, and your beloved pet. We proudly offer our services to residents throughout Los Angeles, so please give us a call to schedule an appointment.