Let’s face it, no one wants to make the decision to euthanize their pet, however, if you can make a plan for it ahead of time, the overall experience will be a more positive one for both you and your pet.
As responsible pet parents we make sure our animals have all of their vaccines, receive regular exercise and even make sure that their dietary needs are cared for. We do this so they can enjoy a long and healthy life as a part of our family. Financially, this easily adds up to hundreds of dollars a year, and over time several thousands of dollars. If this is what we do to keep pets healthy, what do we do to ensure a plan is in place for when they reach the end of their life?
While it may be something you may not want to think about, if you address this issue when your pet is young and healthy, you will have made your decisions with a clear mindset and not under duress. In the human world, when it comes to our end of life wishes this is done on a regular basis – in fact, legally we will select an individual to act on our behalf if we are unable to speak for yourself via a medical and financial power of attorney. Pets are considered to be property, therefore the only voice they have is their pet parent’s when it comes to their end of life care and decision making. Over the past few years, more people have reached out and asked how to develop a pet end of life care plan.
Below is a 12-point pet end of life care plan of things to take into consideration:
- Ask your veterinarian what their criteria is for euthanasia? Many vets have their own internal compass and set of standards before euthanizing.
- Ask your veterinarian what their process is for euthanasia? Many vets will heavily sedate your pet prior to euthanizing them, therefore ensuring the pet quietly slips away and no pain is involved.
- Ask your veterinarian if they will come to your home to euthanize. Many vets will not. (This may even be the first question you ask when interviewing vets for as a care provider for your pet.) When the vet comes to your home, there is less stress for the pet and everyone else involved.
- If you like your veterinarian and they will not come to your home, will they refer you to one that will? If so, you will want to call that vet and ask the same questions.
- You may want to seek out a veterinarian whose area of expertise in in home palliative care and pet hospice. This is a new and upcoming specialty.
- Decide who will be present during the euthanasia process.
- Decide what you would like to do with your pet’s remains, bury or cremate.
- If you elect to bury – make arrangements to purchase a pet casket or some form of a container ahead of time. Make sure it is the right size for your pet and that it is seals. You will also want to check to see if there are rules in your community about urban or rural pet burials. Note – in some communities there are pet cemeteries.
- If you elect to cremate your pet, arrangements will need to be made with the crematory. Please do your due diligence to ensure that the crematory fully discloses what type of a cremation your pet will receive and what will be returned to you. Example: Your pet will be privately cremated, you will receive a fur clipping and a paw print. Your pet will be returned in an urn.
- The day before the euthanasia, consider letting your pet do and or eat all their favorite things. Let friends and family members come say a final farewell.
- Please DO NOT take off your pet’s collar prior to euthanasia. This will only stress your pet out more. By taking their collar off, it will send a message of abandonment. Please take it off afterwards.
- If there are other pets in the home, if you do not want them present during the procedure, please let them smell and explore the pet after euthanasia has taken place. They need to know what has happened otherwise they will be looking for their friend. If the procedure did not take place in the home, either bring your pet home first before their final care or take a blanket and rub it all over the pet and then place it at home for the other pets to smell. They will recognize the scent and know what has taken place.
In closing, you may want to consider making a memory table or area to honor your pet. It can be something as simple as placing their photo in a frame and putting their collar next to or on the corner of the frame. If you have children, you may want to ask for their involvement by having them place a favorite toy, bone or even draw a picture and set it next to the photo. Last but certainly not least, allow yourself to feel. Whatever those feelings are, they are real – let them out. It’s not about what other people think – this pet provided numerous tail wags and unconditional love. To you, it was a family member, for others it may simply be just a pet.