The appointment

You will have an appointment time at your home that will be prescheduled by a Gentle Goodbyes veterinary assistant. We understand that trying to schedule a specific day and time for a euthanasia is one of the most difficult decisions that you will ever have to make in your life. Feeling comfortable that your choice is the correct one can also be extremely difficult. Even veterinary professionals have a difficult time deciding when to euthanize their own pets.

Again, please remember that early intervention in making your pet comfortable for the last time is always preferred to watching them struggle to live. To help you in making a more informed decision about your pet's health and happiness status please visit our page titled Quality of Life and browse our Quality of Life Worksheet.

It is not uncommon for animals with long term disease processes to de-compensate rapidly towards the end of their lives. If this happens it can make having an in-home euthanasia for your pet more difficult to achieve if he or she is in an emergency situation. A euthanasia should be considered an emergency if your pet is having trouble breathing, is in an unbearable amount of pain, has not eaten for more than three days, is persistently seizuring, or is suddenly weak or collapsed. Please refer to the Quality of Life page for more information.

Our arrival

We will arrive at a prescheduled time. We appreciate having the opportunity to meet your pet at his or her own home. We understand that we are meeting your pet at a time when he or she is only a fraction of who they used to be. Even at this point in time, we can get an idea of who your pet had been before he or she became ill.

If you have not already done so, we will create a comfortable bed for your pet and get any supplies ready. We will then ask you to sign a consent form which gives us permission to proceed forward with the euthanasia. The consent form also asks you to verify that your pet has not bitten anyone in the past 10 days which is a state law requirement.

Most people find that settling any paperwork/financial transactions at the beginning of the visit makes it easier for them to focus on their pet during the euthanasia and will give them the opportunity to grieve privately and peacefully afterwards.

The euthanasia

Before the euthanasia is performed we will sedate your pet. Sedation is the process of giving a drug which will make your pet extremely sleepy or which will place him or her into a state of anesthesia. In this condition your pet will either be groggy and dull to stimulus or they will not be aware of what is happening around them. This sedated period will allow you to have a transition period with your pet where you can sit with him or her in a state where they are calm and sleeping deeply.

We accomplish sedation in one of two ways. In a very awake, excited or mobile animals we may give an intramuscular injection at the time of our arrival to quiet them down. Drugs given intramuscularly take about 5 to 10 minutes to take effect. For animals who are immobile or extremely sick or with a calm demeanor, we may place an IV catheter before the sedative. An IV catheter gives us a more permanent access to a vein so we can give medications without having to use a needle again. Placing a catheter does not hurt any more than giving a vaccination would.

Giving a drug into a vein (or intravenously) means that the drug will take effect in only a few seconds. On occasion, particularly if your pet is extremely weak or is already having difficulty breathing, we may suggest the sedative injection be avoided for the sake of your pet's comfort towards the end as sedation may worsen these conditions.

It is very important that you understand that when it is time to give the euthanasia solution, the only way to administer the euthanasia drugs is intravenously. Giving a medication intravenously means that we need to place a set volume of the drug into a vein. Getting access to a vein in a sick or debilitated animal to give a drug intravenously is a difficult and delicate medical skill. Even in the best of circumstances when your pet is healthy and it's veins are strong, getting access to a vein is not always easy.

To make the process of accessing a vein as smooth as possible and for the highest chances of success, we will need your assistance in keeping your pet as quiet and still as possible. Having good lighting in the area and a spacious working environment is also extremely helpful in allowing us to have the best chances of success.

Because the euthanasia solution is given intravenously its effects happen very quickly. You will first notice your pet's breathing cease. In a few minutes, the heart will follow. Sometimes there will be post-life breathing motions or muscle twitching. These are normal reflex motions that occur after your pet is deceased. We will confirm your pet's death with a stethoscope.

The majority of the time death will occur gently and peacefully with the injectable sedatives and euthanasia medications that we use. These drugs have been developed just for this purpose. On rare occasions there can be some adverse reactions. Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions page for more specific information about the euthanasia process.

After the euthanasia

If we are not taking your pets remains we will leave you and your family with your pet to celebrate his or her life and to mourn his or her passing. We recognize how huge this day is to your family and the impact that your pet's death will have on your lives. We want you to be able to grieve comfortably and privately.

If we are taking your pet for cremation purposes we will step outside to give you time to grieve alone as a family. When we return we will respectfully carry your pet outside to our vehicle. We suggest you say goodbye to your pet in your home, so your last memories are not of us transporting him or her away. We will arrange to have your pet brought to the crematorium. If you requested to have your pet's ashes returned, the crematorium will typically contact you within 10-14 business days. We promise to treat your pet's remains carefully and with dignity and respect. We feel honored to have been a part of your pet's life and to have been able to have met your pet at his or her own home. We know that your pet is grateful as well.

Please refer to the FAQ page for more information about the cremation process.