Any pet lover knows that the joys and pleasures of living with an animal companion cannot be measured. Unfortunately, we also know that our animals live shorter lives than we do, and that ultimately we will be faced with their loss. Parting with a beloved pet is a very difficult time for the family, so this article is written in hopes that this information will help answer some questions that you might have and in that way, make it slightly easier for you.
People with chronic or painful illnesses only have the option of being kept as comfortable as possible until they pass away naturally. Veterinarians and pet owners have the ability to help our beloved companions avoid the pain and debilitation that frequently occurs before a natural death. There are many phrases that are used such as “put to sleep” or “put down,” but the term “euthanasia” literally means “easy death.” Euthanasia allows us to provide a peaceful, painless, “easy death” and bypass pain and suffering.
The first step of euthanasia is making the decision. There are no rules or formulas to determine when the “right” time is. Your pet’s veterinarian is an excellent partner for helping to assess pain level, prognosis, and quality of life, and for recommending medical interventions and comfort care. While well-meaning friends and family may tell you their opinion based on their own criteria and we can provide help with making the decision, you know your pet better than anyone else and the decision needs to be yours.
If you need to discuss whether the time is drawing near for your pet and he or she has not been recently examined, it is best to make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian here at Animal Hospital of North Asheville so that you and your veterinarian can fully discuss your options. Otherwise, if you have questions about the process, call our office and talk to one of our compassionate Client Care Team members who will answer any questions that you might have or have someone who can return your call. We try to accommodate any scheduling needs that you and your family have when setting up a time for euthanasia. We will always find a time during the day if you suddenly feel that your pet can’t wait, but it is best to call us a few days in advance if at all possible. This phone call is also a good time to discuss final arrangements for your pet’s remains. If you would like to take your pet home for burial, you may wish to bring a casket with you or we can provide a cardboard casket. If you do not plan for a home burial, you can call Forever Faithful to arrange a burial at their cemetery, or we will make arrangements with Forever Faithful Pet Crematory to have your pet cremated. You may choose to have an individual cremation done with the ashes returned to Animal Hospital of North Asheville for you to pick up from us, or for a lower fee, you can have your pet cremated but the ashes, instead of being returned, will be scattered at Forever Faithful Pet Memorial Gardens on St. Dunstan’s Road. We have used the services of Forever Faithful for many years, and know that they are extremely conscientious, caring and trustworthy. You may visit their website at Foreverfaithfulpet.com for more information.
In making the decision as to the timing of an appointment for euthanasia, it is important to choose not only of the best time for your pet but also a time that will allow you to have friend or family member with you for support. Each family is different but many find that allowing children to be present actually helps the children. When you arrive for your appointment, out of respect for your need for privacy at this difficult time, we find it works best for you to call the front desk (828-253-3393) when you arrive in our parking lot. A member of our staff will help you and your pet in through the side door of the hospital and usher you directly into our quiet and private Bereavement Room. The Bereavement Room is furnished more like a home and contains comfortable furniture, subdued lighting, and soft bedding for your pet. Your veterinarian will join you as soon as possible to help you through the euthanasia process. It will be necessary for you to sign a consent form stating that your pet has not bitten anyone in the past 14 days (to comply with North Carolina Rabies law), that you give Animal Hospital of North Asheville permission to humanely euthanize your pet, and what final arrangements you have chosen.
We welcome and encourage you and your family or support friend to stay with your pet during the euthanasia process, but you do not have to stay. Most pets receive a gentle injection under the skin or in the muscle of a strong sedative which allows your pet to slowly relax or fall asleep in your lap or lying by your side while you stroke them. After the sedative takes effect and your pet is sleeping, your veterinarian will give an IV injection of euthanasia solution, which is a very high dose of barbiturate anesthetic. This injection works extremely quickly to painlessly and peacefully stop the heart. You will be able to stay by your pet’s side throughout the whole process. If you wish to sit with your pet after the IV injection, you are welcome to have quiet time alone for as long as you need. When you are ready to leave, we will help you leave through the more private side door.
It is important for you to realize that the grief of losing a pet can be overwhelming and debilitating. There are a number of grief counselors in Asheville who are available to help with the grief that comes with losing a beloved pet, and it is a good idea to explore the options for grief counseling before you need them. Please know that all of us at Animal Hospital of North Asheville have experienced this grief and we understand how hard the process of euthanasia is for the family.
The two most important days in your life with your pet are the day you say hello for the first time, and the day you say goodbye for the last time. We at Animal Hospital of North Asheville will do everything we can to make the final goodbye as peaceful and easy as possible for you and your pet.