Nobody understands better than we do. Losing a family pet can be a devastating experience for any household. At the Interstate Animal Clinic, we understand that pets have a very special place within the family unit and that there are many difficult decisions that must be made while having to make the most difficult decision regarding your pet.
When is it time?
Veterinarians are often asked by clients “when is it time to put my pet to sleep?” More often than not, when the time comes, you won’t need anyone to tell you. You know your pet better than anyone else. As a committed pet owner, you will often be the first to appreciate when the point is reached that a good quality of life cannot be maintained for your pet. Here are some guidelines to consider:
- When your pet’s good days are being well outnumbered by the bad days
- When your pet can no longer enjoy the active lifestyle to which you both are accustomed
- When modern medicine can no longer provide an acceptable quality of life
Do I have to be present?
Many clients prefer to remember their pet as they were when they were healthy or find the pain of being present too great. If you choose not to be present, one of our caring staff members will stand in for you and hold your pet during the entire process.
What if I choose to be present?
If you choose to be present your pet will be taken to the treatment area to have an intravenous (IV) catheter placed in their leg. This allows the doctor to have access to the vein while you are holding the pet. It helps minimize the risk of having a vein collapse due to low blood pressure or thrombosis (clot) making the injection difficult to give. It also allows the doctor to utilize a series of products along with a saline “flush” to ensure the drugs reach the system smoothly in ill and injured animals whose blood pressure and circulatory system may not be working well. While the catheter is being placed, one of our staff members will complete any necessary paperwork related to your visit, (this will omit the need for you to return to the check out counter afterwards). The staff will return your pet into the room with you once the IV catheter is in place. When you are ready, the doctor will come in and administer an anesthetic series. Depending on your pet’s individual condition, this may include anywhere from one to five agents designed to help minimize any stress or discomfort and help to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Here are some things you should anticipate but may not likely expect:
- The process is very quick. Most people don’t expect their pet to go to sleep as quickly as they do. Once the process starts, the pet is usually gone within a few short minutes.
- Your pet will not likely close their eyes. Even if you close the eyes for them (like people do on TV), they usually will not stay closed
- Once all the body has relaxed, your pet may lose all bodily functions. They may urinate, defecate (especially is diarrhea is present), vomit or have fluid (sometimes bloody) come out of their nose from the lungs
- Sometimes there may be muscle movement even after your pet is gone. This may include muscle tremors or twitches but could include movement of a limb. The most dramatic (and fortunately the least common) of these events is when the diaphragm spasms or contracts which may cause sounds of gasps, hiccups or groans. While distressing, the muscle movements are normal
What about afterwards?
We will be glad to assist you after your pet is gone, with whatever you decide regarding their remains.
Burial – Should you decide to take your pet home for personal burial, we will take them to the treatment area and remove any catheters, bandaging, etc. and place them in a non-porous cadaver unit. We will then enclose them in an appropriately sized box to facilitate transport, and will help you to load them into your vehicle if necessary
General Cremation – Our office offers a general cremation service for those people for whom burial is not an option or who do not desire to have their pet’s remains returned
Private Cremation – We also offer private cremation
service through Pet Cremations in Heber Springs for those people who would like to arrange a private cremation and have the individual cremains returned to them
Postmortem Exam – Some people prefer to arrange to have a postmortem or autopsy exam performed. We can assist you in arranging that service with the State Lab in Little Rock. Afterwards, they will provide a general cremation for you, or you may arrange to have a private cremation done with Pet Cremations. However, if you have an autopsy performed, you will not be able to pick up the body afterwards for personal burial
Undecided? Because many of our patients are involved in unexpected trauma events, we often deal with families who have not had time to discuss or plan how they want their pet cared for after they are gone. We can hold your pet in cold storage for up to 3 days while your family determines and makes arrangement for how to best handle the remains of your lost pet. While there is no charge for this service, we do require a deposit in the amount of a general cremation which will be refunded if you decide to pick up your pet within three days
Knowing what to expect during the grief process doesn’t make the experience any less real or mournful. Recognizing the different stages of grief will not prevent you from experiencing them. However, sometimes recognizing stages of grief in other family members may help you cope better with things they are experiencing
Denial – often starts when you first learn of your pet’s illness. Being willing to accept that your pet is suffering and that your options to end that suffering are limited can be hard to do. This is especially difficult with sudden events that don’t allow time to adjust to rapid developments
Anger, Guilt, Blame – are often dispensed in many directions. “That person who hit my dog should have stopped to try to help.” “The doctors should have done more to save my pet.” “If only my spouse hadn’t let our cat sneak out the door.” While this is a normal part of the grief process, it is important to remember that accidents happen and illness, age and death are all unavoidable and natural facts of life
Depression – is an inevitable part of the grief process and can be almost crippling, especially when the lost pet was part of a person’s coping system for many of life’s other struggles
Acceptance – doesn’t mean forgotten or replaced. Eventually, resolve and resolution slowly overcome as the pain of the grief is gradually taken over by fond memories of good times together
While these different emotions are common, not everyone experiences them in the same way or in the same time frame. Support groups can sometimes be helpful in working through the grief process.