FAQs

If you have any other specific questions please don’t hesitate to ask. But don’t worry, Dr. Maggie will be with you every step of the way to guide you in the process.

Why In-Home Euthanasia?

Your pet may have severe arthritis, cancer, kidney failure, or any number of debilitating diseases that is causing a loss of his quality of life. He has been part of your life and has been a faithful companion. Now, you see it in his eyes; he is letting you know it is time.

You want your pet to feel your reassuring touch in his last moments.  You want him to drift off to sleep, and then pass in his bed surrounded by love, home, and comfort.  You don’t want his last moments spent frightened and bumping around in a car; ending up at the scary veterinarian’s office confused and wanting nothing more than to go home with you.  Dr. Maggie understands this; she has experienced this personally, and has dedicated her practice to providing a compassionate, professional passing for your beloved pet in a loving environment with respect and dignity.

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How will I Know when the Time has Come?

Your regular veterinarian will help you by explaining what can be done medically and surgically to help your pet, what the limits of that help are, and help clarify when those limits have been reached. However, you, as the pet owner and knowing your pet best, will be the one to notice if his quality of life is diminishing, and when you must be an advocate for your pet to ensure he is not suffering. (see When is it Time?)

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Should Children be Present?

This decision is a very personal one and one that only you are in the best position to make. Dr. Maggie will work with you. If the decision is made to have a child present, it might be best to have someone available who can be with your child if he or she feels the need to leave mid-procedure.  Please remember the focus is on providing your pet a peaceful passing, and loud crying will, naturally, cause stress and anxiety for your pet, especially if they interpret the crying as someone harming your child.

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Should Other Pets be Present?

The general belief is that your other pets should be given the opportunity to say goodbye to their friend and housemate. This does tend to bring closure for them. When pets go to the vet for euthanasia and do not come home, it can be very traumatizing to the remaining pets at home as there are no odors or clues as to what happened to their friend, and they are not able to process that their friend is deceased. This is especially important for dogs, since they are naturally pack animals, but it is also true for a lot of cats.

Do not necessarily expect a lengthy process.  In most cases, all it takes is a glance, a brief sniff and they walk away.  They “know”.  And this is enough for them to be able to move on.  It is entirely possible that the pet will continue to grieve and may still look for their deceased friend, but it will not be nearly as traumatic as if the pet was to experience a disappearance.

Dr. Maggie feels that other household pets should be given the opportunity to say their goodbyes after the procedure is over. However the decision is yours to make.

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Is Hospice Care the right option for my Pet?

Hospice care, also called palliative care, is an option if your pet is suffering from a terminal illness and a cure is not possible. The focus is to make a pet’s final days or weeks more pleasant with the proper use of pain medications, dietary strategies and human interaction. The goal of pet hospice is not to cure your pet’s illness but rather to extend his life at home in your care without undue suffering. It is very difficult to face losing a pet, but your choices must not be clouded by fear of the grief we will experience or the difficulty of making the decision.

Hospice care requires an active commitment from you, working with your veterinarian, to ensure your pet’s quality of life continues until his death. If you are considering hospice care, these are things to consider:

  • Do I have a veterinarian with expertise in providing hospice using advanced techniques in pain management, alternative treatments, oxygen and hydration?
  • Do I have a veterinarian available to provide emergency euthanasia if my pet’s suffering becomes excessive?
  • Do I have adequate resources to provide constant care for my pet, even when I am out of the house?
  • Will I have the time to provide hospice home care for my pet without seriously disrupting my regular family and/or work obligations?

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The Look of Death

It is important to understand what the body does when death occurs, so that you will be prepared to witness the passing of your pet without unpleasant surprises. Death occurring naturally, unaided by euthanasia, is usually more dramatic and violent, often accompanied by deep, agonal breathing that may last for several seconds and even minutes.  Twitches are often present and if your pet is experiencing pain, he may vocalize.  With humane euthanasia much of these movements and reflexes are diminished if not completely absent; the process being more like falling asleep for surgery and just not waking back up.

In the process of a quiet, peaceful home euthanasia, it is unlikely that you will witness anything very upsetting or unsettling.  In about 95% of the cases, you will not see anything other than the cessation of breathing and motion.  Body reactions can occur however, and in the event that you see something, it is important to understand that these reactions do not equate suffering, but are part of the natural event of dying.

The most surprising reaction is “agonal breathing”.  This looks like sudden or convulsive “breaths”.  Agonal breathing occurs as the body is dying; your pet has no consciousness of this and certainly does not feel like “he can’t breathe”.  Usually these spasms are silent, but occasionally, breathing noises can accompany them.  It is important to understand that agonal breathing does not mean that your pet is suffering or that any pain is experienced.  Remember, if and when they do occur, your pet is already unconscious and most likely the heart has already stopped.

Other reactions that can be seen are little twitches of the muscles or skin.  These can sometimes last for several minutes after your pet has passed away.  They are normal nerve reactions and most often seen around the lower part of the shoulder or around the muzzle, but they can be seen anywhere on the body. Very rarely, the entire body can stretch during the death process or immediately after.  Please be assured this is not a sign of your pet feeling any pain.

The normal relaxed position of the eyes after a pet has passed away is for the eyelids to remain open. Pet owners often ask to close their pet’s eyes.  Unfortunately despite efforts, they will remain open.  In addition to the eyes remaining open; the cornea (the clear part of the eyes) will take on a glassy or blurry appearance within a few minutes.

Bodily fluids and gas will “leak” out.  Even if your pet has recently urinated, it is likely that there will be a little bit of urine leakage.  It is not as common for stool to be passed, but it can happen, especially if your pet has recently been struggling with diarrhea.  If your pet has been very ill with severe diarrhea or bloody stools, it can be quite messy after his passing.  Again, it is best to be prepared with towels so that they can be slid underneath him after the first injection. Rarely, blood tinged fluid will escape the nasal and oral cavities after death.

After the passing of your pet, when his body is moved or lifted, sometimes, the air empties out of the lungs and as this happens, you may hear something that sounds like a breath or a grunt.  This does not mean that your pet is still alive or is still breathing.  It is just leftover air leaving the lungs.

With all the above said, a home euthanasia is usually very peaceful. However being aware of what can occur will find you prepared for all eventualities and will minimize the upset and trauma you will inevitably feel at the loss of your beloved pet.  The most important thing to remember is that your pet’s spirit left peacefully and the body reactions are just body reactions and do not indicate suffering.  The euthanasia process for your pet will be like falling asleep for surgery and not waking up.

If you know that you are likely to be upset in the unlikely event that any of these reactions occur, you may want to consider not being present for the final injection and say your final goodbyes beforehand.

If you have any concerns regarding any aspect of the body’s reaction to death, please do not hesitate to discuss them with Dr. Maggie. She is experienced in these matters and is here 100% to assist you.

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When is Rabies Testing Required?

The state of Texas requires all animals to be tested for rabies if:  1) they have bitten or deeply scratched a person or another animal within the previous ten (10) days, or;  2) they have been exposed to a known carrier of rabies within the last ten (10) days.

If either of these scenarios have occurred; you should declare it on the Euthanasia Consent Form that Dr. Maggie will have you complete prior to euthanasia. Please note that if you do answer Yes to either of these scenarios the following must occur:

  • You must arrange for transport of your pet to a veterinary clinic of your choice, or your local Animal Shelter, for rabies post-mortem testing once the euthanasia has been performed. Dr. Maggie strongly recommends that these arrangements are made prior to scheduling her house call.
  • Dr. Maggie will perform the euthanasia, providing your honored pet the gift of a respectful and dignified passing.

 

Unfortunately, due to the method of rabies testing, your animal will not be returned to you from the clinic or animal shelter once testing is complete.  If you wish to keep their collar, make a paw print, or take a hair keepsake, please do so prior to transportation of your pet.

For additional questions regarding Rabies Law in the state of Texas and required testing, please call your local animal shelter and ask to speak to an Animal Control Officer.

 

 

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