Preparing for euthanasia: considerations

As loving caregivers for our pet, the process of deciding on euthanasia can be very painful for us. As well as considering our pet’s needs (see our page on Deciding on Euthanasia), there are other considerations and decisions to be taken around this time. If you have enough time to prepare for your pet’s death, you may want to consider making an end-of-life plan.

Being informed and prepared for the events around your pet’s euthanasia is not morbid. It will help to relieve some of your distress at the time and allow you to look back with no regrets or wishes that you’d done something differently. 

Considerations around euthanasia include:

Place: euthanasia at home or the veterinary practice

Most euthanasia procedures are carried out at the vet clinic, but many vet practices do offer the service at home. There are also specialist practices (although few in number at this time) that offer this as a service along with animal hospice and palliative care. Whether to have your pet euthanized at home or in the clinic is a personal choice, but there are some things you should consider:

You may not be able to choose the time of your home visit, and often have to fit in around your practice’s schedule. Home visits can however be arranged in advance and you can choose to have your favorite clinician come out which is usually more comforting for you and your pet. But bear in mind that if your pet deteriorates quickly and you need to arrange an urgent visit, you may not have your choice of clinician.

Cost may play a part. Home visits, while allowing your pet to stay in its familiar environment, and offering privacy and the comfort that comes from being in a favorite armchair or bed, are usually more expensive. 

Both euthanasia at home and in the veterinary practice allow for all options of after-life care. If you wish to bring your pet home and bury him or her at home, your vet will assist you in carrying your pet’s body to your car, or help you arrange transport. If you wish to have your pet cremated after home euthanasia, your vet can take your pet’s body with them and make arrangements for you.

Should I stay with my pet?

Again this is a very personal decision. Many pet owners will want to be there with their pet. If you feel able to, it will give comfort to your pet that you are there and you can be the last person that they see as they pass. In the long term, it will give you comfort that your pet’s passing was peaceful and the vet treated them with kindness and compassion. If you do not feel that you can stay, that’s OK too. There is no judgment on this: many owners do not want to witness their pet passing and want to remember only good times. If you do not want to stay, be assured that there will be a veterinary nurse or technician with the vet who will gently hold your pet as they pass away.

Should my child(ren) be present?

This will depend very much on the age and maturity of your child or children. Younger children may not fully understand what is going on, and can be confused by the process. For most, the passing of a pet might be the first death that they have experienced. Remember that to them, their pet can represent a sibling or dear family member. They may not understand the nature of euthanasia in relieving pain and suffering. Some children however will want to be there, and this is OK. Take the time to talk them through what is going to happen in advance. If you are not sure what's best, discuss this with your veterinarian before the time comes to say goodbye.There are ways that you can help children in coming to terms with the loss of their pet. Read more on this and how to talk about pet loss and euthanasia with them in our Children and Pet Loss section. 

Aftercare

The aftercare of your pet’s body will be influenced by several factors and personal considerations. You may have religious beliefs that you want to acknowledge or previous experiences with aftercare that you found preferable or undesirable. Cost may also play a role in your decision-making. While we would all love to have the funds to mark the passing of our beloved pet and take care of its body in a way that means the most to us, affordability often does play a part.

The two main options are burial or cremation. You can read more about these options on our Aftercare page. Note that you will not always need to make a decision right away after your pet is euthanized. Your veterinary practice is often happy to hold onto your pet’s body for a few days, placing it in cold storage (this is usually a freezing facility) until you decide. 

Pre-Euthanasia Appointments 

Some veterinary practices will allow you or encourage you to come in on a date before your pet’s euthanasia to talk through the procedure and other considerations. If you are able to do this, and want to do this, it's a good option.You’ll be able to go through everything when you are calm and ask any questions you need to. It gives you the chance to find out about all the options open to you. You can also prepare for what will happen during your pet’s euthanasia and make decisions around whether you want to be there, where and how it should take place, and other considerations. You can sign consent forms in advance and make arrangements and pay for aftercare (such as cremation) so you don’t have to go through potential upset doing these at the time. 

Other considerations

Think about what you will want to do and what support you will need after your pet’s euthanasia. Will you want to stay with your pet’s body for a while? Or will you want to go straight away? 

Would you prefer to pay for the costs of the euthanasia and any cremation fees before your pet is euthanized so that you can leave straight away and not have to deal with 'business matters'? 

What is your veterinary practice’s policy for payment? Read our section on Costs and Payment.

Will you have support around you immediately afterwards? Do you need to invite a friend around for some support and to make you a cuppa? Do you have someone to drive you home if you feel you will need that help?