We understand how difficult it can be to reach an end-of-life decision for your pet. Our aim is to support you and provide individualized care to make this experience dignified and meaningful.
Our team seeks to understand your wishes for your pet’s end-of-life service and aftercare. We strive to honor those requests and preferences and therefore have a series of detailed questions for you. Your answers will guide our actions in preparation for the euthanasia, during the service itself and in the aftercare arrangements for your pet. This can be a very emotional time and we understand that decision-making can be burdensome and sometimes even overwhelming. We will partner with you to review all your options and be faithful to your requests every step of the way.
By the time the House Call team arrives at your home, you will very likely already have spoken with the technician and/or doctor who will be present during your pet’s end-of-life service. Speaking with clients before arriving at their home allows us to fully prepare for any special needs you or your pet may have.
When we arrive, we will first greet your family and your pet and allow time for your pet to become comfortable around us. It is a time to discuss your pet’s quality of life and the factors that led to end-of-life care being needed – or alternatively, a time to reflect on fond memories and stories of your pet. During this time of conversation, the team will outline the steps of the end-of-life service, gather information from you about your preferences and complete some brief paperwork. We are pleased to answer any questions you may have – about the steps we do, the reactions of your pet’s body or advice about grief management. We are equipped to help with every aspect of this difficult time.
We will ask if you would like to be present with your pet during their passing or whether you prefer to say your final good-bye in advance. Some people feel strongly about which of these options is best for them and some are uncertain. Let us assure you: you likely know best what you personally need for emotional closure and we are prepared to honor your wishes.
Also during this time, we will review your options for aftercare of your pet. You may select simple cremation, private cremation or home burial. If you select either form of cremation, we will be planning to transport your pet back to our hospital at the conclusion of the end-of-life service at your home. With simple cremation, the cremains are interred at Hamilton Pet Meadow in Mercer County. With private cremation, your pet’s individual cremains are yours to keep. They will either be returned to our hospital for you to retrieve or mailed to your home address, whichever you prefer. If you elect home burial, we can assist you with bringing your pet to the burial site on your property.
Special memorial items can help keep fond memories of your pet vivid in your mind. We offer ink paw prints or nose prints. We can also clip a lock of fur. Clay paw prints are also available for a small fee. These memorials are created when your pet has been brought back to the hospital during the preparation for cremation. If instead you are planning for home burial but also wish to have these memorial items created, please advise our team in advance so we can bring the necessary supplies.
As you reach final decisions on these matters, our team will assist you in completing the necessary paperwork indicating your preferences and requests. Your signature on this paperwork provides legal consent for us to proceed with the process of euthanasia.
Because we have a responsibility toward pets and people, there is a statement on the consent paperwork indicating that your pet has not bitten anyone in the last ten days. This question is sometimes upsetting for families. The concern is that if anyone has been bitten, there are mandatory testing procedures necessary to verify a pet is free of Rabies virus (a fatal disease which can be spread from pets to people). Once we have the paperwork completed and understand your wishes fully, our team will advise you of your invoice total and accept payment. We offer to do this at this stage so that the remainder of the visit can rightly focus only on your pet.
With all the decisions made and our team informed and prepared to meet your needs, we move into the medical steps of the end-of-life service. Euthanasia is the process of delivering an overdose of anesthesia such that the pet achieves profound relaxation, so deep that the heart comes to rest. While that can be achieved with just one medication, we prefer a more sophisticated approach that more gradually brings the pet through the stages of sedation, anesthesia and then rest.
When you are ready for us to begin, your pet will be given an intramuscular injection of a sedative that contains pain relief medication, anti-anxiety medication and a muscle relaxer. They feel the small needle prick, very much like receiving a vaccination. Over the course of two to three minutes, they will settle in to a resting body position, take calm deep breaths and be feeling very tranquil. During this stage, they can still see and hear you and are able to enjoy being petted and to enjoy licking/eating treats.
Once your pet is relaxed, the doctor and technician will work together to achieve IV (intravascular) access for the delivery of the remaining medications. Because of the sedation, your pet will be feeling calm and relaxed while their hair coat is clipped, the skin is cleansed and a small catheter is placed. The doctor will advise you when the IV access has been achieved and will wait for your verbal consent to move forward. Once you are ready, the doctor will administer an anesthetic to further calm the mind and body, followed by the final medication which will relax the heart to rest. Within about one moment, the pet will be at peace. The doctor will check your pet with a stethoscope and confirm the pet has passed.
Our team will then provide you with private time alone with your pet, if you would like. For some families this is a brief time for a last good-bye, for others more time is shared. When you are ready, the team will transport your pet to our vehicle to return to the hospital (for cremation) or they can assist with transporting your pet to the burial site you’ve prepared at home.
If you have selected private cremation, your pet’s cremains will be returned to our hospital or mailed to your home approximately one week after the end-of-life service. We will call you when the cremains are available to be retrieved from our hospital. If you requested any memorial items (such as paw prints), those will also be either at the hospital or mailed, depending on your selection.
Grief is an expected part of the healing process when you’ve suffered a loss. We have certified Grief Counselors available for individual or group meetings, as well as recommendations for books and other resources to assist you at this time. We hope you will reach out for support. We are all pet-lovers here at Red Bank Veterinary Hospitals and know how difficult this time of decision-making can be. We are here to support you.
You may discuss your individual needs or schedule a home euthanasia with our team members in the House Call Department by calling (732) 747-3636.