End-of-Life Care

End-of-Life Care at Red Bank Veterinary Hospitals

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 staff 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. Your answers will guide our actions in preparation for the euthanasia, during the service itself and for the aftercare arrangements for your pet. This is 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.

In-Hospital Process

The first step is entry to our Comfort Room (when not already in use). This is a space set aside from the bustle of the hospital for your specific needs at this time. Seating and lighting are designed to be more like a home instead of a hospital examination room. Our staff will work with you in this private space until you are ready to leave the hospital.

We will ask if you would like to be present with your pet during its 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.

For the second step, we will review your options for aftercare of your pet. You may select simple cremation, private cremation or home burial. 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 back to your vehicle for you to transport home.

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.

As you reach final decisions on these matters, the third step is the completion of 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 staff 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 on the pet. Additionally, with this method, when you are ready to depart the hospital, you will be able to do so without needing to stop at the desk. Taking care of payment in advance of the procedure allows you to move from the privacy of the Comfort Room directly to the privacy of your vehicle during this emotional time.

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 which impacts the brain and body 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 use two separate anesthetic agents to make the pet’s passing as peaceful as possible.

Your pet will be brought to our treatment area to have an intravenous catheter placed which will be used to administer the anesthetic medications. Our technicians will bring your pet back to the Comfort Room to join you.

Your doctor will come to the Comfort Room to check on you and your pet at this stage. Once you are ready, your doctor will administer the preliminary and final anesthesia medications through the catheter. Over the course of approximately one minute the heart will slow to rest. Your doctor will check your pet with a stethoscope and confirm the pet has passed.

You may then elect to spend more private time with your pet or you may be ready to depart from the Comfort Room. When you decide to go, please update one of our staff members so that your pet’s aftercare can be promptly and respectfully begun.

After Your Visit

If you have selected private cremation, your pet’s cremains will be returned within 4-6 weeks. Pet cremains processes per location:

  • Hillsborough: Your pet's cremains will be mailed directly to you at your home address.
  • Mount Laurel: We will call you when your cremains are available to be retrieved from our hospital
  • Tinton Falls: Your pet's cremains will be mailed directly to you at your home address.

If you requested any memorial items (such as paw or nose prints), those will also be either at the hospital or mailed, depending on your selection.

Pet Loss Support

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 care, as well as recommendations for books and other resources to assist you and your family at this time. We hope you will reach out for support.

We are all pet-lovers here at Red Bank Veterinary Hospitals and share our sympathy on the passing of your pet.