St. Vital Veterinary Hospital’s health care team considers your pet’s quality of life our main priority. This priority extends from the very first visit throughout your pet’s life. As your pet ages, many changes in nutrition, environment and health care are necessary to keep your pet as healthy as possible. We work together with you through every phase to ensure your pet has the maximum length of life possible without compromising your pet’s quality of life.
When your pet encounters serious health problems, we will assist you to assess your pet’s quality of life. It is always difficult to accept that age or illness has compromised a pet’s quality of life to such an extent that a choice must be made to let them go. Even more difficult is making the actual decision for the correct time for end of life (euthanasia).
Quality of life is assessed by a number of factors. It is important to assess daily your pet’s ability to eat and drink, the degree of pain and whether it can be managed well, interest in interacting with family members, the degree of mobility as well as the ability to keep themselves clean. It is important that your beloved pet has more good days than bad. We have prepared a handout which can assist you with these assessments of your pet’s quality of life. In addition to keeping your pet comfortable, we also will consult with you as often as you need and support you and your family as you make your decisions.
We want you to understand how the end of life (euthanasia) procedure is performed. While we encourage everyone to be present for their pet’s end of life, it is an individual choice. Knowing what will happen may help you make your decision.
End of Life – Euthanasia
We believe in quality of death just as much as quality of life. Initially, your pet is made as comfortable as possible.
Initially, your pet is made as comfortable as possible. You may take as much time as you would like before the procedure begins to say your goodbyes to your beloved companion. Your pet may have a sedative administered at first if they are at all anxious or painful. One of our veterinary technologists will shave a small area of one of your pet’s legs and insert an indwelling catheter to allow painless and rapid injection of the euthanasia solution. This solution is a barbiturate used at a high dose, which provides the same effects as a general anesthetic (loss of consciousness, loss of pain sensation) but also suppresses the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. As the veterinarian injects the solution your pet will lose consciousness and within minutes (sometimes seconds), the heart and lungs will stop functioning. Because your pet has lost consciousness, they will not feel any pain. After the injection is finished, the veterinarian will listen to the chest to make sure there is no heartbeat and to confirm your pet’s passing. The eyes remain open in most cases. Occasionally, the last few breaths are due to involuntary muscle contractions. Your pet is not aware at this point. Once the pet has passed, all muscles completely relax and there may be some voiding of urine or stool. Also, some twitching may occur immediately after your pet has passed due to chemicals being released from nerve endings.
If you choose to stay with your pet, you will likely be surprised how quickly and gently your pet passes away. You are encouraged to stay with your pet as long as you want afterwards in order to say your final good-byes.
At St. Vital Veterinary Hospital, your pet’s aftercare is very important to us. We use a trusted company called Precious Pet Cremation. Cremation can be done individually (where your pet’s remains are returned) or communally (where your pet’s remains are not returned).
Special keepsakes can be made in memory of your pet. A special keepsake capturing your pet’s paw print, known as a memorial clay paw, can be made and a hair clipping can be done as well.