Hospice and Euthanasia

Compassionate, tender, and dignified.

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Hospice and Euthanasia

Compassionate, tender, and dignified.

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A Message From Janet

I have been trying to write this article for a long time but as you can imagine it is a difficult topic. It is difficult for you to think about and difficult for me to write about. Almost every pet owner will at some point be faced with decisions regarding end-of life. As difficult as it is, it definitely is important to consider. Now that I certified in animal hospice and palliative care I have become even more involved in this aspect of the profession. I have always been touched deeply by the end of life of our pets and have been fortunate to help so many transition and spend their final days with as much dignity and comfort as possible.

We have come a long way in veterinary medicine. We are able to treat pet patients in a similar manner to human patients providing the latest in medical advancements and technologies. The big difference is the ability to decide when enough is enough; to decide when it is time to let go. We can decide if humane euthanasia is the best thing for our pets. There is no exact formula to make this decision. Over the years I have been honoured to assist many pets in their final days and each time has been a unique experience. We each need to consider what is the best thing for us and our furry friends. As a veterinarian I can not make these decisions for you but I can assist you in the decision making process. A good resource to follow is the “Quality of Life Scale”. This scale assess pain, hunger, hygiene, hydration, happiness and mobility and compares the good and bad days.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or is suffering from chronic pain or disease there are many options you can pursue. It is best to discuss these with your veterinarian. Most of our pets are part of our families and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect throughout their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. There are specialist veterinarians to whom you can be referred for most issues or you can work with your own veterinarian to find the best treatment plan that fits your budget and your lifestyle.

We have come a long way in veterinary medicine. We are able to treat pet patients in a similar manner to human patients providing the latest in medical advancements and technologies. The big difference is the ability to decide when enough is enough; to decide when it is time to let go. We can decide if humane euthanasia is the best thing for our pets. There is no exact formula to make this decision. Over the years I have been honoured to assist many pets in their final days and each time has been a unique experience. We each need to consider what is the best thing for us and our furry friends. As a veterinarian I can not make these decisions for you but I can assist you in the decision making process. A good resource to follow is the “Quality of Life Scale”. This scale assess pain, hunger, hygiene, hydration, happiness and mobility and compares the good and bad days.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or is suffering from chronic pain or disease there are many options you can pursue. It is best to discuss these with your veterinarian. Most of our pets are part of our families and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect throughout their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. There are specialist veterinarians to whom you can be referred for most issues or you can work with your own veterinarian to find the best treatment plan that fits your budget and your lifestyle.

Hospice is an option that more and more people are considering. End of Life Care does not necessarily need to mean aggressive treatment or immediate euthanasia. There can be a more gentle, supportive way as well. Treating pets in hospice for many years without officially calling it that. Hospice includes support and compassionate care for pets and their families near the end of life. It may include palliative care, such as pain or anti-anxiety medication, fluid and nutritional support, hygienic and mobility support, quality of life discussions as well as mental health support. Although the decision making process can seem overwhelming we can help by providing insight and tools to help assess your pet’s quality of life. To get a better understanding of how
we can help read “Buddy’s” story here.

Most veterinarians are equipped to aid in hospice but a house call veterinarian is especially prepared to help in this instance. The house call veterinarian is able to observe your pet in their own environment and therefore able to get a more accurate assessment of their condition. The house call veterinarian can also help with issues that may be specific to your home. They can observe, feeding and stairs and make recommendations which make the most sense for your pet and your home. You can eliminate the stress of travel and the clinic with a house call veterinarian and your house call vet can work with your regular vet to ensure that your pet is cared for in the best possible manner.

When end of life is imminent and hospice is no longer an option you still have choices. Some people still choose to take their pets to a clinic as this feels right to them but for others they want something different. Maybe something more intimate, more private or maybe a house full of friends and relatives. Some people chose to have their pet pass alone with just themselves in their living rooms, or outside under a favourite tree, by a rambling stream, or maybe their favourite spot in the barn. Maybe they want to light candles and play music, or maybe they just want to hear the tick of the clock in the hallway, or the breeze blowing through the trees. Whatever you decide, the choice is yours and we will work with you to help ease the transition as best as we can. When a pet is euthanized at home it is also helpful for other pets to see that he has passed. It is felt that this helps the surviving pets through the grieving process as well.

At Caledon-Vaughan Veterinary House Call Services we work with Gateway Pet Memorial to assist in aftercare and Peartree Impressions to help memorialize your pet. You can visit these sites if you are interested in different options to preserve your pets memory.

Please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.
Janet Henderson, DVM

When end of life is imminent and hospice is no longer an option you still have choices. Some people still choose to take their pets to a clinic as this feels right to them but for others they want something different. Maybe something more intimate, more private or maybe a house full of friends and relatives. Some people chose to have their pet pass alone with just themselves in their living rooms, or outside under a favourite tree, by a rambling stream, or maybe their favourite spot in the barn. Maybe they want to light candles and play music, or maybe they just want to hear the tick of the clock in the hallway, or the breeze blowing through the trees. Whatever you decide, the choice is yours and we will work with you to help ease the transition as best as we can. When a pet is euthanized at home it is also helpful for other pets to see that he has passed. It is felt that this helps the surviving pets through the grieving process as well.

At Caledon-Vaughan Veterinary House Call Services we work with petsabove to assist in aftercare and Peartree Impressions to help memorialize your pet. You can visit these sites if you are interested in different options to preserve your pets memory.

Please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.
Janet Henderson, DVM

How To Prepare

We understand that this can be a very emotional and stressful time for most families so we are here to offer our support. When you and your pet are ready we will set up a time to come to your home.

What can I do to prepare for the Appointment?
We can work with you to prepare a plan that best suits your needs. We encourage you to think about the following prior to the appointment.

  • Where will the euthanasia take place?
  • Who will be there?
  • When is the best time?
  • Do you want anything special such as candles, music, readings, etc.?

We also encourage you to spend some happy time with your pet before we arrive. Special treats are usually a hit as well as extra special snuggles and love.

Who will come to my home?
Dr. Henderson and her assistant will arrive together at your home. Except in the case of an emergency, we will greet everyone and take some time to talk before we start anything else. If we have not already met we may ask some questions to get to know you and your pet and to ensure that you are comfortable with your decisions. This is also a good time to turn your cell phone off to avoid interruptions.

Where will it take place?
We are in your home and we respect that. We are happy for you to create the space that works best for you and your family and we will work to accommodate your wishes. Some pets pass peacefully in their family’s arms, on their bed or outside. We will help to make this time comfortable and peaceful for your pet.

Who can be there?
We encourage you to consider who else you would like to be present. Maybe you would like to be alone, maybe you just want you and your partner or immediate family, or perhaps your pet has a whole group of people whom you would like to be present. This decision is totally up to you. It can be very intimate, a full blown wake or anywhere in between.

Should my other pets be there?
We feel that it is important for other pets to know about the passing. They may be present the whole time or just show up at the end. It is important to understand that other pets often seem to grieve the loss as well so monitor your other pets closely and call you veterinarian if you are at all worried about them.

Should I involve my children?
You know your children best and what they can and can not handle. Pet loss can often be the first significant loss in a child’s life and so can set the stage for other losses in the future.

Recommendations are based on individual children, their ages and their personalities. We can offer you resources for your children through this difficult time. It is important to be honest and allow them to grieve and memorialize in a healthy way.

Can I plan Something Special?
Of course you can. We encourage you to do what feels right for you. Special music, poems, readings, candles, and other things can make this time special and less frightening. Please let us know if there is anything that you need for us to help with this event.

What will you do?
Once everyone is ready, we will give your pet an injection which will cause deep sedation/anesthesia. This doesn’t take effect immediately so there is still time for love and snuggles and even a few more treats. Your pet will slowly fall asleep over the next 5-15minutes. It is not unusual for there to be some snoring involved as everything relaxes.

The next steps are individualized for your particular pet and circumstances. We will do what makes the most sense in each case. Perhaps we will give further anesthetic, if necessary, or we may place an intravenous catheter into a hind leg. Whatever we feel is best we will communicate it with you and if at any time you are uncomfortable we encourage you to let us know.

In each case we will give a final injection which ultimately results in death. By this point your pet is sound asleep and not aware of anything. We believe that like birth, death is a necessary part of life and we are here to allow for the smoothest transition possible. You may spend as much time with your pet afterwards as you need.

Will it hurt?
We do everything possible to minimize any and all discomfort. The only thing that your pet will feel is the initial poke of the sedation needle but we will distract them with love and treats and they will likely not notice this anything at all. Once the sedation has taken affect, they will no longer feel anything.

How long will it take?
The euthanasia itself is very quick, often less than a minute but we recommend that you set aside 1-2 hours for your appointment and additional time for grieving. We will take our time with everything and give you time to adjust to each step. We encourage you to speak up if anything feels to fast or too slow.

How do I memorialize my pet?
Memorialization is an important part of grieving for many people. Memorialization is something that can be started before the euthanasia appointment even takes place. Some people will have photo-shoots or portraits with their senior dog. Donations can be made in your pets name or perhaps a farewell party with your pet’s best friends. We have a long list of ideas if you are ever at a loss. Just contact us and we can help.

We can leave you with a fur clipping and we offer clay paw prints in Peartree Impressions Clay. They create beautiful lasting impressions if sent in to their facility. You are welcome to do whatever you like with the impression.

What happens afterwards? Do you take care of aftercare?

In most instances we assist you with aftercare. This is dependent on your wishes. Options include:

  • Private cremation with cremains returned to you in an urn of your choice
  • Communal cremation where the crematory will respectfully care for your pets remains.
  • Home Burial where permitted by town by-laws – Please check with your individual town for specific by-laws and instructions.

If you choose we can prepare your pet for cremation and take them with us or you are welcome to take your pet directly to the crematorium yourself. If we are taking them you are welcome to assist us in transporting to our car or we can do it for you. It is entirely up to you.

Which Crematorium do you work with?
We deal with Pets Above Crematorium. We have toured their facilities, have had multiple discussions with the owners ad we are very confident in their care of your pets.

In most instances cremains are returned in 1-2 weeks.

You can wait for us to return the cremains or they can be picked up at North Hill Animal Hospital during their regular business hours.

It is very normal for the loss of a pet be overwhelming. In some instances the loss can hit harder, even than the loss of a family member. We understand that and we offer support in the form of checking-in and resources for grief support should you need it.

We have personally attended the live Ontario Pet Loss Support Group – Ontario Pet Loss and found it helpful.

A popular on-line support group is: Animal Pet Loss and Bereavement.

We can also refer you to appropriate local grief counselors for one on one support. In the future please keep an eye open for our own grief support group.

How To Prepare

We understand that this can be a very emotional and stressful time for most families so we are here to offer our support. When you and your pet are ready we will set up a time to come to your home.

What can I do to prepare for the Appointment?
We can work with you to prepare a plan that best suits your needs. We encourage you to think about the following prior to the appointment.

  • Where will the euthanasia take place?
  • Who will be there?
  • When is the best time?
  • Do you want anything special such as candles, music, readings, etc.?

We also encourage you to spend some happy time with your pet before we arrive. Special treats are usually a hit as well as extra special snuggles and love.

Who will come to my home?
Dr. Henderson and her assistant will arrive together at your home. Except in the case of an emergency, we will greet everyone and take some time to talk before we start anything else. If we have not already met we may ask some questions to get to know you and your pet and to ensure that you are comfortable with your decisions. This is also a good time to turn your cell phone off to avoid interruptions.

Where will it take place?
We are in your home and we respect that. We are happy for you to create the space that works best for you and your family and we will work to accommodate your wishes. Some pets pass peacefully in their family’s arms, on their bed or outside. We will help to make this time comfortable and peaceful for your pet.

Who can be there?
We encourage you to consider who else you would like to be present. Maybe you would like to be alone, maybe you just want you and your partner or immediate family, or perhaps your pet has a whole group of people whom you would like to be present. This decision is totally up to you. It can be very intimate, a full blown wake or anywhere in between.

Should my other pets be there?
We feel that it is important for other pets to know about the passing. They may be present the whole time or just show up at the end. It is important to understand that other pets often seem to grieve the loss as well so monitor your other pets closely and call you veterinarian if you are at all worried about them.

Should I involve my children?
You know your children best and what they can and can not handle. Pet loss can often be the first significant loss in a child’s life and so can set the stage for other losses in the future.

Recommendations are based on individual children, their ages and their personalities. We can offer you resources for your children through this difficult time. It is important to be honest and allow them to grieve and memorialize in a healthy way.

Can I plan Something Special?
Of course you can. We encourage you to do what feels right for you. Special music, poems, readings, candles, and other things can make this time special and less frightening. Please let us know if there is anything that you need for us to help with this event.

What will you do?
Once everyone is ready, we will give your pet an injection which will cause deep sedation/anesthesia. This doesn’t take effect immediately so there is still time for love and snuggles and even a few more treats. Your pet will slowly fall asleep over the next 5-15minutes. It is not unusual for there to be some snoring involved as everything relaxes.

The next steps are individualized for your particular pet and circumstances. We will do what makes the most sense in each case. Perhaps we will give further anesthetic, if necessary, or we may place an intravenous catheter into a hind leg. Whatever we feel is best we will communicate it with you and if at any time you are uncomfortable we encourage you to let us know.

In each case we will give a final injection which ultimately results in death. By this point your pet is sound asleep and not aware of anything. We believe that like birth, death is a necessary part of life and we are here to allow for the smoothest transition possible. You may spend as much time with your pet afterwards as you need.

Will it hurt?
We do everything possible to minimize any and all discomfort. The only thing that your pet will feel is the initial poke of the sedation needle but we will distract them with love and treats and they will likely not notice this anything at all. Once the sedation has taken affect, they will no longer feel anything.

How long will it take?
The euthanasia itself is very quick, often less than a minute but we recommend that you set aside 1-2 hours for your appointment and additional time for grieving. We will take our time with everything and give you time to adjust to each step. We encourage you to speak up if anything feels to fast or too slow.

How do I memorialize my pet?
Memorialization is an important part of grieving for many people. Memorialization is something that can be started before the euthanasia appointment even takes place. Some people will have photo-shoots or portraits with their senior dog. Donations can be made in your pets name or perhaps a farewell party with your pet’s best friends. We have a long list of ideas if you are ever at a loss. Just contact us and we can help.

We can leave you with a fur clipping and we offer clay paw prints in Peartree Impressions Clay. They create beautiful lasting impressions if sent in to their facility. You are welcome to do whatever you like with the impression.

What happens afterwards? Do you take care of aftercare?

In most instances we assist you with aftercare. This is dependent on your wishes. Options include:

  • Private cremation with cremains returned to you in an urn of your choice
  • Communal cremation where the crematory will respectfully care for your pets remains.
  • Home Burial where permitted by town by-laws – Please check with your individual town for specific by-laws and instructions.

If you choose we can prepare your pet for cremation and take them with us or you are welcome to take your pet directly to the crematorium yourself. If we are taking them you are welcome to assist us in transporting to our car or we can do it for you. It is entirely up to you.

Which Crematorium do you work with?
We deal with Pets Above Crematorium. We have toured their facilities, have had multiple discussions with the owners ad we are very confident in their care of your pets.

In most instances cremains are returned in 1-2 weeks.

You can wait for us to return the cremains or they can be picked up at North Hill Animal Hospital during their regular business hours.

It is very normal for the loss of a pet be overwhelming. In some instances the loss can hit harder, even than the loss of a family member. We understand that and we offer support in the form of checking-in and resources for grief support should you need it.

We have personally attended the live Ontario Pet Loss Support Group – Ontario Pet Loss and found it helpful.

A popular on-line support group is: Animal Pet Loss and Bereavement.

We can also refer you to appropriate local grief counselors for one on one support. In the future please keep an eye open for our own grief support group.