Death is part of life, but euthanasia is one of the few times in our lives when we bear the responsibility of deciding when and how it happens.
You love your pet. There's nothing like the loyalty and devoted companionship of an animal. In return, you've committed to provide them a good life - which includes a dignified death.
Deciding our pet's death forces us to think about our own. We don't like to think or talk about dying because it's scary.
It frightens us, in part, because we have no control over how we die. One of the great gifts of euthanasia is the opportunity to take control of that process.
We all want a good death. At the end, we want to be free of pain and anxiety, surrounded by familiar sights, scents, and sounds. We want to hear our loved ones say goodbye and feel their touch one last time. We provide what's best for our faithful companions when we address the process thoughtfully and honestly.
As impossible as it may feel, euthanasia can be the last in a long line of kind and loving decisions you've already made for your pet.
how Euthanasia works
Prior to euthanasia
This is a deeply personal experience that everyone comes to differently. In order to guide you through your best possible experience, it’s important that everyone participating in a euthanasia be on the same page. We will always start by clearly outlining the whole process, then fully answering your questions before beginning the process, and then announcing each step as we come to it.
You’re in the driver’s seat, we adjust the pace and details to you and your pet.
The euthanasia procedure involves two injections
The first injection is a sedative medication given under the skin or in the muscle using a very small needle to minimize discomfort. Most pets drift into complete sedation, with little or no awareness of their surroundings, within two to fifteen minutes.
The second injection is an overdose of anesthesia medication given in the vein. This medication causes a complete loss of consciousness, then stops breathing, then stops the heart. Often, this whole process happens before the injection is even finished. It's peaceful enough that many people don’t actually notice the moment of death itself.
Just like anesthesia for surgery, this method assures that there is no pain or stress at any time.
Things to consider when deciding whether to witness euthanasia
Depending on health and other factors, individual pets can respond unexpectedly to any medication. Some pets require more involved handling to administer sedatives, or may require more sedative than expected. Low blood pressure can make injections into the vein difficult, requiring more than one attempt or even an alternate administration method.
During death, there can occasionally be involuntary muscle contractions, big breaths, or even vocalizations. These are rare, and because the medication induces complete anesthesia first, the pet experiences no pain or stress despite the outward signs. Muscles relax fully after death, leaving the eyes open and sometimes allowing urine or stool to void.
Keeping Harper's Promise means, we take every precaution to make sure pets die peacefully, without pain, and with dignity.
how to decide it's time
Compassionate Death Timeframe
Many owners struggle to determine when the right time is to euthanize their beloved companion. While there may not be an exact moment, there is a Compassionate Death Timeframe where choosing euthanasia is appropriate. Depending on a pet’s unique health status, their timeframe may be as brief as a few hours, but the death of a pet is often a process that occurs over a prolonged period of time. Remember: there are actually many "right" times for euthanasia.
Using a Quality-of-Life Checklist
A Quality-of-Life Checklist can be a useful tool to determine when your pet has entered their Compassionate Death Timeframe. It can also help you avoid delaying the decision so long that your pet's timeframe passes, causing them to experience unnecessary suffering. This checklist should include five or more things your pet does that show you they’re experiencing a good quality of life, including:
Basic life functions
Excitement over a particular toy
Excitement for a particular activity
Interest in a favorite treat
Seeking or expressing affection
Laying in a favorite spot
Normal interest in food
Ability to eat
Maintaining body weight
Toileting normally, in the right place
Moving freely and comfortably
When your pet no longer participates in the items included on the checklist, your pet (and your pet’s body) are announcing to you that their suffering outweighs their enjoyment of living. They have entered their Compassionate Death Timeframe.
While it is common for pets to have good days and bad days within an overall decline, euthanasia becomes an appropriate choice when the bad days start to outnumber the good ones. The goal for choosing euthanasia is to avoid reaching the end of the Timeframe, which is when your pet starts to experience an inhumane degree of suffering.
Remember: it is okay to euthanize your pet on what you would consider a "good day."
Many people hope that their pet will die peacefully at home without the need for euthanasia. It is important to remember that your pet’s body will naturally do everything it can to try to survive. As your pet undergoes the process of natural death, their blood pressure will drop, their heart rate will slow, and they may have difficulty breathing. Just like humans, animals can experience stress or pain as their basic life functions fail. Pets may suffer for extended periods before natural death finally occurs.