Back in 2017, I wrote this article on why I support pet owners who drop their pets off for euthanasia. I had been seeing the viral posts about how pets search for their owners if they are left behind and how we as a profession hate the practice. I wanted to support pet parents who were hurting after seeing posts like this. I received some flak but also a ton of thanks from grieving owners who had been shamed for how they handled the loss of their pet.
Enter COVID-19 and suddenly dropping off for euthanasia is mandatory in so many vet clinics. I 100% support teams who have made this difficult choice. No one likes this necessity, but we can’t help any pets if we are shut down for weeks at a time while COVID has its way with our staff and our families. Worst of all, we risk some of those staff and family members having long term damage or dying from the disease. Euthanasia is an appointment that is filled with tears, nose-blowing, crying, coughing, sobbing, and close contact – all the things that COVID loves best. Doing those things with a mask on can be difficult, and many owners will refuse to mask or follow instructions once their foot is in the door.
Those of us who run home euthanasia practices are suddenly swamped with phone calls and requests for appointments as panicked pet parents find out that they can’t be with their pet at the vet’s office. It’s heartbreaking having to turn people away because we’ve reached our capacity. Since March, we’ve been trying to help as many people as possible say goodbye while still staying safe. It’s been a roller coaster ride, to say the least.
Here’s the best advice I can give pet parents during this time:
- Ask your veterinarian and your local emergency room if they allow family members to be with pets for euthanasia. Remember that as COVID cases change in your area, so may the boundaries that your local clinics (or government) have set.
- Plan ahead. If you are waiting until the last minute to say goodbye, you are likely going to end up having to drop your pet off at the vet’s office or emergency room. If that is a line in the sand for you, get in touch with the house call services in your area as early as possible. If you are ok with saying goodbye as a drop off appointment, make sure you have the means to transport your pet – this is especially important for large pets who may require several people to move.
- Understand that if you want to say goodbye at home, you may have to do it sooner than you would like. Making an appointment in advance for this may feel very upsetting and uncomfortable. You have to decide whether dropping off or planning ahead is going to be worse for you. It’s a very personal decision with no right or wrong answers
- Make sure that you are treating your pet for pain and discomfort if they have a known condition. If you are determined to say goodbye at home even if your pet has to wait a few days, make sure they are not suffering or distressed.
- If you have to say goodbye at a clinic that does not allow clients inside, ask if your pet can be prescribed sedatives ahead of time or sedated in the car with you (or in a safe outdoor area) to allow them to fall asleep with you.
- If your pet passes at home, be sure you have contact information for local crematories or that you’ve arranged with your vet’s office for aftercare if you are not planning for home burial.
If all plans go out the window due to an emergency, PLEASE know that your pet would forgive you for not saying goodbye as planned. If they are in severe distress, I promise that the discomfort of being apart from you won’t last long. They will just want whatever hurts to stop as soon as possible. They will have kind words and gentle hands helping them to the other side, even if those words and hands aren’t yours. We are all doing the best we can right now in a world that’s been turned upside down. Give yourself some grace and remember that every decision that you make is being made out of love for your pet.
If you are interested in learning about home euthanasia or have questions, we would love to talk with you on a virtual quality of life consult.