On Euthanasia: Scheduling the Appointment

Last week we discussed making the decision to euthanize a dog. This is a highly personal choice, and once it’s made you will have many other decisions to make. My hope is that by writing about this painful process I can help others navigate through it more easily. Today, let’s discuss scheduling your dog’s euthanasia appointment.

Photo by Kelvin Andow

Photo by Kelvin Andow

Once I made the decision to euthanize Dobby, I called the veterinary clinic to schedule an appointment. I already knew that I wanted the veterinarian to perform a house call because Dobby was scared of the vet clinic. I wanted his final moments to be spent where he was most comfortable. I also knew that I wanted the appointment to happen over a week from the time I called instead of right away, because I wanted to spend that time saying goodbye to him.

You may not be able to control when you say goodbye, but if your dog’s pain can be managed through medication or environmental management, or if you simply need a little more time to grieve, you do not have to schedule the appointment right away. It’s okay to give yourself and your dog a little more time.

I will honestly say that I found the time between when I made the appointment and when Dobby was euthanized much more emotionally draining than the time after he was gone. Little things – watching him eat, hearing him prance around, seeing him playing or sleeping, feeling his soft fur snuggled against my skin – were absolutely devastating. I spent a lot of his last week fighting tears. That said, I’d do it all over again if I had the chance. He got to eat his favorite foods, play with his only dog friend (other than his housemates) Maisy, swim, and run off-leash. I took him on long walks under the stars late at night when we wouldn’t encounter anyone and he got to sniff as long as he wanted and choose which paths we took in the park. I let him sleep under the covers in my arms.

Even if you don’t have the luxury of time, you can make your dog’s final moments as happy as possible. Whether it’s going for a last, short walk, snuggling together, giving your dog a new or favorite toy, or feeding your dog his favorite foods and treats, spend your remaining time together pleasantly.

A friend of mine gave me great advice during this time. She acknowledged that the time between scheduling an appointment and the appointment itself could be the most difficult, and gave me permission to move Dobby’s appointment up if I needed to, either for myself or for Dobby. While I ended up keeping his appointment at the original time, knowing that it would be okay for me to change it was incredibly helpful.

Many people aren’t aware that you can also choose where you want to say goodbye. Most veterinarians will perform house calls, and if your dog doesn’t like the vet’s office, your vet can come to your home instead. If your vet doesn’t offer this service, they can likely recommend a veterinarian who does. One of my previous dogs, Paddy, didn’t mind the vet clinic but absolutely loved to be outside, so his euthanasia was performed on the lawn outside the vet clinic, with the sun on his fur and the soft grass under his paws. My veterinarian came to my parent’s house, where Dobby was always happy and relaxed, and his final moments were spent in their spacious, peaceful backyard.

Next week we’ll discuss the euthanasia appointment itself. In the meantime, if you’ve made this decision, where did you schedule your dog’s euthanasia? Did you give yourself time, or did it need to be done urgently? How did you fill your dog’s final moments? Please share in the comments below.

8 responses to “On Euthanasia: Scheduling the Appointment

  1. Great post and a much needed one I think.
    Lots of people don’t realize that we can do house call euthanasias and this is in some cases much less stressful for the pet and owner. I have even performed euthanasias in the car park in the back of the owners car or truck. A little awkward for us but most of us are happy to do it if it makes the experience slightly more comfortable for the pet and owner. I also make it a point to talk the owner through the process just before so that they know what to expect and you can ask the vet to do this too. So sorry to hear about your Dobby.

  2. Ah, Sara. Takes me back. May 31, 2013. I had been preparing to lose my little 17 year old Cricket for a year or more. Had canine cognitive dysfunction and neurological weakness in her hind legs, deaf and visually impaired. But she had lots of pleasure in life and other than those things, was very VERY tough. About a year before I asked the vet to prescribe a couple of tranquilizers (benzos, not Ace) so I would have something to give her on the way to the vet for the final visit. House call was not an option for me because of small house with a feral dog and a reactive dog.

    I was really glad that I tested the valium on Cricket on a good day because it did not sedate her. She got a paradoxical reaction and was wired, wobbling around, for several hours. So that was not an option.

    Her decline was so very gradual, and I was waiting for a signal. I got it one Friday morning when she was at work with me (so glad she was there!) and she had a seizure. I knew that was it. It was very hard for me to keep her safe and sanitary when I wasn’t at home because of the wandering. I couldn’t crate her so she had a little fenced area with rugs. She was so very weak, and although still eating fairly well, had forgotten how to drink water. I had to make her food into soup for every meal and she barely managed it.

    So I had my friend call the vet, and we got an appointment in less than two hours. Cricket stayed in my lap from the moment we got her cleaned up until she died. So you can say that I scheduled the appointment a year in advance, or only two hours. Those two hours for me weren’t too sweet; there wasn’t much we could do. I couldn’t even give her treats since it wasn’t safe for her to eat. I did so enjoy holding her. But the preceding weeks and months had been one long party, with the goal of giving her the best time she could have.

  3. We called on Friday and scheduled Nick for the Monday, which gave us a few days. I agree that having the time was really hard, but it was also very healing. We let him have anything and everything he wanted. Lots of treats (including a cheeseburger from my sister) and lots of long walks and snuggles. It was very hard to spend time with him knowing they were his last days with it, but I wouldn’t take it back. It was so worth it.

  4. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I got was from Jock’s veterinary oncologist. When a dog is suffering, and you can’t quite tell how much because they are so stoic about their pain, our oncologist said “Rather two weeks too soon than two weeks too late”. We knew Jock’s end was coming, but suddenly the pain erupted (!), and we phoned the vet immediately on that Monday afternoon back in 2010 to make the appointment. The euthanasia was scheduled for the Wednesday morning at our house. I still feel today that we were 1 and 1/2 days too late, his suffering was big, and I wish I had listened to our oncologist better. The farewell was bittersweet, but the love triumphed over it all. I still miss Jockie-dog today.

  5. My folks euthanized their dog last April, and it was scheduled for over a month. She was very old and had been deteriorating for quite a while, so they knew it was coming, but she was very enthusiastically trying to keep going. Mom said that her heart was willing, but her body couldn’t keep up. She always had her yearly vet appointments in March, and instead of getting shots at her check-up, they scheduled her euthanasia for mid-April, at a time that was best for my parents. Her last month was full of “gravy”, as we say in our family – pigs ears, car rides, pretty much whatever food she wanted, no baths, etc.
    I don’t think they knew that the vet could come to the house, but with how she felt about people in her space I’m not sure it would have been a peaceful transition…

  6. My little dog, Ted E. Bear, was 15 years old when he started having accidents. I made an appointment with the vet. At that time I found out only 20% of his kidneys were functioning. The vet told me he must have been trying for so long to try and please me. I asked him what should be done, and he said it was only get worse. I said, “What would you do if it was your dog.” He said euthanasia would be his choice. I had it done right then and there. I knew if I took him home, I would never be able to bring him back. He died in my arms a few minutes later. It’s been eight years. I still have his picture and ashes sitting out. I miss him every day.

  7. Pingback: On Euthanasia: What to Expect | Paws Abilities

  8. Pingback: On Euthanasia: What Happens After | Paws Abilities

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