In-Home Euthanasia:
A Final Farewell to a Beloved Friend

Snight Family with Katie in her cartAt Wholistic Paws, we believe that being present for a euthanasia is the most important thing we do. It is a privilege and an honor to partner with a family during this most difficult time. We provide families with the utmost respect and compassion to help ease their friend's struggle and to make the final transition peaceful and without fear. We are available for in-home euthanasia regardless if your pet is a hospice patient or not and we try to keep our scheduling flexible including weekend and evening hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I know it's the right time?

Assessing your pet's quality of life is a very personal matter and really depends on your pet's personality and condition. Nobody knows your pet better than you and your family and you are ultimately the best judges of quality of life for your pet. We recommend that you keep track of your pet's day to day activities and mark your calendar or journal with your observations. Try to rank the days with a number system (1= very poor day, 10 = a very fantastic day) or with a happy face/straight face/sad face. This will allow you to look back over days to weeks to look for trends in how your pet is doing. You can also make a list of 5 things that your pet used to like to do when he or she was well. If your pet can no longer do any of these activities, it is an indication that his or her quality of life is fading. You can also look for the following changes in your companion:

  • Dramatic changes in appetite or thirst.
  • Decreased interest in playing or family activities.
  • Intractable pain or anxiety.
  • Inability to stand or walk without assistance.
  • Becoming incontinent or loss of housebreaking.
  • Having fewer "good" days than bad days.

Beezer's Top Ten Reasons
Not to Feel Guilty

(Compiled by Beezer the Black Lab from the Bridge and sent back to Earth)

10. Jeez! If you're born, you die. Think about it, Dad.

9. Fear is the real enemy, not kidney disease. Fear is curable. I'm with you right now, just invisible. I'll be waiting at the Bridge when you arrive. Don't be afraid. Trust me.

8. Live with balance. The list of what went "right" with my life is so much bigger than the list of what went "wrong." My body died from kidney disease, but my spirit always soared because of you.

7. Honor my earthly life and memory. Does feeling guilty help you remember all our good times, adventures, and mutual love?

6. Live with Presence! Don't despair about yesterday. Don't fear tomorrow. Otherwise, you'll miss out on the Gift of Today.

5. Thank you for taking my pain into your heart on that last day. I'm so proud of you for that selfless act.

4. Didn't you always forgive me when I made a mistake? I forgive you for any mistake you made during my illness. You made the best decisions possible with the information available at that time. All I took with me on my final earthly journey was our love. Please accept my forgiveness and release the guilt.

3. Pat yourself on the back in between crying. Your effort to treat me was a supreme act of humanity, love, and compassion. Our relationship was never more meaningful than during my illness. Please recognize your character and commitment. I do.

2. Guilt is what you humans do to punish yourself for not being perfect.

1. You didn't have a cure for a fatal disease. My body stopped working because of this fatal disease, not because of something you did or did not do.

"Doug & the B Brothers"
Doug Koktavy
May 1, 2005
(reprinted by permission of the author)

If we've decided it's the right time, what are the
next steps?

Whenever possible, it is best to have a euthanasia consultation prior to the actual event. This can be done in person at your home or over the phone. This consultation allows you to meet Dr. Erwin and to discuss the euthanasia process, after care options, and to determine if it is indeed time to say goodbye. Planning ahead will help you figure out exactly who you want present during this sensitive time, how you want the setting to be, and what to expect. You can also take care of the charges ahead of time if you prefer. By having all the arrangements made in advance, you will be able to remain more calm and focused on your pet during his or her final moments without having to worry about the logistics. At Wholistic Paws, we also recognize that a pre-planning consultation may not always be feasible if your pet is truly suffering and we will do our best to accommodate your family's needs to help preserve your pet's comfort and dignity.

What should I do before Dr. Erwin arrives on the day of euthanasia?

Plan to have other family members and pets in the house say goodbye if they will not be present during the euthanasia. Have friends and family members arrive ahead of time so they can be prepared to help you and be with you during this difficult time. Try to promote as calm and peaceful an atmosphere as possible to help keep your pet calm. Choose an area such as a favorite room, a special place in the house, or even somewhere quiet outdoors. You may want to light some candles, play soft music, or dim the lights. If possible, take your pet out for a potty break within 1-2 hours of the appoinment.

Can I feed my pet prior to the euthanasia?

Yes. Your pet's final moments should be happy and filled with whatever gives him or her joy- be it a steak dinner or a McDonald's burger. Whatever special treat your pet might like is fine. Keep in mind that some of the medications used to help sedate your pet prior to the final part of the euthanasia process may make him or her slightly nauseous so try not to give a large amount of food within 1-2 hours of the appointment. Small amounts of treats should also be fine.

Should my children be present for the euthanasia?

This is a very personal question and truly depends on your child's age, maturity level, and ability to reason. As a parent, this is your chance to help teach your children that death is a natural part of life and that it is not to be feared. Most often, the loss of a pet is a child's first exposure to death and including them to some degree in the decision making process can help them to cope with future losses in a healthy manner. Resources such as the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement ( and the Argus Institute ( can help to provide additional insight to this matter. If you have decided to not have your children present, please try to have arrangements made ahead of time for their care before Dr. Erwin's arrival.

Should my other pets be present for the euthanasia?

Again, this is a very personal question and the answer depends on the personalities of your other pets. Some animals are quite "in tune" with what is happening and may prefer to lay close to their housemate during the whole procedure. Others may prefer to be in the room but at a distance. Still others may be too excited by all the happenings and therefore too distracted to be present. In this situation, it may be best to have them in a separate area until the euthanasia itself is done. It is sometimes helpful to let the other pets come in after the fact to say goodbye. Animals do grieve and allowing them to see their housemate after the euthanasia can help them in this process.

Does my pet understand what is happening?

None of us will ever truly know how much our pets understand of our human activities. However, our pets definitely feed off of our emotions. Try to reassure your pet that they will be alright and that you love them. Give them permission to let go and move on to their great transition. Some people find it best to explain each step of what is going on and others like to tell their pets that they have been the best possible companion and that their friends will be waiting to welcome them home. Other people like to have a memorial service incorporating the euthanasia as a final farewell for their friend. Whatever you decide to do is appropriate for your pet and your family and please know that it is normal to be upset and grieve. You are losing an important family member and all of the emotions you will be experiencing are normal and to be expected.

What happens once Dr. Erwin arrives?

Once Dr. Erwin arrives, she will answer any last minute questions you may have about the procedure. She will also need you to sign a form giving her permission to perform Euthanasia and stating that your pet has not bitten anybody in the past 2 weeks. You can also make payment arrangements at this time if you have not done so already during the initial consult.

Once these logistical items are taken care of and you are ready, Dr. Erwin will give your pet a sedative shot either beneath the skin or in a vein. This will help to relax your pet and alleviate any unnecessary stress or pain. This injection is no more painful than a typical vaccination and your pet will be deeply sedated within 5-10 minutes. During this time, you may continue to comfort and talk to your pet. You can also share stories with friends and family members about your pet's life.

Once your pet is sleeping soundly and you have said your final goodbyes, Dr. Erwin will inject a euthanasia solution that will stop the heart and respiration, usually within a minute or two. This injection may be given into a vein or into your pet's abdomen. Regardless of the route used, your pet will remain unconscious during this injection and will not feel any pain or discomfort whatsoever. Occasionally, pets may take a few final deep breaths or have some slight muscle twitching. Most likely, your pet will not close his or her eyes and this is normal. In general, the final injection allows your pet to pass on peacefully and quietly. You have the option to be present with your pet throughout every stage of the euthanasia process or not. Everybody is different and that is O.K. Just let Dr. Erwin know what you prefer to do.

What happens after my pet is euthanized?

Once Dr. Erwin has confirmed that your pet has passed away, you can continue to spend as much time as you need with your pet. If you have elected cremation, Dr. Erwin will wrap your pet in a blanket and carry him or her out to the car. Wholistic Paws will arrange to deliver your pet to a local crematory and the ashes will be delivered to you by a Wholistic Paws staff member within 48-72 hours of the euthanasia. You have the option to have special items cremated with your pet such as a favorite toy or blanket, a letter, or a special picture. Just let Dr. Erwin know what you want to be done. Dr. Erwin can also help to arrange other after care options if you do not prefer to have a private cremation for your pet.

What are some ways I can honor my friend?

Honoring your friend is an important part of both the grieving and healing process. Our pet companions enrich our lives and give us so much joy. It is important to remember that your pet has benefited from your relationship just as you have. You have already honored your pet by giving him or her the best quality of life you could and that is a very important gift. Now, as your pet's end-of-life approaches, there is no limit to how you can celebrate your pet's life and honor the bond you shared. Be creative! A few examples are:

  • Sharing a story about the good times you shared together with a friend or family member.
  • Write a eulogy for your pet or a love letter to your pet to give thanks for your relationship.
  • Purchasing a keepsake or personalized treasure that reminds you of your pet.
  • Make a photo collage of your pet's life.
  • List your pet on our Pet Angels page or write a memorial on our Facebook page to share the story of your bond.
  • Attend the Pet Candlelight Ceremony hosted by Wholistic Paws on March 5 of every year.

There is no time more important or more precious as when your pet embarks on his or her final transition from this world. For us, the difficulty lies in knowing that we will never feel that cold nose press against us or the feel of the soft fur under our hands again. It is even more difficult to remember that only the earthly part of our relationship with our pet is ending. The bond we share with all of our pets will continue on forever in our hearts even without the daily physical reminders of their presence. This is a time of courage, selflessness, and tenderness. It is a sacred event and truly a final gift of compassion for a beloved friend. At Wholistic Paws, we will do all we can to make the process as smooth and peaceful as possible for all those involved. Good communication is key during this sensitive time and please don't hesitate to let us know if you have any special needs or requests regarding your pet's final moments. Remember, this is a final gift of compassion for your pet and a selfless act of love!