During your cat or dog's last days, you can rely on our team at Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital to provide caring and compassionate end-of-life care. We will be sure to offer your pet comfort and treat them with dignity.
What is End of Life Care?
One of the hardest choices you can make as a pet owner is to let your cherished dog or cat go.
Whether your furry friend is in their golden years or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, there are many emotions you may feel or deal with during this loss.
At Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital, we do everything we can to make sure the final days or weeks of your pet's life are comfortable, calm, and pain-free. We do this by conducting a complete quality of life exam, prescribing medication and food for pain management, as well as offering humane euthanasia.
Humane Pet Euthanasia
After the quality of life assessment, to ensure all other alternatives have been exhausted, Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital offers humane euthanasia for dogs and cats.
Euthanasia is the medical procedure of ending an animal's life with medication as an alternative to natural death, which is often a long, painful process. Pet euthanasia is rapid and painless.
Preparing for End of Life Care
Also referred to as palliative care or hospice care, end-of-life care is administered as a pet comes to the end of their life.
Below we answer a few of the questions we are asked most frequently about veterinary end-of-life care.
- What is end-of-life care?
During this time, pet parents have decided to withdraw or decline the pursuit of curative therapy for illnesses that limit an animal's life.
Our vets have years of skill and expertise in veterinary care to help you develop a compassionate end-of-life plan customized to your pet's needs.
- What are some signs my pet may be ready to pass?
Some behavioral and physiological signs that your pet may be ready to pass include:
- Is in pain
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
- Erratic breathing
- Change in appetite or loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Hides or withdraws from people
Remember that every animal is unique, and your pet might keep eating or drinking, even if they are in disorientation or pain. They might not exhibit outward signs that are usually associated with pain, like whimpering or crying.
Please ask your veterinarian, because they will be able to inform you if these symptoms are abnormal or alarming depending on your cat or dog's medical history.
- How can I help my pet feel healthy and comfortable at home at the end of their life?
Throughout this time, you are able to help make your pet more comfortable by making sure they aren't in pain or experiencing distress.
Have your vet conduct a comprehensive physical exam to make sure there are no underlying health issues that need to be treated.
Ensure their favorite items or toys are within close reach.
Because your furry friend might spend a significant amount of time in bed, put lots of cushions in this area to make it more comfortable.
If your pet is incontinent (has lost control of their bladder), regularly inspect their living area to make sure it isn't wet or soiled. You might have to use a towel or sling to help get your pet up to urinate or defecate if required.
- How can I prepare for euthanasia?
Once the quality of life assessment has been completed to make sure all other alternatives have been exhausted, we might send your cat or dog home with pain management medications until your appointment.
We might be able to arrange your appointment time for when it will most likely be quieter at the clinic, such as at the very beginning or end of the day. However, with unpredictable illnesses or injuries, this is not always possible.
If you have children, it can help to provide age-appropriate explanations of what will happen in advance to prepare them for losing their furry friend.
You might want to bring your pet's bed, or a comfortable blanket or pillow, with you for them to rest on.
If you have other pets, you can also bring them to the appointment, so they can understand the loss and sniff your pet's body following euthanasia.
You may decide to sit with your pet, so you can comfort them while the vet provides the medicine via injection.
- What will happen during the euthanasia process?
We will ask you if you'd like to stay with your pet for the euthanasia. This is an important factor to take into consideration - some people aren't emotionally capable, and any choice you make is okay.
You might choose to be present when they are sedated, then leave the area during the euthanasia itself. You might also ask a family member or friend that your pet knows and likes to take your pet to this final appointment or to stay with your pet while you leave the room.
A powerful sedative will be injected directly into your pet's vein to cause the nerves in your pet’s body to cease sending signals (including pain signals).
Your pet's breathing and heart rate will slow until they eventually stop. This could take as little as a few minutes or up to 15 to 20 minutes depending on your pet, their condition, and other factors. Your vet will then inject the euthanasia solution. This is when the brain function will stop.
Lots of animals take one last, deep breath as they pass away. Some will urinate or defecate when they are euthanized due to the total relaxation that occurs.
Euthanasia is not painful for animals. After this, your pet's eyes might still be open. Your vet can close them if you wish.
The vet will listen to your pet's heart with a stethoscope to confirm that they are gone. We like to allow owners as much time with their pet as they need following the procedure, and are committed to treating every pet owner with as much sensitivity and compassion as possible. The entire process typically takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- What happens after euthanasia?
You are able to decide what happens to your euthanized cat or dog's body. You could keep the body to bury personally, choose cremation, or have your pet buried in a pet cemetery. It may be helpful to consider this decision well in advance.
Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital partners with West Coast Pet Memorial Services to offer aftercare for your loved one. Information regarding cremation and grief counseling will be supplied to you.
Every person and pet is unique and can respond differently to the loss of your cat or dog. Children may have questions or feel very sad for a few weeks.
Adults may feel a range of emotions, from heavy grief to guilt, sadness or emptiness, or relief that their pet is free of pain and that their condition will no longer have to be managed. As vets, we have seen the entire range of emotions, and all are valid and normal.
Don't forget to take care of yourself afterward. Talk to family and friends or you can even join a pet loss support group. If you have persistent feelings of grief that are interfering with you or your family member's mental health, you might want to consider mental health counseling.
Crematory & Grief Support Services
Saying goodbye is always a hard choice to make. Even if it is the kindest choice we can make in an animal's final stage of life, the process can still feel difficult and be heartbreaking.
To offer aftercare for your loved one, Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital partners with West Coast Pet Memorial Services. We will supply you with information regarding the crematory as well as grief support.
You may want to honor the memory of your pet by memorializing them in a way that keeps them close to your heart. You can choose to do this by hosting a memorial service and inviting friends and family. Another idea is to create a living memorial or headstone with a plant or tree, or another special spot that you can visit whenever you miss your pet.
The option you select can be as unique as your pet's personality and offer comfort to everyone who knew, loved, and cared for your beloved animal companion.