How much does euthanasia cost?
The price will vary from area to area and vet to vet. It will be more expensive if there are other fees involved, e.g. for tests, operations or if the vet performs the euthanasia in your own home. Some vets will cremate your dog for you.
When do I pay?
This all depends on the vet, but vets usually understand that it is difficult to write checks when you are in a state of shock or grief. If you are a regular customer he may send you an invoice after a couple of days. Alternatively, you may be able to prepay when you arrive at the hospital—ask about this when you make the appointment and arrive a few minutes early. If you pay in advance or by invoice, you may be able to leave the hosptial by the back door rather than walk back through the waiting room.
When a Dog Dies Unexpectedly
Many dogs die peacefully of natural causes or by euthanasia. Although this is expected or even planned, it can still be a shock when it actually happens. When a dog dies suddenly or unexpectedly or in an accident this is more traumatic for the owner and feelings of grief are compounded by feelings of anger and often guilt.
Following an accident of any kind it is all too easy to say ”if only I had done this instead of that,” but you had no way of knowing that your dog would meet with misfortune. Try to think of the good times you enjoyed together and, although it is hard, try not to feel guilty about an event you could not have foreseen. Owners are not expected to be psychic and however hard you try to ensure your dog is safe, accidents do indeed happen.
Equally shocking to the owner is the sudden death of a dog. Most often this is due to a sudden stroke or heart failure or to an illness or condition where there were no symptoms for you or your vet to detect. Sometimes, unknown to the owner, a dog has been in an accident that left no outward marks, but caused internal damage. A post mortem, should you request it, may identify the cause of death, but dogs very occasionally die for no known reason (in humans this is called Sudden Death Syndrome). It is more upsetting if he was young and apparently healthy, but it is very possible that he had a birth defect, such as an abnormal heart, which led to his sudden and unexpected death. It is unfair to yourself to feel guilty at not noticing signs of illness if there were no signs to for you to detect, but you may wish to discuss the death with veterinary staff. They may not be able to tell you the cause of death, but they can often reassure you that you could not have anticipated or prevented such a sudden death.
Just as with euthanasia, you need to decide how to deal with the dog’s body if he has died in a road traffic accident. If the body of a dog is not collected from a roadside after several hours, your local government has an agency that will usually collect it for incineration. If you find the sight of a body too distressing, a friend or neighbor may be able to help you or you could place a towel over it before moving it. If you cannot bury your dog, many vets will allow you to leave his body at the hospital where the body can be dealt with by the vet or be collected by a pet cemetery or pet crematorium if you make appropriate arrangements. The following will help you decide on a suitable course of action.
How do I dispose of the body?
There are several options for disposal of your dog's mortal remains following death. In the case of a terminal illness or old age when euthanasia is not sudden or where death is expected, owners are encouraged to think about the disposal of the body in advance. This depends on where you live and on how much you wish to spend. Only in cases where the body poses a serious risk to human health will you be denied permission to deal with the remains as you wish.
Your vet can dispose of the body for you. The body will be stored in a veterinary deep freeze (for hygiene purposes) and collected for incineration by a firm licensed to incinerate animal remains, or ”medical waste.” Some vets can provide individual cremation; it is best to ask about this in advance if possible so that you know what options are available to you.
You can arrange for a pet cemetery or pet crematorium to collect the body from your vet. The body will be labeled with your name and the dog's name, and stored in the veterinary deep freeze until collected. If the euthanasia was expected, you may be able to take the body to the pet cemetery or crematorium yourself.
Pet cemeteries and crematoria offer several services: individual cremation where the ashes are either returned to you or buried at the crematorium; cremation with other animals with the ashes scattered in the garden of rest; or individual burial in a cemetery plot. Pet cemeteries have no legal protection so check that it is not likely to be bought up for redevelopment. If it is your wish, cremation or burial may often be accompanied by a short memorial service. Look in the Yellow Pages or for leaflets at the vet hospital for details of pet cemeteries and pet crematoria and their prices.
You can bury the dog in your own garden (or friend's yard) unless local bylaws forbid this. The grave must be at least three feet deep to deter scavengers. It is a sensible precaution to place a paving slab or heavy object on top of the grave until the ground settles as added protection from scavengers. Later on you may wish to plant a rosebush or place a memorial on the grave.
If you take your dog home for burial, he must be buried as soon as possible (within hours) otherwise putrefaction (decay) will set in. If you cannot take your dog's body home immediately, your vet may be able to store it in the veterinary deep freeze for a day or two. It is not advisable to store the body in your domestic deep freeze. If you do not collect the body on the arranged day, it will be collected for incineration.
Burial, cremation and incineration are the normal means of disposing of your dog's mortal remains. Some owners arrange to donate their dog's remains to a nearby veterinary school in the same way that people donate their bodies to medical science. A few arrange for taxidermy although the results are often disappointing.
Will My Other Dogs Mourn?
It is impossible to say exactly what emotions dogs feel, but if you have any other dogs they will certainly be aware that someone is missing from their lives. It is unlikely that they mourn in the human sense of the word, but there will be some behavioral changes as they adjust to the gap in their lives.
If the dogs were sociable, the surviving dogs may search, cry out or even pine. If they were unsociable or indifferent to each other, the survivors might simply rearrange themselves into a new hierarchy, dividing up their former companion's territory between them. Sometimes the surviving dog(s) blossom if they were previously bottom of the pecking order.
Should I show my other dogs the body?
If there is no danger of infection then this is a personal choice. Some owners say that the surviving dogs do not search for a companion, having seen the body. Others say that veterinary smells on the body disturbed their other dogs. They may sniff around the body, lick him and maybe try to wake him up before concluding that their friend has gone. We cannot know what dogs understand about death, but they probably have some awareness that a dead animal does not return to life. If there is no danger of infection and you believe that it will help your other dogs come to terms with the loss of a companion, then by all means allow them to see and smell the body.
How soon should I get another dog?
If your dog was put to sleep as the result of an infectious illness, then your vet may advise you to let a period of time elapse before getting another dog. This is to reduce the risk of infection remaining in your home.
Apart from this, it is a personal decision. Some people cannot live without K-9 companionship and get another dog almost immediately, sometimes within hours. Others would consider this to be indecent haste. Many owners need a period of time to come to terms with the loss of a pet; how long this takes varies from person to person. Some feel that getting another dog too quickly would be disrespectful to their former companion. A few owners take on another dog before their pet goes into terminal decline; this is only possible if the dog is sociable and there is no risk of infection
Important: Do not get a new dog if you are emotionally upset. Your new dog will not know you just lost a friend, will not know you are mourning; it will simply read your emotions as weakness, and it will instinctually feel the need to be YOUR pack leader. If you do not feel mentally strong, do not bring another dog into the house until you do.
Remember that the new dog will not replace the one you have lost. He will commemorate your previous dog, but will have a personality all his own. If you try to replace your dog with an exact duplicate, you are likely to be disappointed as all dogs are individuals.
Coping with Pet Bereavement
All dogs die, whether from old age, accident, illness or euthanasia. Dogs have a shorter lifespan than humans, although most owners would like to think their dog is immortal, especially if he is hale and hearty in his late teens or beyond.
The death of a well-loved pet is on a par with the death of a human family member, despite what thoughtless people may say. Grief and anger are natural reactions to the death of an animal companion. Most people need time to come to terms with the loss of a close animal friend. Many seek consolation in remembering the joy that their dog brought them. Others find it harder to come to terms with pet bereavement especially if the dog had been rescued, nursed through illness or was their main companion.
No one who has had to make the decision to euthanize a pet will deny that there are feelings of loss and perhaps guilt. However, owners must take some comfort in having been able to be merciful to their loved pets. In a sense the owner has taken on the pain of a loving act of mercy in exchange for the suffering their dog has been spared from.
It sometimes helps to share your feelings, but people who have never lost a pet themselves may seem unsympathetic. Many GPs and religious ministers are now sympathetic to those who have lost an animal family member and can offer bereavement counseling. Suppressing feelings of grief is unhealthy and the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) runs a Pet Befriender Referral Helpline which can put you in touch with a Pet Befriender in your own area. Pet Befrienders understand just what you are going through, having experienced it themselves, and know that it helps to talk about your feelings after the death of a pet.
Modern drugs are extremely fast-acting and the end is very peaceful compared to the latter stages of a terminal illness or age-related illness. Your vet will administer an overdose of anesthetic by injection and the dog will simply fall into a painless and final sleep. If, during his life, your dog has been a cherished member of your family, this is the last, and often most compassionate, duty you can perform for him.
Beamed from the Bright Cattery in the Sky
(Michael Hatwell, The Cat Magazine)
"praedilecta Sappho ibi nuper ascensa sic loquitu"
In case you have been wondering
Just how I am getting along
In my new surroundings
Or worry whether I have learned to cope
With the easy rhythm and pace
For which this place is renowned
Then listen: I have been chasing little mice again
Sweeter, lighter, infinitely more fragrant
Than any I ever brought into the bedroom
For your pleasure
In the old days.
That having been said,
I wouldn't for all the world wish you to infer
That they stint the grub up here:
The celestial fish are not especially exciting
(Their natural zodiac ripeness has had to be homogenised
for the general run of feline palates)
But on the plus side
The nice cat-lady who comes round,
All gowned in blue (my favourite colour)
And with glory crowned,
Pours out a warm and creamy whiteness
That is literally
Someone usually remembers
To cut my claws
And tickle my ear
So that side of things is catered for,
One might say,
I think of you sometimes
Certain that you will come one day
To take me on your knee
And talk to me the way you used to.
When that day comes
I shall let you know
Loudly and unambiguously
That things round here have finally begun to go
Really very well indeed:
I shall add to ordinary space and time
My own particular dimension
Of thick, soft-throated sound.