When Should I Consider Euthanasia For My Pet?

Deciding when it’s the right time to say goodbye to your pet is one of the hardest decisions we make as pet owners.  For some, it’s a difficult, but an obvious decision based upon the pet’s deteriorating condition.  But for other pets with chronic ailments the decision can be hazy.   As a veterinarian it’s important to me to have an ongoing conversation and dialog with my pet parents about the pet’s quality of life.  My belief is quality of life is more important than quantity of life during the final few days, weeks, or months.  But we need to have a way to assess how a pet is doing and evaluate their quality of life.  Veterinarian Dr. Katie Hilst developed the JOURNEY’s Quality of Life Scale for pets.  Utilizing the important facets of quality of life listed below we can quantify a pet’s quality of life.
  • She is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain)
  • He has frequent vomiting &/or diarrhea that is causing dehydration &/or weight loss.
  • She has stopped eating or will only eat if your force feed her
  • She is incontinent to the point that she frequently soils herself
  • She has lost interest in all or most of her favorite activities, such as going for walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats or soliciting attention and petting from family members.
  • She cannot stand on her own or falls down when trying to walk
  • She has chronic labored breathing or coughing
If your pet is experience one or more of these in varying degrees using the JOURNEY scale can help quantify your pet’s quality of life; however, it’s still important to have an open dialog with your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian can help counsel you and support you during this difficult decision.

What to expect…

  Euthanasia is quick, painless, and peaceful.  I truly believe we treat our terminally ill pets with compassion with the goal of alleviating pain and suffering allowing our pets to die peacefully at home with their loved ones.  Your veterinarian will explain what medications will be given to your pet.  Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have about your pet’s euthanasia.  In-home euthanasia can take place wherever you wish in your home.  In some situations your veterinarian may want to set an IV catheter to ensure the vein is patent.  In many cases, a trained veterinary technician will hold your pet for the procedure. The veterinary technician has the skill needed to properly hold your pet so that the process goes quickly and smoothly.  Your veterinarian and technician will need space to work and keep your pet comfortable, but they will assist you in finding a place where your pet can see, hear, and feel you. The Vet Set veterinarians administer pets a sedative prior to administering the euthanasia solution.  Many terminally ill pets are in chronic pain and distress, and the sedative helps them relax for their final moments.  The euthanasia solution used is an overdose sodium pentobarbital which quickly causes unconsciousness and then gently stops the heartbeat.  The euthanasia solution is given IV either in the front or back leg at your veterinarian’s discretion.  The injection itself is not painful.  Once the injection is given the heart stops beating in a matter of seconds to minutes.  Your veterinarian will confirm your pet’s heart has stopped beating by listening with a stethoscope.  It’s not uncommon for mild muscle twitching to take place, or for the bowels or bladder to empty.  This is not cause for concern.  Your veterinarian will then ask if you want some time alone with your pet.

Saying Goodbye

  Once you’ve made the difficult decision to euthanize your pet all family members should have the time to say their private goodbyes.  Putting your pet to sleep can be the first exposure your children have to death, and explaining and helping them through the grieving process is important.  Books that address the subject, such as When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers or Remembering My Pet by Machama Liss-Levinson and Molly Phinney Baskette, may be very beneficial in helping your child to deal with this loss.  The euthanasia itself is very personal, and your veterinarian is there to help support you in this difficult time.  It’s important that you and your pet are comfortable for a home euthanasia.  Other pets in the household are generally aware that their companion is ill.  Some pets will want to be near and some will want to sniff them after the euthanasia, and I believe this behavior is normal and warranted.  I also think it helps with the other pet’s grieving process of losing their companion.

Pet Cremation and Burial

  The Vet Set will help you coordinate how to have your pet’s body handled.  Cremation is the most common request, and you can decide whether you wish to have your pet’s ashes returned to you in a private cremation.  Burial is another but less common choice for your pet.  Burial in the backyard is sometimes considered, but check with your local ordinances.


  Losing a pet is just as hard as losing a family member or close friend.  Grief can come in all shapes and forms, and it can surface in waves.  Sadly, some people don’t understand the pain that comes from losing a pet, but most people have compassion for the impact pet loss can have on your life.  Some people seek out counseling, and there are people who specialize in pet bereavement.  If you’re having a difficult time please reach out to your family, friends, or veterinarian for support.  There’s no reason you should grieve alone.   Euthanasia is a final gift of compassion to our terminally ill pets.  We are able to make the decision with our veterinarian when it’s appropriate to take away their pain and suffering.  It’s a difficult decision, and one that should be undertaken with the guidance of your veterinarian.  If you have further questions about your pet’s quality of life or home euthanasia please reach out to The Vet Set or your veterinarian.

Where Do I Get My Purebred Pet??

Just like many other facets of our lives, the decision to bring a new puppy or kitten into our lives often begins with a Google search.  Many people have a general idea of what kind of dog or cat they want, and many people will start searching for breeders right off the bat.  I want to have an informed discussion to help you avoid the heartbreak of receiving a genetically scrambled, sick, and under-socialized puppy or kitten.  The consequences of where you choose to get your puppy or kitten can have lifelong consequences.  As a veterinarian I’ve seen firsthand the heartache a puppy mill puppy can bring to a family, not to mention the financial consequences. ANIMAL SHELTERS: 25% of all pets in any shelter are purebred.  Please check out your local shelters at the beginning of your search.  You very well could find your breed or breed mix pet looking for their forever home.  Websites such as Petfinder.com have an easy to search data base of adoptable dogs and cats including age, sex, breed, and distance with many different shelters and breed groups represented. BoxerShelter PUREBRED RESCUE GROUPS: All breed groups have a rescue group associated with them.  These breed groups rescue the dogs (many from puppy mills, owner surrenders, or strays), pay for their veterinary bills, and really learn the personality of the dog or cat to best fit that pet into the right home.  Most official breed pages will have their recue group on their website. PET STORES:  First and foremost – ANY dog purchased in a pet store came from a puppy mill or puppy farm.  NO reputable breeder would EVER allow their dogs to be sold in a storefront without knowing what home that dog is going to.  I repeat: ANY dog purchased in a pet store came from a puppy mill.  These dogs are often sick, they have a higher incidence of genetic diseases, and they are often under socialized, timid, and have potential behavioral problems.  DO NOT BUY A DOG OR CAT FROM A PET STORE!  Somewhere that puppy or kitten has a mother than is overbred, under-loved, and probably receiving substandard care in a cage for the majority of her life. ONLINE BROKERS: If there is just one take away from this article here it is: ONLINE STOREFRONTS ARE PUPPY MILLS!  Do a simple Google search of the breed you’re interested in acquiring.  There is a company called Purebred Breeders which offers a huge selection of purebred dogs at expensive prices promising the puppy’s health and temperament.  These dogs are sourced from puppy fPuppyMillarms all over the country.  Again, no reputable breeder would ever consider shipping their puppies across the country to an unknown home.  Many of these online storefronts have “rare” breeds and breed mixes ready to ship and a moment’s notice.  Professionally I’ve seen many of these dogs and cats arrive sick, scared, infested with parasites, and many have genetic abnormalities that haunt these dogs for the rest of their lives. If you see a website listing USDA Certification is most likely a puppy or kitten mill, and the USDA themselves in a report released in 2010 even said they were ill equipped to regulate these breeding facilities.  The website PupQuest.org has great veterinarian and pet professional generated information about puppy mills, online brokers, pet stores, and more.  Please take the time to read their information. REPUTABLE BREEDERS: These are people who generally have one breed of dog, they are advocates for the breed, are breeding on rare occasion to help improve the breed, and they’re going to perform their due diligence on you to ensure you’re a good candidate for one of their puppies. We’ll talk more in my next article about finding a good breeder.

Tips for Taking Your Cat on a Road Trip

Thinking about taking your cat on a road trip? Dr. Eva recently contributed some helpful tips to Popsugar Pets! See link below: http://www.popsugar.com/pets/How-Prepare-Cat-Car-Ride-39849701 photo credit: Flickr user Sharonhahndarlin  

An Overview of Pet Anxiety and Management

Pets experience anxiety just like people do.  And while going into great depth of all the reasons behind pet anxiety is beyond the scope of this article, we will touch on some of the more common reasons pets experience anxiety and how to manage it.  Anxiety in pets can present itself in a variety of ways.  Signs an include any of the following: panting, drooling, licking paws or air licking, shaking/trembling, tucked tail, or in more pronounced cases destructive behavior to the home, furniture, or objects.  Behavior modification and training are the cornerstone of any anxiety management program.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a commonly used term that covers a large spectrum of behavioral problems and severities and can affect both cats and dogs. Separation anxiety simply put is anxiety and the associated often destructive behaviors exhibited when a pet is separated from their owners.  Treatment/management is often a multifactorial process with behavioral modification and training at the core of any successful plan.  I encourage ANY pet owner with a dog experiencing separation anxiety to engage the help of a trainer.  Other things to include in managing separation anxiety include:
  1. AKC recommended Calming Shirt – Just like with babies, swaddling your dog with a snug fitting jersey shirt can help reduce anxiety safely.
  2. High value toys with treat – Distraction with toys with really yummy treats can retarget those destructive behaviors while you’re away.
  3. Calming Herbs and Tinctures – Many companies have herbs and pheromones which can help calm your pet. Rescue Remedy and Feliway are a couple I recommend.
4) Talk to you veterinarian! – It’s important to rule CalmingCoatout medical causes for separation anxiety. Some pets require pharmaceutical management while you initiate your training plan.  Please talk to you vet for more info!

Thunderstorm anxiety 

Storms with thunder and wind can be very scary for some pets! Dogs and cats have hearing that cover different decibels than ours, and these sounds are amplified.  Many dogs and cats know the storm is coming before we even notice a change in the clouds!  Here are some quick solutions:
  1. AKC recommended Calming Shirt – Again, the Calming Shirt is a great way to decrease anxiety in your dog or cat. Swaddling helps them feel safe and secure.
  2. Talk to your veterinarian! – Again, some pets need sedation for storms in more severe cases of anxiety. There are many options available to help your stressed dog or cat if swaddling isn’t enough.

Travel Anxiety 

Our pets are traveling more than ever, but for some dogs and cats traveling in cars and airplanes can be a stressful experience. Training and behavior modification is important for helping with reducing travel anxiety.  Please talk to your trainer about easy to do training exercises to help reduce anxiety.  But some things to incorporate into training include (and maybe you’re seeing a pattern here!):
  1. AKC recommended Calming Shirt – Again, the Calming Shirt is a great non-pharmaceutical way to help calm your dog or cat when traveling.
  2. Calming Herbs and Tinctures – Rescue Remedy for your pets can be useful when traveling. The tincture helps decrease the response to the stress hormone cortisol and is very safe
  3. See you veterinarian! – I’ve had success with many dogs and cat using sedatives when traveling. Some dogs only need the sedatives for a period of time and can be discontinued over time.  Some pets also get carsick, and there are new medications available to help pets who experience nausea when traveling.
I hope this gives you a little insight.  Anxiety is a far reaching problem, and we barely scratched the surface here.  If you feel your pet is experience anxiety please reach out to The Vet Set, or your veterinarian for further guidance and knowledge.  Treatment is based upon training, behavior modification, and different tools to help calm the pet.  Patience and consistency is imperative for success.

Thinking of getting a rescue? Listen to Dr. Taylor on SiriusXM Doctor Radio Share Advice!

  [audio mp3="http://vetset.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Dr-Truitt-Doctors-Channel-SiriusXM-630am-est-02-02-2016.mp3"][/audio]

Dr. Taylor Truitt chats with Dr. Allen on SiriusXM Doctor Radio and fields calls about bringing a rescue pet into your family.  The Vet Set encourages people to consider adoption when bringing a new pet into your home.  Each year 7.6 million pets enter shelters and close to 3 million are euthanized per statistics from the ASPCA.  Adopt not shop!


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