Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about pet euthanasia, your upcoming appointment with us, or about coping with grief, we can help.

Asked Questions

How do I know when it’s the right time to euthanize my pet?
What are the options for care of my pet’s body after euthanasia?

We offer either private or communal cremation for your pet. You are of course always welcome to take responsibility for your own pet’s aftercare if you have alternative plans, such as home burial. As a note, we always encourage our clients to check with local ordinances for guidelines for home burial of their pet if they choose this option.

If you would like to work with a particular crematorium that we do not contract with, or if you elect to have post-mortem diagnostics done for your pet, you will need to make your own arrangement for the transport of your pet, as that is not a service we offer.

Can my other pets be present at the euthanasia appointment?

Pets living within the same household often have unique and special relationships with each other. Some owners prefer an in-home euthanasia option to allow other pets to be present for the appointment.

At Sacramento Valley Veterinary Services, our philosophy is that if other pets are calm and quiet and willing to be present but not the center of attention, by all means, have them present. If your other pet(s) will demand your attention or distract you from your pet being euthanized, then we recommend that you have them in a separate location during the euthanasia process. Remember, this is a day and time to focus on your pet being euthanized.

You are always welcome to allow your other pets to come visit their deceased family member immediately after the euthanasia process to give them an opportunity to say goodbye to their companion. We do request that other pets be appropriately restrained during the euthanasia appointment.

For the safety of our staff, other pets are not allowed to jump up on our veterinarians. For the safety of other pets, other pets are not allowed to lick or be exposed to any of our medications.

How do I have a conversation about euthanizing a pet with my children?

One of the most difficult experiences for a parent is seeing your child hurting and not being able to “fix” their sadness. The loss of a pet may be your child’s first experience with grief and loss. As difficult as it is, learning how to manage these difficult emotions in a healthy way is a life skill we believe children should have. Our advice when talking with your children is to be honest with them and, if it is age appropriate, involve them in the decision-making process.

In our experience, children are generally capable of managing the emotions associated with loss better than we give them credit for. As a parent, you may be surprised when you offer the opportunity to your child to engage in these conversations. Remember that as adults we may come to a death experience ill-equipped to manage our own emotions, but this is an opportunity to prepare them to have a healthy relationship with these experiences.

We welcome having children present at the euthanasia appointment and will talk them through the process and answer their questions. We always give them the opportunity to leave the appointment if they feel uncomfortable or would like to be in their own space.

We’ve put together a list of books that many parents have found helpful for kids, which can be found on our Children’s Resources page.

Talk to your kids about ways they would like to memorialize a pet. Some may want to have photos with their pet, some may want to write a letter or a poem about their pet. Some children would like to have a paw print impression of their pet’s paw. These paw prints are available with either private or communal cremation. If you would like to make a paw print yourself,  paw print kits are available at most craft stores. We are happy to help you make a paw print impression at the time of the appointment, though we recommend waiting until your pet is sedated to make the paw impression. Ink or clay paw prints are also available from the crematorium if owners elect either private or communal cremation.

Here are some things we recommend NOT doing or saying to your kids.

  • Do not send them to school or a relative’s house not knowing that they will come home to an empty pet bed.
  • Do not use the words “shot” or “sleep” when describing the euthanasia process. We do not want them to associate the permanence of death with these words. Alternative phrasing we use is “special medication” and “allow your pet to die peacefully.”
My partner and I do not agree on timing, what do I do?

It is imperative that all family members who care for the pet agree that euthanasia is the best option before scheduling an appointment. If your pet is suffering, we can assist you in helping end their suffering as gracefully and kindly as possible. However, euthanizing a pet when one care-giver feels like it is too soon can lead to long-term resentment. This can deeply harm a relationship that will long outlive your pet.

If you are uncertain about whether or not it’s time, we encourage all members of your household to take this Quality of Life assessment quiz.  This may help everyone objectively evaluate their pet’s quality of life.

How do I prepare for my appointment?

There are two important aspects for preparing that we like clients to be aware of, which consist of the logistical aspect of preparation, as well as the emotional portion.

  1. Logistical Preparation: We try to care for all paperwork and payment arrangements prior to, or at the very beginning of the actual euthanasia appointment. Also, please be aware that we drive large vehicles and will need a place to park. If you are in an apartment complex or anywhere that parking is not readily available, we will need you to provide parking accommodations. Have a location within your home in mind where you would like the euthanasia appointment to take place. We are happy to be indoors or outdoors, whichever is best for you and your pet. Remember that some pets will lose bowel and/or bladder control during the sedation and euthanasia process, so be mindful of this when choosing a location for your appointment. Keep your daily routine as normal as possible for your pet. They are welcome to eat their normal meal, you can give them any medications they are normally taking for pain control. If your pet wears a collar, keep their collar on (you are welcome to keep it after the appointment.)
  2. Emotional Preparation: Preparing emotionally for your appointment can be very difficult. Anticipatory grief is very real and can take a heavy emotional toll on pet owners. Remember that the loss of a pet can often bring up emotions associated with other losses you may have experienced, both recent and from long ago. Many of our clients take comfort in having a close friend or family member present during the appointment. Afterwards, remember to give yourself time and space for the grieving process. Take advantage of our grief resources, remember that you are not alone during this time.
What is the process for scheduling? And what is the process once the veterinarian arrives?

Appointments may be scheduled via phone call, text, or email conversation with our staff. All appointments are scheduled as a 2-hour window of arrival time. During the 2-hour window, you will receive a text message or a phone call that the veterinarian is en-route to you. This is also a good time to have other pets tucked away if you would like to do so. Once the veterinarian has arrived, you will receive a phone call to notify you of arrival. We will try to not knock on the door or ring the doorbell if possible so as to not disrupt your pet(s).

We ask that all friends or family members who would like to be present for the appointment be at your home when the veterinarian arrives. The veterinarian will explain the entire sedation and euthanasia process to anyone who would like to be present. If pets are still taking joy in food, we suggest saving some yummy treats to give them during the sedation injection. Pets are welcome to eat right up until they fall asleep from sedation. Treats can include chocolate, ice cream, cookies, etc. This is a perfect day to indulge them in forbidden favorites!

The euthanasia injection is given after the pet is fully sedated. You may observe your pet stop breathing, and the veterinarian will confirm that your pet’s heart has stopped using a stethoscope.
If we are taking your pet’s remains for cremation, we will give you some quiet time alone with you pet. Either the crematorium staff or the veterinarian will then wrap your pet in a soft blanket and take your pet’s remains when you are ready for us to do so.

If you have elected for the private cremation for your pet, we will provide you with all the necessary information for how the ashes will be returned to you.

Do you need documents from my regular veterinarian?

No. Each euthanasia appointment is attended by one of our veterinarians. As such, we do not need anything from your regular veterinarian if you have one.

Can my pet eat the day of their appointment?

Yes, absolutely!! You are welcome to feed them their normal diet if they are still eating. If they are still taking joy in food, we also recommend saving some tasty treats for the time of your appointment. Whenever possible, we would like to have your pet distracted by food during their sedation injection. Remember that all forbidden foods are fine at the time of your appointment. This is a good day for chocolate, ice cream, or bacon!

Will this process be painful for my pet?

The euthanasia injection is painless. The only part of the process that may cause discomfort is the initial injection for sedation. Some pets tolerate this injection very well and hardly seem to even notice. If you feel that your pet will be strongly aversive to the single injection, let us know prior to or at the time of your appointment. There are some techniques we can use that may help mitigate their discomfort from the initial injection.

My pet has been known to bite people, can I still euthanize my pet at home?

Yes, we can still euthanize your pet at home even if they have been known to bite people. Please let us know if your pet is aggressive towards strangers or if your pet has bitten anyone in the past 10 days. When working with aggressive pets, our number one priority is the safety of the people involved. Our next priority is to make the entire process as peaceful and gentle for your pet as possible. If your pet is aggressive, there are several techniques we can employ to keep everyone safe and still maintain a quiet environment. We welcome a complimentary pre-appointment phone consultation if you have questions about your aggressive pet.

What species of animals do you work with?

All of our veterinarians are comfortable helping with a variety of species. By far, the species we see most commonly are dogs and cats. We are also comfortable seeing pocket pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and small rodents. Many of our clients live in rural areas and we are also able to see some livestock such as sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, and chickens. Species we are not comfortable euthanizing are horses and reptiles. If you need a referral for help with these animals, let us know and we will provide you with resources in your area.

What if my pet dies at home?

If your pet dies at home, you can take your pet to any local veterinary hospital for care of their remains. If it is a weekend or holiday, you can contact the emergency clinic closest to you.
If you do not want to transport your pet yourself, you can also contact the crematorium directly for assistance. We work with West Coast Pet Memorial, a licensed and reputable pet crematorium in the Sacramento area that offers transport services for deceased pets.
If you would like for us to transport your pet for either private or communal cremation, we will do our best to accommodate you. You are welcome to contact us.

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