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Answers to your questions
  • How long does the visit take?
    Death is a process - from becoming unconscious to actual euthanasia. Dr. Kim does not rush the process but is there to help your pet's transition. The process begins with sedation and ends with transporting your pet after their passing. You should plan on 1 hour for this visit, although in many cases the visit is shorter.
  • Do I have to stay during the appointment?
    You will need to be present for the initial greeting and to introduce Dr. Kim to your pet. You may need to give your pet hugs or treats during their initial sedation. Most pets will only be aware while they become sleepy from their medication. Once they are sedated, they will not know if you are present. While many pet owners choose to be present with their pet for the entire visit, some are uncomfortable or too overwhelmed to stay for the entire procedure. Once fully sedated, your pet will be in a comfortable mental state, dreaming and unaware at this point. There is no judgment or expectation. We are here to support you and your pet.
  • How do I prepare for the visit?
    The most important thing is to be calm and give love. Your pet will pick up on your anxiety, so try to keep things as normal as possible for them. You can dote on them with special treats, extra pets, a walk outside, or car trips if they enjoy that and are comfortable. If your pet is on any medications, you can continue them if they help keep it comfortable. They will not interfere with their final treatments. If you've been given a sedative to give your pet before the visit, please give this as recommended. Decide on the best location for your pet's final moments. For some, this may be on their favorite bed, in your arms, under their favorite tree, or even in the car after a final ride. You will want to make sure your pet is properly restrained with a leash or harness if necessary. Realize that everything relaxes when your pet is sedated and passes. Dr. Kim will bring absorbent pads and towels. If your pet has been vomiting or having diarrhea, or has a full bladder you may want to provide a towel and a waterproof barrier to help contain this. For certain pets, a final walk outside to eliminate shortly before the appointment may help.
  • How does sedation work?
    Before every euthanasia, pets are sedated and anesthetized first so they are completely unconscious at the time of euthanasia. The primary goal at our visit is to decrease stress to the family and pet while providing a peaceful transition. Sedation may be given in one or two steps and may be combined with an anesthetic. Sometimes, a sedative is given in a treat or in the mouth directly. In some cases, sedation is given as an injection. (In this case, they may experience brief discomfort - similar to a vaccine poke.) For birds and other exotic pets, a small amount of liquid sedative may be given in the nose to minimize stress. Most pets will become sedate 5 to 15 minutes after receiving their medication. In some cases, an additional dose of sedative is given to help them completely relax. The medications used are tailored to each pet’s symptoms and illness. They provide pain relief, anxiety relief, loss of consciousness, amnesia, anti-seizure benefits. Many pets will show signs of dreaming similar to humans once they are sedated. Signs may include snoring, light twitching, eye movement, and smiling. Some pets may seem disoriented or loopy as the sedative takes effect. This is usually short-lived and resolves as the medicine is absorbed.
  • How will Dr. Kim know when your pet is asleep?
    It can be difficult for the average pet owner to know if their pet is sedated and each pet reacts to sedation differently. Some pets take longer than others to become fully asleep. We want to make sure they are completely asleep before their final injection. Dr. Kim will monitor your pet’s breathing and reaction to sound and touch. If Dr. Kim ever has any concerns a pet is not completely asleep, she will give additional sedation.
  • What will happen during the actual euthanasia procedure?
    After your pet is completely sedated, Dr. Kim may shave an area for IV access. Depending on your pet’s condition or species, a different route may be chosen that will deliver the medication (such as in the abdomen). The final injection is given slowly and is an overdose of sodium pentobarbital. This drug works by triggering unconsciousness, which stops brain function. When the brain stops telling the body what to do, the lungs and heart stop working. Breathing ceases and the heart stops pumping. Your pet is completely unconscious and anesthetized, so they are unaware when this happens. Sometimes this happens quickly, and sometimes this happens more gradually. Occasionally your pet will need an extra dose of medication.
  • What to expect after your pet passes.
    Often, pets will not close their eyes after sedation or when they’ve passed. This is because closing the eyes actually requires muscle control that is no longer possible after sedation or euthanasia. While this can be disturbing to see, your pet does not feel any discomfort. In most cases, you will only notice your pet has stopped breathing after they’ve passed. Very rarely, additional things may be seen after death and it is important to be aware of these normal body reactions during the dying process. Everything relaxes after death. After sedation, an absorbent pad will be placed under your pet in case they pass urine or diarrhea. Some pets have fluid in their lungs and this can come out of the nose or mouth after passing. Dr. Kim will position your pet on a soft pillow or blanket to try to prevent this. The most unsettling reactions after death can be agonal breathing and muscle twitches. In this case, your pet may seem like they are trying to breathe, but they will have already passed. Their heart has stopped, but the muscles of the diaphragm and other areas of the body contract.
  • What are my options for aftercare?
    There are several options for aftercare of your pet. Home Burial: Should you choose to bury your pet at home, please check with your local community for any applicable regulations. Michigan regulations can be found here. Cremation: We work with Trusted Journey in Irish Hills for cremation services. You may elect to have your pet cremated privately and receive their ashes back in a decorative urn or scatter tube. Alternatively, you can choose communal cremation and your pet's ashes will be buried at their pet cemetery. Whichever option you choose, know that we are here to support you during this difficult time and will ensure that your pet is treated with the utmost respect and care.
  • Should my child(ren) be present?
    Losing a pet can be particularly difficult for children. The decision of whether or not to allow your child(ren) to be present at your pet's passing is very personal and should be well thought out. Speak with any children who will be present about why their pet is being euthanized and what to expect. Being open with your children and encouraging them to share their feelings is important. Please advise us beforehand of any special requests for the visit - such as extra paw prints, fur clippings, terminology to avoid, religious beliefs, etc. There are many resources to help guide this decision-making process as well as ways to help your child(ren) after their pet's passing.
  • What if my pet gets upset with visitors, veterinary care or is fearful?
    In this case, Dr. Kim recommends giving oral sedation before the appointment to help them relax and to make the visit safer and less stressful for all involved. We want your final memories to be positive and fear-free. If you think your pet would benefit from an oral sedative, speak with your veterinarian for recommendations. If you do not have a regular veterinarian, we can schedule a pre-euthanasia visit for oral sedation.
  • I have an exotic pet, pocket pet, or bird. What should I expect?
    Birds, rabbits, and other small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish deserve a peaceful passing when their quality of life is poor. Dr. Kim will work with you to determine the best method of sedation and anesthesia for your special friend that minimizes stress and allows for a comfortable transition during euthanasia. The euthanasia procedure for some exotic pets is different than dogs or cats and can be discussed individually
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