There are many changes we all are making in our daily lives in the way we connect with one another. I have made a difficult but necessary decision to stop my work of at home euthanasia of cats and dogs for the time being. The risk is too high for both myself and those families I would visit since I cannot safely enter homes without protective equipment. As you may know there is a critical shortage of protective equipment in the human health care field and some veterinarians are offering their supplies to them.
My thoughts are with those families that face the euthanasia of a beloved pet from a distance because of safety measures necessary during this pandemic. It is our natural instinct to be close to those we love in times of distress. The moment of saying goodbye without being physically close can feel even more painful and isolating. There are ways that seem to help make the goodbye more peaceful in those last days.
Spend a last day at home with your pet to say goodbye, if possible. You might want to do things that reflect your pet’s “happy times”. That may be playing with a favorite toy or spending time doing a favorite activity like more scratching and cuddling with your cat. Your dog may love to ride in the car. Go for a ride to their favorite place if permitted.
You may wish to have a virtual visit using Facetime or Skype with your pet’s favorite people that may be distant. This allows those who have a special bond with your pet to say their goodbyes.
Give space for others, including children in the household to spend some special time with your pet. Allow children to be involved in the process of saying goodbye. There are many resources online on how best to involve children in the loss of a pet. Keep in mind that many of these need to be done while still respecting social distancing and the safety required at this time.
During this time of social distancing, know that Veterinarians are committed to maintaining essential services and provide the best care for your pet under the protocols set out by the health authorities. It is a good idea to have a conversation with the veterinary team ahead of time about how the euthanasia process will work in these trying circumstances. There are things that can be done to make you feel closer while apart during the last moments of your pet’s life. Objects such as your pet’s bedding and special toys may not be allowed into the hospital. It still may be possible to bring a small item with you, depending on the situation. Written messages or drawings which are scanned and emailed to the hospital may be placed along with your pet for the cremation. Children may also wish to include their drawings and notes for the final goodbyes.
Remember to ask for permission for these options ahead of time as Veterinary teams are working hard to reduce the risk of illness to their staff and clients and these requests may not be possible for some veterinary hospitals at this time.
Sometimes the rapid development of a serious illness or health crisis in a pet does not allow for planning of those last moments. Pets that become critically ill suddenly must be provided with care as quickly as possible. This might be during the day with your family veterinarian or at a 24-hour emergency hospital. Have the contact information ready for alternative plans in case this occurs.
The most important thing is that your pet is given the appropriate care as soon as possible. You may find peace in knowing that you have done the best you could do for your pet in a crisis.
Resources for finding support in the days following the loss of a pet.
Our pets fill a special place in our hearts. They give us so much love and companionship. In this time of isolation and uncertainty, the loneliness and grief can be overwhelming. Below are a few resources which may help you cope and support you through difficult times.
Until We Meet Again https://www.untilwemeetagain.ca/ is the pet aftercare centre in our community. They offer cremation services and support for families. They are continuing to offer virtual grief counselling sessions online. Please contact them for the details.
Other grief resources:
- https://www.veterinarywisdom.com/kids-and-grief Grief assistance for children of various ages (the booklets cannot be downloaded in Canada but can be read online)