Veterinarians explain euthanasia process

I asked several area veterinarians how they handle euthanasia at their practices, and found the process can vary in several ways. Following are summaries of their answers.

Dr. Kevin Schmidt of Patton Veterinary Hospital wrote the following via Facebook:

“We understand how sensitive of a time the euthanasia process of a loved pet can be for clients and try to make it as easy as possible for the owners.

“We have a dedicated exam room we call the comfort room with comfortable chairs and large dog beds. There is a poem, The Rainbow Bridge, hanging on the wall that has helped a lot of clients feel comfortable with their decision for euthanasia.

“We ask that the owners schedule an appointment for the euthanasia (if it is something that can be planned) so we can dedicate time to them. We try to schedule the euthanasia at the end of an appointment block or end of night so there are as few people as possible in the hospital. We will have the owners sign the release form and pay for the services before the euthanasia is performed. We generally will do this in the comfort room so the clients aren’t in the lobby upset. An announcement is made over the intercom, “Angel to Treatment”, after this so that the staff know a euthanasia is in process and to keep conversations down and avoid laughter and vacuuming.

“During this process, the patient will have their IV catheter placed and a free clay paw impression of their paw made. If requested, we will provide a lock of hair. The IV catheter allows easier administration of the drugs. Pentobarbital, the euthanasia drug, really burns if it leaks out of the vein, which the IV catheter will help prevent. The doctors and nurses will often talk with the owners, discussing the good memories they’ve had with their pet. We will always discuss the injection process and what to expect. When the owner is ready, we start the euthanasia.

“The first injection is sterile saline to make sure the IV catheter is in place. Most of the time, but not always, a sedative is given as the second injection. We generally use propofol, which works within seconds to lightly sedate the pet. We then quickly proceed to administering a single dose of the euthanasia drug, pentobarbital (a type of barbiturate). The quicker the process, the better it is for the pet and owner.”

When I asked why sometimes the chemicals in the syringe are pink, other times blue, Dr. Schmidt answered:

“The different colors, pink and blue, are the same drug but from different companies. The dose is the same for each pet, but the volume will obviously vary with the size of the pet. This is a very quick-acting drug that takes effect in just seconds. Occasionally the pet may give out some reflexive breaths or lose control of their bowels. Depending on the disease of the pet, they may have some bloody fluid come from their nose. Rarely will they have an excitatory stage, but the sedative helps to prevent this. 99% of the time it is as if the pet is falling asleep.

“Usually one more flush with the sterile saline is given. Flushing the catheter between injections is often a habit from administering drugs to hospital patients, but isn’t necessary for pets being euthanized.

“For those patients who are too small (pocket pets, reptiles, birds, etc), or to sick, for an IV catheter to be placed, we will give the euthanasia drug into the abdominal cavity. This is non painful, but still effective although much slower.

During the euthanasia process, the owners are allowed to spend as long as they would like before, during and after the euthanasia process with their pet. We try not to rush them at all. The only time we may rush the process is if the pet is really sick, or suffering. There is a back exit off of the comfort room for the owners to avoid returning to the front lobby.”

Dr. Schmidt said Patton Veterinary Hospital vets occasionally will make house calls to perform euthanasia, generally for large and giant breed dogs that are totdifficult to get to the hospital.

He said post-euthanasia options include burial at home; burial in a pet cemetery; communal cremation, in which the pet is cremated with other pets and the family doesn’t get the ashes; and private cremation in which the pet is cremated individually. With a private cremation, the ashes are returned to the family in a decorative wooden box. Another choice: “The unique option of having their pet stuffed, although to my knowledge none of our clients have done this,” Dr. Schmidt said.

The pets that will be cremated are placed in a large chest freezer until pickup, which is once a week on Fridays. The ashes of those privately cremated will be returned the following Friday. If pets pass away at home, owners are welcome to bring them to the hospital to await pickup for cremation.

“For those pets being taken home, we do offer decorative plastic bags with a zip lock to place the pet in,” Dr. Schmidt said. “Some clients don’t like the idea of their pet placed in the bag, so we will wrap them in blankets, place them in a box, or however the owner prefers.”

“We try our best to always send a card with some final words of condolences to our clients,” he said. “Most of the sympathy cards we use now are actually purchased from U of Penn Vet School. A portion of the proceeds goes towards research for animals.”

Patton Veterinary Hospital is at 425 East Broadway, Red Lion, PA 17356. For more information, call 717-246-3611 or visit www.pattonvethospital.com.

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Kelli Macdonald, CVT, technician supervisor for Shiloh Veterinary Hospital, described Shiloh Vet’s euthanasia process as follows:

“The client & pet are taken to our ‘comfort room’ or an exam room as soon as possible after they enter the clinic in order to minimize patient stress. A technician will review the various options with the client and help to decide on a plan for the euthanasia itself, as well as aftercare options. They will also ask if the client would like a lock of hair and/or a clay footprint as a keepsake. Once a plan has been established for the euthanasia and aftercare, a client care coordinator will accept payment in the room. That way, when we’re all done, they can leave whenever they like and do not have to stop at the front desk.

“Next, depending on the case, a sedative/pain medication combo is given and an IV catheter is placed. If the client would like to spend more time with the pet prior to final injection, they are encouraged to do so.

“Finally, a technician will administer the injection of Fatal Plus. This injection works very quickly & the pet is often unconscious before the injection is finished. The pet will usually pass very quickly and quietly after the injection is given, although there are sometimes a few final breaths and/or muscle movements (this occurs after the patient is fully unconscious, and can occur even after the heart has stopped). We also try to warn owners ahead of time that the deceased pet may often urinate or defecate after they have passed, so that this is not a surprise if it happens. After the technician or doctor has confirmed that the pet has passed, the owner may spend as much time as they need with the pet before leaving.”

At Shiloh Vet’s Manchester office, there is a door in the comfort room leading outside, so clients can avoid the reception area after euthanization, but at the Shiloh office there is not.

“We use a product called Fatal Plus — the main ingredient is pentobarbital. The drug is the same, the dose varies depending on size of the animal,” Macdonald said. “The two main colors that I have seen are bright pink, and the product that we use (Fatal Plus) is blue. It is mostly a difference in brand. The main reason why this product has such distinct colors is for safety — anyone can tell at a glance exactly what is in that syringe.”

Macdonald said the number of injections depends on the owner and the pet. “We choose sedatives on a case-by-case basis. We can send home oral acepromazine or diazepam for dogs or cats if the owners are concerned about their pet’s stress level during travel and would like to have something to give at home. If they choose to have the sedative given here at the hospital, there are a variety of different sedative and pain medication combinations that we might use, depending on the behavior & health status of the pet. most are given by either SQ (subcutaneous) or IM (intramuscular) injection.”

When asked how long they wait after giving the sedative before giving the final injection, Macdonald said it depends on the drugs used. “Some we wait 10 to 20 minutes, others may take up to 30 minutes. Oral medications may take 40 to 60 minutes to fully take effect.

“If the owners prefer to stay with their pet during the Euthanasia process, we like to place an IV catheter, so that the pet does not feel the needle used for the injection. We will also sometimes use the IP (intraperitoneal) route for very small, dehydrated pets (mostly cats). With this method, no venous access is needed. This can help to minimize stress in patients with poor veins. If we place an IV catheter, we flush before the Fatal Plus injection to assure IV catheter is still in place, and after the injection to assure the pet got all the injection.

After euthanization, she said, “They are placed gently in a cadaver bag and held in a special freezer unit until the crematorium picks them up.” She said Allied Veterinary Cremation handles cremation services for Shiloh Vet. “We have worked with them for many years and they have always been very conscientious and accommodating of special requests.”

Pets’ bodies are picked up once per week.

Macdonald said the price for euthanasia varies somewhat depending on the size of the pet and whether sedation is used. The cost is the same whether the client stays with the pet for the procedure or not. She said the cost of cremation also varies depending on weight of the pet, and private cremation is more expensive than communal or group cremation.

Cremation is also available for pets who have died at home. Macdonald said the client must bring the pet to the clinic, and pricing would be the same.

If the people are taking their pet home for burial, the pet parent can choose whether to have the body wrapped, put it in a bag or box, or put in the carrier. “We can send the pet home in a cadaver bag, we have cardboard caskets for smaller patients, and/or we can wrap in a special blanket or towel, etc.,” Macdonald said.

“At our Manchester location, we also have an outdoor gazebo where clients may choose to have their dog euthanized. We usually require an IV catheter to be placed first when we use this location, but it can be a very nice option for dogs that are very fearful when they are inside a vet’s office,”
she said.

Shiloh Veterinary Hospital has two offices: at 2401 Emig Mill Road Dover, PA 17315 (Shiloh, West Manchester Township); and at 110 Morgan Lane York, PA 17406 (Manchester Township).

For more information, visit myshilohvet.com or call 717-764-1400 (Manchester Township) or 717-767-0180 (Shiloh office).

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Dr. Melissa McFarland of Cape Horn Veterinary Associates said she uses a product called Euthasol or B-Euthanasia, which is pink/purplish-colored, for euthanasia. For large animals, she sometimes uses Fatal Plus, which is blue.

“Most animals require only one injection; others may need more drug. It’s dose-dependent on weight and pathology of the patient,” Dr. McFarland said. “I find patients with heart and circulatory diseases may need more drugs depending on their status. Dogs with big, bleeding tumors may need more as well. I’ve had some ‘hyperactive’ or very stressed dogs take whole bottles of drugs and I’ve had horses that just plumb would not die, requiring horrific euthanasias of other options. Most cases are relatively straightforward, and when things go poorly we vets beat ourselves up a lot because we don’t want to see any animal suffer, especially in their final hours.”

Dr. McFarland said she sedates all patients prior to euthanasia. “It relieves the stress of all involved. These are the same induction drugs used for surgeries.”

The amount of time she waits between giving the sedative and giving the final injection depends on the patient’s sedation level. “It could be within a couple minutes,” she said.

I’ve seen some vets flush the line in between injections, others did not. Dr. McFarland said it depends on the patient, and that flushing helps all the sedative get to where it’s going.

One of the questions I asked was why some vets install a port in the pets leg in which to inject the chemicals, while others inject directly into the vein. McFarland said that also depends on the patient. “Some animals need sedated before an IV catheter can be placed,” she said. “I do try to IV cath all patients initially, but others can be done easily without. And some animals have such poor vein quality that we waste putting a catheter in, the vessel ‘blows’ or won’t hold a catheter or catheters won’t advance due to poor hydration. If we can’t get a vein at all we have to use other options such as intra-cardiac or intra-abdominal.

Prices for euthanization can vary from practice to practice, and depending on size of the animal, whether the euthanization took place at the office or at home and other variables. Dr. McFarland said at Cape Horn Veterinary, euthanasia usually costs $55 to $75 at the office, which includes the sedation and catheter. She said the cost is the same whether the family wants to stay with the pet during the process or not.
“If I haven’t seen the patient before. I require an exam/consult which takes more time — thus a higher price,” she said. “Large animal euths cost more due to the amount of drugs required.”

Housecall euthanasia is offered for longstanding clients, and costs around $160. “Unfortunately that cannot be done on an emergency basis; preparation is the key,” Dr. McFarland said.

Payment is usually discussed on the phone prior to the appointment. “We take payment prior to the service, and for good, longstanding clients we may elect to just bill them,” she said. “All new clients should expect to pay prior to services rendered.”

Dr. McFarland said while Cape Horn Veterinary does not have a special room for euthanization, “We offer the owner plenty of time to stay with their pet in one of our exam rooms, or will escort them to our treatment area to be with them.”

As for cremation services, “I send all cremations to Peaceful Pet Passage; they bill/charge independent of my practice, Dr. McFarand said. “I want nothing to do with the profits from the cremation/disposal of our pets.”

She said someone from Peaceful Pet Passage will pick up the pet’s body within a few hours of euthanasia.”We do not store bodies in our clinic.”

If a pet has died at home, the client can call Peaceful Pet Passage directly or arrange a pickup at the Cape Horn Veterinary office.

Cadaver bags are available for transporting pets home for burial, but other options are available for clients who don’t like the idea of a cadaver bag.

Cape Horn Veterinary Associates is at 613 Lombard Rd, Red Lion, PA 17356 (York Township). For more information, call 717-501-4800 or visit www.capehornvet.com.

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Dr. Christopher Hunsinger of Shrewsbury Veterinary Clinic offered the following to help inform readers about the euthanasia process:

“We do not have enough room here for a special room or exit for grieving owners. We do try to schedule so that we do not have people here other than the family of the pet being put to sleep. We inform others of the situation as well, so that they will try to be quiet and respect the grieving pet owners.

“The drug used for humane euthanasia is Pentobarbital, a barbiturate that humanely stops breathing and heartbeat. Color is a manufacturers’ preference and is probably used to alert the veterinarian and staff that the drug is for euthanasia.

“We give two injections for the euthanasia procedure. The first is a combination of anesthetics that will make the patient calmly fall to sleep, usually within 5 minutes. This is usually given in the muscle. It may sting a little, as any injection does. We do not typically place an IV catheter.

“Once the pet is asleep or unaware, we give the second injection, intravenously, of the euthanasia solution. It may take a few minutes for this drug to work, but it is usually a very quick and peaceful passing. We check the heart to make sure the pet has passed away.

“Occasionally some pets look like they are trying to breathe, even after they are passed away. This is called agonal breathing. Some pets pass urine or defecate upon passing. Their eyes do not stay closed upon passing. Owners are made aware of all these scenarios so that, if it would be a very bad memory for them to see any of this happen, they may leave the room after the pet is sedated properly.”

Shrewsbury Veterinary Clinic offers a lock of hair from the pet for a memento.

Communal and private cremation is offered through Allied Veterinary Cremation in Lancaster County. The pets’ bodies are held in a freezer until Allied makes its once-a-week pickup. Pets who have passed away at home may be brought to the clinic for cremation; the owner should call the clinic before bringing the pet’s body in.

“Pets’ cremains that are for communal cremation are buried in Lancaster County,” said Dr. Hunsinger. “Clients who elect private cremation receive their pet’s ashes back in a carved box with a dried flower and card. We also send a sympathy card from the clinic.”

For clients who are taking their pet’s body home, Dr. Hunsinger said Shrewsbury Veterinary Clinic does its best to meet the owner’s wishes. The pet’s body is usually wrapped in a towel or blanket and placed in a plastic bag or in the carrier.

Shrewsbury Veterinary Clinic is at 85 E. Forrest Ave., Shrewsbury, PA 17361. For more information, call 717-235-6846 or visit >a target=”blank” href=https://www.facebook.com/ShrewsburyVeterinaryClinic>https://www.facebook.com/ShrewsburyVeterinaryClinic.

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Dr. Elizabeth Carney of Peaceful Pet Passage specializes in at-home euthanasia. She said appointments generally go as follows:

“I arrive at the appointed time and spend time greeting the family and the pet. Other family pets are always welcome to be present in the room. A lot of times people are worried they will bother me, but I am happy to have them there. I ask questions about what they’ve been going through with the pet, and many times talk through quality -of-life issues. This is such a tough decision, and part of my job is helping people know they are making the right decision. I then explain to them what the process will be:

‘I’ll need you to sign an authorization form for me to begin. My goal is to make this as peaceful for your pet as I can, so the first step is for me to give a single injection, under the skin, of a combination of a sedative and pain reliever. This is exactly how a vaccine would be administered. The medicine usually takes effect in about 5 minutes, and your pet will feel gradual drowsiness. He’ll lie down, his breathing will become slow and regular. I’ll check his reflexes to know when he is fully relaxed. At that point, and when you are ready, the second injection I give goes in the vein. I’ll clip a bit of hair from a front leg and place a small tourniquet on the leg. Your pet won’t feel this injection at all. Once all the drug is administered, it takes effect quickly, and your pet will pass in under a minute. I will listen to his chest with my stethoscope to make sure I no longer hear a heartbeat.’

“The euthanasia solution is sodium pentobarbital and phenytoin sodium. If there are other pets in the home, I urge clients to allow them some time to see and smell the deceased pet. I typically will step outside during this time to give them privacy, and they can have as much time as they need. If we are transporting the pet for cremation, our driver will be waiting outside until I tell him they are ready for him to come in. All pets are placed in cloth sleeping bags that zipper on three sides, and we use a stretcher to carry larger pets. We tell all of our clients that we treat their pet at all times as if they are there, looking over our shoulders.”

Pricing for in-home euthanasia with at home burial starts at $215. In-home euthanasia with memorial cremation starts at $270 and prices change based on the weight of the pet.

“As a veterinarian who has provided this service in both a clinic and at-home setting, I can say there is no comparison for the pet and the family.” Dr. Carney said. “There is a level of stress that is removed by staying at home. This is why I do it: I feel called to provide this for pets and people.”

Although a truck recently crashed through the wall of Peaceful Pet Passage’s York Township office, Dr. Carney said it won’t impact the company’s ability to provide any of its services. Cremations are all done at the main facility at 210 Andersontown Road, near Mechanicsburg.

Peaceful Pet Passage’s main office is at 210 Andersontown Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 (Fairview Township/Monaghan Township). It also has an office at 2709 South Queen Street, Suite 7, York, PA 17402 (York Township), although that office recently sustained damage after a truck crashed into it. For more information, visit www.peacefulpetpassage.com or call 717-691-9214 or 717-691-3004.

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Johanna Hanlon, CVT, practice manager/headtechnician at Ani-Care Animal Hospital, said every vet has his or her own protocols for euthanasia — different drugs, different routes of injection, etc.

“Many factors play a role in role in what protocol is used, such as species, patient temperament, patient condition, owner preferences,” Hanlon wrote. “Different colors in the syringes are just different drugs. Sedatives/tranquilizers are usually clear, yellow, or white. Euthanasia solution is either pink or blue. Normally we use two drugs. The first is a dissociative drug, which basically means it causes a disconnect between the brain and the body so the pet does not feel any pain. Complete onset of sedation usually only takes minutes. The second is the euthanasia solution and effects are immediate.”

When asked why vets sometimes flush the IV line in between injections, Hanlon said it depends if there is a line attached to the IV and, if so, how long it is.

“Flushing the line just ensures all of the drug enters the patient,” she said. “We only use an IV catheter in patients with poor circulation. We feel that the animals are more comfortable with their owners and do not want to stress them by bringing them to the treatment area for catheter placement if not needed. The doctor instead gives them a quick shot in the rear, which most animals don’t notice, and they slowly become heavily sedated or even lightly anesthetized. To the pet, this procedure should be very similar to other visits to the vet where they received vaccine injections or similar injections. The family is able to stay by the head of the patient and hug, pet and talk to them while the doctor uses a rear leg vein whenever possible to administer the euthanasia solution.”

Euthanasia pricing (including office visit and sedation) at Ani-Care ranges from $68 to $183 and is weight/species dependent. If the owner does not wish to be present, the price is less the office visit charge.

Pricing for cremation is weight-dependent and ranges from $50 to $170 for communal and from $160 to $340 for private. Cremation is handled by Allied Crematory LLC.

Hanlon said Ani-Care offers a special room for people to spend time with their pets before, during and after euthanization, and there is a door leading outside so the people don’t have to go through a crowded waiting room after euthanasia.

“Payment is taken prior. Some owners opt to come in ahead of time to complete paperwork and payment because they will be unable to think about it after. Others are brought to the “Quiet Room,” paperwork is completed, payment is taken and then the doctor takes over,” Hanlon said.

Ani-Care does offer cremation services for pets who have died at home, at the same cost as if the pet was euthanized at Ani-Care.
Do you offer cremation services for those whose pets died at home? If so, what does that cost? Yes, the price for private vs communal cremation is the same as if the pet was euthanized by us.

Ani-Care offers a keepsake, such as a pawprint or hair clipping, if requested.

Pets’ bodies are wrapped in bags supplied by the crematory and labeled with forms from the crematory in order to identify the remains as well as which cremation service the owner requested. Remains are kept in a dedicated freezer until the crematory staff picks them up. Private cremains are returned in the next week when the crematory returns.
The crematory picks up once a week in a special refrigerated van.

When asked what happens to the cremains if the family doesn’t opt for private cremation, Hanlon said “You would have to ask a crematory that question. There are usually government-controlled disposal regulations that need to be followed.”

When the family is taking their pet home for burial, Hanlon said, each situation is different. “Some owners bring something, if they don’t we will wrap the remains up and place them in a box when possible.”

“It’s important to note that just because vets may perform euthanasia on a regular basis, it does not mean it ever gets easy,” said Hanlon. “The end of a life is always sad. However, sometimes it needs to be viewed as a treatment in terminally ill patients and the only way we can guarantee no pain or suffering. Some vet staff experience “compassion fatigue,” especially those in shelter environments or hospitals that work with rescues. Also, not every vet will euthanize every owner request. Some may choose not to euthanize for aggression, others for treatable conditions. These are ethical considerations a vet must be comfortable with. Vets, just as pet owners, must live with the decisions they make regarding the pets they care for. Owners should not take it personally if a vet refuses to euthanize a particular patient.”

Ani-Care Animal Hospital is at 2740 S Queen St, Dallastown, PA 17313 (York Township). For more information, visit www.anicareanimalhospital.com or call 717-741-1320.

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Dr. Anne Parker of Compassion Animal Hospital in East Berlin said the euthanasia process at Compassion goes as follows:

“Our procedure, unless the patient is comatose, is to give a sedative injection first. This is usually a mixture of drugs, including acepromazine, ketamine, xylazine, butorphanol, diazepam, tiletamine-zolazepam,” she wrote. “The choice depends on the species; we are a mixed practice seeing both large and small animals. It also depends on the health history of the animal. For example, acepromazine can lower the seizure threshold, so we would not use that in an animal with epilepsy.The dose depends on the animal’s weight and illness, and every animal can react differently to sedative drugs — some need more than others. And there can be side effects, as I just explained with the acepromazine, vomiting can also be seen, and we warn owners about this before administering the injection.

“The euthanasia drugs are colored brightly to avoid human error in the hope they will never be mistaken for another medication. The color depends on the brand. They are highly concentrated barbiturates.

“Why sedate first? Because it reduces anxiety, and has analgesic benefit for our patients — not because the procedure is painful, but chronic painful conditions like arthritis are one of the major reasons clients opt for euthanasia. It also benefits our clients. They have some quiet time to say goodbye while their pet gently gets more sleepy. How long depends on how long it takes the pet to become sedated, which can be 5 to 15 minutes. The pet is then unaware of the final, lethal, intravenous overdose of barbiturate, and with several deep breaths, they pass away.

“Clients are welcome to stay the entire time, and to stay afterwards for as long as they like. We have a quiet room with soundproofed insulation, so they are also free to express their grief fully. We save shaved hair, and we make pawprints as mementos.

“We do not place intravenous catheters prior to euthanasia, though it is not wrong for other practices to do so. The final injection must be given intravenously to work quickly. This can be technically challenging. The sedative will cause blood pressure to drop, and very sick or dehydrated patients will also have low blood pressure, with veins that easily collapse. If that happens the solution can leak out into the tissue around the vein, which will sting, and also prolong the time for the animal to pass. (Hence the recent unsuccessful human executions by lethal injection.) If a hospitalized patient is on intravenous fluids, and already has an IV catheter in place when an owner opts for euthanasia, then we will, of course, inject through the catheter. Flushing the catheter ensures that the line is open, and a clot has not formed. You can also feel that by how well an injection goes when you are giving it through the port, so that flushing may not always be needed in between.

“We do not charge more for people to stay with their pet. We also understand when someone cannot be there, and we do also make house calls for euthanasia. If our schedule does not allow the extra time for a house call, we refer to Peaceful Pet Passage, which is a mobile euthanasia service. I know Dr Elizabeth Carney and Dr Allan Hill personally, and I trust both of them to take good care of my clients and their pets at the worst time in their lives together.

“To summarize the procedure, we have already discussed quality of life/prognosis, pain scale, and the owner’s wishes for the procedure and afterwards. We explain the process, the owner signs the consent form — also for the rabies law, stating that the pet has not bitten anyone in the last 10 days. I give the sedative injection intramuscularly, usually in one of the thigh muscles. We wait for the pet to become sedated, and then we have a technician hold the leg to raise the vein that I inject into. We wait until the animal has stopped breathing, then I listen for the heart to stop beating. We offer the client some time alone with their pet.

“The room we use is close to the exit door, and we are very mindful that owners do not have to go past other clients and pets. Payment depends on the circumstances and the owner; some will pay before, some after. There is no exam fee charged, but if a house call is made we do charge a house call fee in addition to the euthanasia charge.

“We offer cremation services through Allied Cremation Services in Palmyra. Clients are welcome, and several have traveled there for the cremation. Bodies are held frozen, Allied comes once a week, and brings back ashes in carved wooden urns with gold inlay. If clients do not want their individual pet’s ashes, the ashes are disposed of at Allied.”

Dr. Parker said Compassion Animal Hospital provides blankets and boxes for families who want to take their pet’s body home. “Some owners just want the pet back in their carrier; it is up to them. It is normal for animals to release their bowels and bladder after, and we provide plastic to put underneath,” she said.

“For large animals, there is another service that will pick up; the owner’s name is Matt Mulvaney. Also, depending on the township, some people will bury their pets at home. We do provide service for pets that died at home, and we have sent staff to the house to pick them up.

Dr. Parker said Compassion Animal Hospital has referred some clients to pet bereavement counselors, and provides materials to help explain the process to children.

“We send sympathy cards afterwards, which are a donation in memory of the pet to either the Morris Animal Foundation, which supports medical research, or to the Vet Care Foundation, which provides for the veterinary care of stray animals or hardship cases,” she said.

Compassion Animal Hospital is at 1665 Route 194 North, East Berlin, PA. For more information, visit www.cahllc.com or call 717-459-9100.

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Maria Sheffield-Stankiewicz, practice manager at East York Veterinary Center, describes the center’s euthanasia process for dogs and cats as follows. She said the process varies slightly for exotic animals.

“We use a product called Fatal Plus for euthanasia. We always use the same drug, but the dose is dependent on body weight. The color of the solution depends on the product being used, not the dose. Ours is blue.”

Sheffield-Stankiewicz said the number of injections given depends on the clinical state of the animal and the doctor on the case.

“East York Veterinary Center’s policy, in conjunction with AVMA guidelines, is to make euthanasia as stress-free as possible,” she said. “Therefore, we will often give a sedative intramuscularly, then place an IV catheter and give additional sedatives and/or the Fatal Plus intravenously. We use an opioid for pain (hydromorphone, butorphanol or buprenorphine), an anxiolytic (midazolam) or tranquilizer (acepromazine) and an anesthetic (propofol or ketamine).

“We will wait to give the euthanasia solution until the animal is either completely under anesthesia or barely responsive with sedation. We always flush in between injections to ensure the IV catheter is still patent, as the chemical in the Fatal Plus is irritating to the skin if given outside the vein. We try to use an IV catheter whenever possible unless doing so would cause more stress to the patient.

“To summarize the process, we perform an exam if we have not seen the patient within 12 months, as legally required. If we have seen the patient within 12 months but not for the reason for which the owners want to euthanize, we will perform an exam to see if other treatments can be offered to
the owner. If euthanasia is still elected, we give a sedative intramuscularly, more sedation intravenously and then the Fatal Plus intravenously.

“We do offer a ‘comfort room’ if people wish to wait there for privacy. We have a side door that we will escort people out of so they do not need to walk through the main lobby after the process. We take payment before the procedure in the room so the owner does not have to deal
with this process after euthanizing their pet.”

Sheffield-Stankiewicz said the price varies based on the animal’s body weight, ranging from $87.19 to $186.95, and East York Vet does not charge more for the client to be present.

“We offer a clay paw print and hair clipping for those owners who want ashes back (private cremation),” she said.

Cremation prices vary based on weight and whether a person wants the ashes back or not. These prices may range from $52 to $240. Cremation is also available for pets that have passed away at home. The price is the same, just no euthanasia cost.

“We use Pet Memorial as our crematorium,” Sheffield-Stankiewicz said. “After euthanization, the body is kept here in a freezer until the crematorium can pick up. Pet Memorial sends their own employee to transfer the body and they pick up twice weekly. We always keep the bodies frozen if there is a hold time. “If people opt not to get their pet’s ashes back, the crematorium has their own pet cemetery. There is information on this on Pet Memorial’s website.

“If the owners are taking the pet home, we have coffins that we can send the body home in,” she said. “Pet Memorial has a brochure that offers urns and jewelry for the owner as well.”

East York Vet also offers at-home euthanasia services for additional fees.

East York Veterinary Hospital is at 1997 Industrial Highway, York, PA 17402 (Springettsbury Township). For more information, call 717-840-1025 or visit www.EastYorkVet.com.

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Dr. Ann C. Pettigrew of Leader Heights Animal Hospital said most of the hospital’s clients want to be with their pets during euthanasia.

“We do place intravenous catheters in the pets to make it easier for the dog or cat and the owners. We let the techs do that in another room away from the owners, she said. “The solution we use is a very potent barbiturate which is in the anesthetic family. Ours happens to be blue in color. The dye is put in the solution so that it is very obvious what the solution is.

“Most of the animals who come in to be euthanized are pretty ill and do not necessarily need to be sedated or tranquilized prior to using the euthanasia solution. If a pet is fractious or very scared, we will sometimes give them something to calm them down.”

Dr. Pettigrew said owners are allowed to spend as much time as they need with their pet before and after euthanasia.

“We have the receptionists take care of billing prior to the procedure, as most people just want to get out of the hospital afterwards and are unable to take care of things afterwards,” she said. “We always allow the owners who are taking a pet home for burial to leave by the back door so they do not have to take their deceased pet through the waiting room. The bodies are placed in plastic bags. We always warn people so that they are prepared to see that. Some people elect to not have us wrap their pet, but we recommend that they wrap their pets in plastic prior to burial to prevent the odor from attracting other animals who might want to dig around the grave site. There is really not a very delicate way to wrap a body, unfortunately.

“We offer cremation, which is done off site by a company called Abby’s Glen They do both private and communal cremations, depending on whether the owners want the ashes back,” she said. “A few people will arrange to have their pets picked up by a cemetery for burial, or they will take them home to bury them in their yards, depending on township regulations.

“Euthanasia is considered the last kind thing you can do for your pet when they have a terminal disease or are in great pain,” Dr. Pettigrew said. “We are very careful and strict about who we euthanize. We do not euthanize pets for behavioral problems such as urinating around the house unless the people have tried everything to try to treat their cat or dog. It is not to be used when people can’t take their dog with them because they are moving to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. We have turned away many people who thought we would put their animals down just because they were willing to pay for the procedure. They might go down the road and have somebody else do it, but at least we can sleep well at night knowing we did the best we could for that pet.”

“It is a very sad thing to go through, but for the animals, it seems to be painless and it is very quick. Most animals are so sick that they literally just ‘fall asleep’ as if we were going to do surgery. We listen to the heart after we give the drug to let the owners know when the pet has died. Any movement they might see after that point is purely postmortem movement of muscles and nerves.”

Leader Heights Animal Hospital is at 199 Leaders Heights Road, York 17402 (York Township). For more information, visit www.leaderheightsvet.com or call 717-741-4618.

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ABOUT ALLIED VETERINARY CREMATION

Allied Veterinary Cremation provides communal and individual cremation of small animal companions to animal hospitals and veterinary clinics in Central Pennsylvania. The company also provides cremation options for humane societies and pet stores.

According to its website, Allied Veterinary Cremation Service was formed in 1996. In April 2001, Stephen Broich purchased Allied Veterinary Cremation, Ltd. from the owners of the former Allied Veterinary Cremation Service. In May 2012, the company purchased and renovated a former elementary school building at 1966 Mastersonville Road, Manheim, PA. Allied moved from its former Lebanon County building to the new Lancaster County facility in December 2012.
Allied offers decorative urns, jewelry, scatter tubes, grave markers and mementos. To see what’s available, visit http://alliedvc.faithfulforeverpets.com.

For more information on Allied Veterinary Cremation, call 717-665-1730 or visit www.alliedvc.com.

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