Euthanasia at Our Hospital

Euthanasia at the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

WHEN IS IT TIME?cute dog face

The decision regarding the euthanasia of a beloved pet may be the most difficult decision one makes in oneís entire life; obviously, the consequences are irrevocable. Whatever the decision is, it should be one that you can always look back upon and know that the best decision was made and that you would make the same decision over again in the same situation.

So how do you know if it is time? There are several criteria used in evaluating life quality and you should consider them carefully.

  • Is your pet eating? Basically, quality life involves eating or at least interest in food. An animal that is hungry has vitality that must be considered, though this is not the only consideration.
  • Is your pet comfortable? The pet should be freeboxer limping of
    debilitating pains, cramps, aches or even the psychological pain that comes from the development of incontinence in an animal that has been housebroken its entire life.

  • Does the pet still enjoy its favorite activities? The elderly pet does not necessarily need to continue chasing balls or jumping after frisbees but he should enjoy sleeping comfortably, favorite resting spots, the company of the owner etc. You know your pet better than any one and only you can truly answer these questions.

Dr. Alice Villalobos, the veterinarian who started Pawspice, a quality of life program for terminal pets, has published a scoring system for life quality called the HHHHHMM scale.  The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More Good Days than Bad. Click here to view the scoring system.

If you are considering euthanasia, discuss the petís condition with your veterinarian prior to making a decision or even coming in for an appointment. Every veterinarian has a story or two about the pet that was brought in for euthanasia but turned out to have a relatively simple problem and ultimately achieved a complete recovery.

The mental process of making the euthanasia decision is heart-breaking and you do not want to have to undergo this process twice but, on the other hand, you do not want to euthanize a pet with a treatable disease. Many times people come in for their euthanasia appointment having already made their decision when, in fact, their pet has a reversible problem.

Do not assume your petís condition is untreatable.
Call your veterinarian first and discuss the situation
before you are too far into this emotional process to turn back.

Use the medical resources available to you
to get all the facts and options before making this decision.

dog in fireplace


Again, this is a very personal decision. On one hand, you probably do not want your pet to be alone with strangers in its final moments but on the other hand you may not be up to watching your petís death. Every owner wants to think of euthanasia as a gentle slipping into death much like falling asleep. In reality, the pet will probably not close its eyes, and there may be a final twitch, gasp, or even urination. Some animal hospitals do not allow pet owners to be present for euthanasia as it may be disturbing to an owner. To help ease this transition between and death, sometimes a tranquilizer is given first thus alleviating some of the above but you should keep in mind that this may not be how you want to remember your pet.

The issue of children being present is also a personal one and the above information should be considered.


Appropriate forms must be signed in order for the procedure to take place. If the owner is to be present, an intravenous catheter may be placed. This takes a few minutes and is usually done while the owner pays for the procedure and deals with paperwork. The payment transaction is done prior to the procedure so that the owner will not have to tearfully sign checks or credit card slips just following the emotional height of the procedure.

The intravenous catheter serves several purposes. First, the euthanasia solution is painful if administered outside the vein. The catheter insures clean access to the vein, even if the owner is holding the pet. The catheter also allows for a sedative to be administered prior to the euthanasia solution.

After the catheter is placed, the pet re-joins the owner in the exam room. The owner may spend some last time alone with the pet if desired.

The procedure itself is very fast. If a sedative is to be used, it is given first so that the pet is euthanized from a sleeping status. The euthanasia solution, generally dyed a bright color so that it cannot be mistaken for anything else, is delivered and death comes peacefully in a matter of seconds. The owner is allowed to remain with the pet for final private goodbyes. At the end of this time after the last goodbyes and caresses are completed, the owner simply exits the room when ready and the hospital staff takes over.

Let us know in advance if you would like a lock of hair or the collar as a keepsake.


You may select one of several disposal methods.

  1. A special service has been contracted to dispose of pet remains by cremation. Animals are cremated in groups.
  2. As another option, your petís remains can be part of a group cremation with the ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. CGA CremationThere is an extra charge for this service.

  3. If you wish, you may have a private cremation and the ashes will be returned to you either in an urn of your choosing or a cedar box (the basic option). Our reception will have a book of urns and prices.
  4. Private services can also be arranged through the California Guardian Animal Cremation Company in Sun Valley, California. For the California Guardian Animal website directly, click here.
  5. A LifeGemTM diamond can be created for you using the carbon from your petís remains. This is an actual high quality diamond of color, carat and setting of your choosing. It takes 4 - 6 months to make the diamond and there will be extra ashes not used in the diamond-makinLifeGem logog process which will be returned to you. It is preferrable for the diamond-making process to request the LifeGem at the time of cremation, but they can be made from previously cremated remains (i.e., a LifeGem can be made for you if you have saved ashes in your possession). Prices begin at $2,490. For more information from the LifeGem website directly, click here.

  6. City ordinances prohibit the burial of your petís body at home, but if you wish to take your petís body with you, our hospital is not bound to report this in any way.
  7. Autopsy (actually more correctly called ďnecropsyĒ for animals) is available and is compatable with any of the five options listed above. There are different levels of detail for this procedure.If you have unanswered questions or a legal interest in these results, please discuss the details with your veterinarian.



Grief is a natural part of loss and has predicable stages. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed about grieving for the loss of an animal. Our pets are beloved family members and their loss is keenly felt. Still, it is important to realize that death is a natural end to life and that love will always continue. There are many resources available to assist you in your grieving process. A pet loss counselor in our area has provided brochures, available at the reception desk.

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has a Pet Loss Support Program, offering toll-free telephone support to those who wish to call. The hours are Monday through Friday, from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm Pacific Standard Time.


In addition, the following on-line areas may be helpful:

Helpful books are available as well:


rainbow small

The Rainbow Bridge

rainbow small

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...

Author unknown...


Gift Baskets for the Bereaved

Memorial Products


Page last updated: 9/1/10