Helping a client prepare for euthanasia might be just as difficult as preparing yourself. It is important to remember that your role is to support your clients (pet parents) and help them understand the process as much as they want to so that they are as prepared as possible.
To begin this process, it is best to offer to review the process of euthanasia. It is always helpful to create a plan with the pet parent. By informing them where and how the euthanasia will take place and what injections will be used, it often helps to alleviate any questions or uncertainties. A comfort or grieving room is most suitable. Avoid doing the procedure in an exam room if possible.
Encouraging the pet parent to make any decisions ahead of time will be helpful; i.e. selecting the appointment time, suggesting they bring anything from home as a comfort to them and/or their pet, and choosing to take any hair clippings or paw imprints, etc. Planning ahead, as difficult as it may be, will allow the pet parent to have exactly what they wish for at end-of-life for their pet.
Death is a very sad, yet natural process in the life cycle. However, death is very personal to many people. You might find that many pet parents want to be left alone with their pet after the euthanasia. Check with your staff to ensure they can stay in the room for as long as they need. This allows a private, personal space for your clients during their initial grief.
As uncomfortable as it might be, making sure the pet parent feels supported when they depart the room and leave their pet is vital. Or if they choose to stay during the process, be sure they know what to expect every step of the way.
Be sure to respect the pet parent’s space and emotions. Refrain from saying clichés such as, “You’ve done the right thing.” That does not speak to their heart and will bring them no comfort at that moment. If you do not know them well, it is appropriate to simply say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Refrain from approaching any religious or spiritual condolences as you most likely will not know their religious or spiritual affiliations. It is most appropriate to offer to walk the pet parent(s) to their car.
If you don’t know what to say, simply standing with someone in silence is still supportive and comforting.
Let the pet parent know that you are still available as a supportive pet care provider and always offer Day By Day information to them such as the brochures “A Guide to Planning Ahead” and “The Emotions of Euthanasia.”
Sometimes the ones who appear least affected are those who need the most support. Always remember, shock is usually the first emotion one will go through.