TIME TO SAY GOODBYE?
Coming to terms with the death of a beloved pet can be confusing and devastating, and can be all the more difficult because you may be worried about what is to happen if your pet has to be put to sleep. The information in this page will help you to be prepared if you have to make this difficult decision.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?
Because your pet can't tell you how he feels, you will have to look for signs that your pet's quality of life is deteriorating. Signs include being quiet and withdrawn, not wanting physical contact or to go out, not eating or drinking. If you think your pet is in pain or suffering, it is important to speak to your vet who will help you discuss the options (and who will also guide you as to when the right time may be for euthanasia).
The choice of where the euthanasia is carried out is entirely personal. Most people make the decision to bring their pet into the vet surgery. A longer appointment time will be given for you so you do not feel rushed, and we will try to make your appointment towards the end of the surgery, again so there is no pressure from other patients coming in.
Other people make the choice to ask the vet to come out to put their pet to sleep in their own home. Some animals can feel stressed coming into the surgery, or the owner is unable to bring them to the surgery for many reasons. However, this is a more expensive option, and we may not have a vet available to come out to you immediately.
You also have a choice about whether you would like to stay with your pet or not. This is a very personal decision, and some people find it too difficult or distressing to stay, while others prefer to be with their pet during euthanasia. Again, it is entirely your decision.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
The vet will ask you to sign a consent form giving permission for euthanasia, which will be carried out by the vet, with another person to assist. A patch of fur is shaved, which is usually on the front leg, and the injection will be given into the vein. If your pet is very unwell, the vet may have difficulty finding a vein in the leg. If this is the case, the vet may inject into another part of your pet's body. In some circumstances, especially if your pet is very stressed or in pain, the vet may decide to give your pet a sedative injection first. This will calm and relax your pet, making it easier for the vet to give the euthanasia injection. The vet will keep you informed at all times during the procedure. The drug used is a large dose of anaesthetic and your pet will usually be unconscious within a few seconds. Their breathing and heartbeat will stop, the vet will check that the heart has stopped beating. Occasionally there will be a gasp or muscle twitch; this is completely normal. Your pet's eyes will usually remain open.
If you have other pets at home, it can be helpful for them to be have a chance to see your pet once it has been put to sleep. This can help them to accept what has happened and ease the process for them.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Your vet will ask what you wish to do with your pet after euthanasia, and you have several options to consider. This is your choice, and you may wish to think about this before you come in with your pet. Any of the practice staff will always be willing to give you advice and to help you come to your own decision.
You may consider cremation; this can be done individually or communally. If you choose communal cremation, you will not be able to have your pets ashes returned. Individual cremation means that the ashes will be returned to you, either in a box to scatter, or if you prefer, in an urn or casket to keep.
If you own your house, it is also possible to take your pet home to bury in your own garden. You must remember that the grave should not be close to water sources or electrical cables.
COPING WITH THE LOSS OF A PET
Whether you lose your pet as a result of an illness, accident, or 'old age', it can be a distressing time and can leave you with a sense of despair or loneliness. Euthanasia can also bring feelings of doubt and guilt. Please be assured that these feelings are perfectly normal.
Talking with family and friends can help, as can remembering your pet in some way, such as a memorial, special photo, keeping their name tags on your keys, or a special tree or shrub in the garden. We also have an 'In Memoriam' page where you can share your story and photographs of your pet if you wish.
If you feel that you have no-one to talk to, there are organisations which can provide emotional support such as the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service. Receptionist Donna Sangster has completed training to be a Support Volunter for the Pet Bereavement Support Line.
Losing a pet can be a confusing and distressing time, so if there is anything you do not understand or are unsure of, please ask the vet or any member of practice staff who will deal with your concerns in a sensitive manner.