We recognise as pet owners ourselves that losing a beloved family pet is a sad and traumatic time as they are just like a member of our family.
Making the decision to end your pet’s life is a hugely difficult decision. Pet owners often feel a huge sense of guilt.
We want to encourage pet owners to find out more about the process itself and the options available to you when the time comes.
Every pet owner wishes that when the time comes, their pet should pass away in their sleep. Unfortunately natural deaths are not only rare (only 5%) but not always as peaceful and pain free as we would hope them to be. Euthanasia (or putting to sleep) as it is sometimes referred to, is without doubt the kindest way to a dignified end for your pet.
As a veterinary practice we aim to help you through the loss of your pet, inform you about your choices and what to expect and provide the peaceful end which your much loved pet deserves. Your veterinary practice is always available to help and support you through this difficult time.
Making the decision
This can be incredibly hard. Sometimes the decision to say goodbye is due to illness or injury but more often than not it can be because your pet has naturally got older and their quality of life has deteriorated.
People often ask how will I know when the time is right? This is not a straightforward question to answer.
We strongly recommend assessing their quality of life. Keep a record of their activity levels over a period of time.
- Are they still enjoying their walks or are they are a struggle?
- How active are they?
- Do they seem to be comfortable?
- How energetic and enthusiastic are they?
- Do they seem to be happy and content?
You can find a helpful quality of life questionnaire here which can be a useful aid for both you and your vet to discuss.
Remember to talk to us. Although we cannot make the decision for you, we can help discuss your concerns and fears and offer you an unbiased opinion for the best treatment for your beloved pet.
What happens next?
Once you have reached the decision, the next step is considering the time and the place. We always try to accommodate your wishes as much as possible.
We offer home visits where we will come to your house, during normal weekday hours, allowing your pet to be in familiar surroundings, surrounded by family members to say goodbye.
Alternatively you may prefer to bring your pet to the surgery. Where possible we always try to arrange the appointment at a quiet time rather than during a busy surgery. You will if you wish, be able to spend time with your pet to say goodbye or you may leave straight away. It is entirely up to you.
Alternatively you may prefer to bring your pet to the surgery and not stay for the euthanasia. There is no right or wrong decision.
Many pet owners are not aware of how euthanasia takes place. For cats and dogs euthanasia involves an injection of an intravenous anaesthetic drug which is given at an overdose rate which stops your pet breathing and their heart beating. This is usually given into the vein in their forelimb or ‘arm’ and a patch of hair will be clipped to enable your vet to see the vein clearly.
Some owners will prefer to hold their pet while this is being done. A veterinary nurse will often help the vet to raise your pet’s vein so they can give the injection.
Occasionally if your pet is a little fractious and prefers not to be held, we will offer you the choice of sedation. This is where we give your pet a small dose of a sedative drug via injection to make them sleepy. Unfortunately sometimes this can make a vein a little harder to find so may not be suitable for every pet.
Smaller pets like rabbits have an intravenous injection given into a vein in their ear but sometimes it is necessary to give them some gaseous anaesthetic first.
Guinea pigs, rats and hamsters do not have veins large enough to allow us to administer the injection intravenously. They will be given some gaseous anaesthetic first to make them sleepy and then the injection will be given directly into their tummy allowing them to drift off peacefully.
Once the drug is injected following one of the methods mentioned, the anaesthetic reaches the heart and brain within seconds and your pet is not aware of anything other than the needle pin prick for the intravenous injection. If we have used sedation first, it can take a few moments longer as the sedation will have lowered your pet’s blood pressure. Your pet is still unaware and will not feel any pain or discomfort.
It is important you are aware of what you may see once the overdose of anaesthetic has been injected as it can be quite upsetting if you are not prepared. Just like humans, animals have reflexes which happen once they pass away. Sometimes your pet may appear to gasp or take a breath along with a noise. This is a reflex spasm not normal breathing. Muscle twitching may also happen and they will usually empty their bladder and bowels. These reflexes only last for a short period of time but it is important you are prepared and they do not happen in every case. Remember all these reflexes happen after death and your pet is not aware of them at all.
Childrens presence at euthanasia depends on a variety of factors, most notably age, maturity and preference of your child. For some it can be a valuable experience as it helps them to understand what has happened. It is important to prepare your child for the process and tell them what will happen and what they may see if they are present.
We do realise euthanasia is a distressing time and we would like to make you aware in advance that we will ask you to sign a consent form giving your permission for this procedure.
It is very important at a time of loss that you consider all options available to you for your pet’s final resting place. Where possible it can be easier to think about this in advance and we are more than happy to help discuss the various options available to you so you have no regrets at a later date. The options range from burial at home, individual cremation or communal cremation. Please see here for more information.
This is always a difficult subject especially at such a distressing time. It can be beneficial to discuss this prior to euthanasia so you know what is involved and what cost to expect. Euthanasia is a skilled and crucial process and together with ensuring we use the best cremation service possible the cost perhaps can be more than you might expect if you have not experienced the procedure before.
Some owners prefer to settle the cost before the procedure and we are able to accommodate this. Please speak to one of our team members to arrange this.
Please feel free to ask us any question, no matter how trivial you think it might be. We want to make sure you are as fully informed as possible about every aspect of euthanasia. All team members are happy to discuss your options with you.
Please remember you can research euthanasia before the time actually comes. Many people find this helpful as they have made their decisions before the time comes to say goodbye.
Pet Quality Of Life Questionnaire
Cambridge Pet Crematorium
Cherry Tree Pet Crematorium
The Ralph Site
Animal Welfare Foundation
Our Special Friends
Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Service
Blue Cross – When The Time Comes
Coping With Bereavement
Rainbow Bridge Story