Coming to terms with the end of our pet’s life can be the hardest thing we will ever have to face with our loved companions. Our team of vets and nurses are always available to help to help you make decisions or guide you further. We have pets ourselves and so genuinely understand what you’re going through and will do our very best for you and your pet at this difficult time.

How do I prepare for the end, or know that the time is right?

We are never quite prepared for the death of a pet. Whether death is swift and unexpected or whether it comes at the end of a slow decline, losing a loved companion is always an extremely difficult thing to come to terms with. Everyone secretly hopes that their pet will eventually die peacefully in their sleep and be found lying in their favourite spot in the morning. However, for various reasons, including the prevention of suffering, three quarters of our pets have to be put to sleep and the decision then rests in our hands. Please see the questions section below to help you decide if the time is right or not. Euthanasia is the induction of painless death and literally means ‘gentle death’. Other terms you may hear are ‘put to sleep’, or ‘put down’. The decision to end a life is never easy. It takes courage and is our last responsibility to a pet who has given us love and companionship. Many owners feel guilty about requesting euthanasia, as they don’t like to think that they are the ones to make the decision to decide when their pet’s life must end. This is a natural feeling to have but we should be aware that a gentle death is the kindest gift that we can give to an animal at the appropriate moment. Veterinary surgeons do not exercise this option lightly. Their medical training and professional lives are dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of disease but they are also aware of the balance between extending an animal’s life and preventing them from suffering.

What happens?

Euthanasia is usually performed by injection of an overdose of strong anaesthetic into one of the veins in the animal’s foreleg, which causes them to lose consciousness immediately. A nurse will often assist the vet by gently holding the pet, in order to prepare the vein for injection, or a catheter may be placed in advance so you can hold the pet in your arms. If your pet is distressed, in pain, fractious or difficult to handle for any reason then a sedative can be used to help calm them down. A few seconds after the injection your pet becomes unconscious, breathing stops, the heart stops beating and death occurs. After death, some reflexes may occasionally occur, such as trembling legs, sudden gasps and loss of bladder and bowel control. It is important to be aware that this may happen, as although the pet has passed away and is unaware at this stage, these reflexes can be distressing to see.

Should I stay to the end?

This is a personal decision and it is entirely up to you whether you wish to stay with your pet or not. You may prefer to remember them as they were, or you may wish to say goodbye after the event. Pets have no knowledge about what is about to happen and do not fear death as such. However, if you are very upset your pet may become distressed as a result, in which case it may help for them to be given a sedative. We always remember pets are members of the family and they will be given reassurance and treated with respect and dignity whether or not you are present.

What happens to my pet afterwards?

Your family and you can choose whether you would like to bury your pet at home or have them communally or individually cremated. We are able to advise you on the options available.

Most pets who are euthanased are communally cremated at a veterinary crematorium. Or your pet could be individually cremated and the ashes returned to you to keep, to scatter or to bury in a special place.

We routinely use Valley Pet Crematorium who we trust and respect.

Mourning

Each of us mourns differently, some more privately than others, and some recover more quickly. Some pet owners find great comfort in acquiring a new pet soon after the loss of another. Others, however, become distressed at the suggestion of another pet as they may feel that they are being disloyal to the memory of the preceding pet.

Counselling

There are several excellent sources of counselling to help you to come to terms with your loss, or if you just want to talk to someone who understands what it means to lose a loved pet. Pet Bereavement Service or call them on 0800 0966606

Further guidance on making the decision

To help you to prepare for the decision to euthanase your pet, consider the following questions. They are only intended as a guide as only you can decide what the best solution is for you and your pet.

  • What is the current quality of my pet’s life?
  • Is my pet still eating well? Playful? Affectionate toward me?
  • Is my pet interested in the activity surrounding it?
  • Does my pet seem tired and withdrawn most of the time?
  • Is my pet in pain, quieter than usual, or cannot get comfortable?
  • Is my pet incontinent or neglecting themselves?
  • Is there anything I can do to make my pet more comfortable?
  • Are any other treatment options available?
  • If a behavioural problem has led me to this decision, have I sought the expertise of a veterinary behaviour consultant?
  • Do I still love my pet the way I used to, or am I angry and resentful of the restrictions its condition has placed on my lifestyle?
  • Does my pet sense that I am withdrawing from it?
  • What is the quality of my life and how will this change?
  • Will I want to be present during the euthanasia?
  • Will I say goodbye to my pet before the euthanasia because it is too painful for me to assist?
  • Do I want to be alone or should I ask a friend to be present?
  • Do I want any special burial arrangements made?
  • Do I need time to recover from this loss before considering another pet?

The final decision almost always causes much soul-searching, especially if you and your pet have been companions for several years. What matters to the pet is quality of life not length of life since a pet has little concept of future time.