A Gentle and Easy End to Life
Euthanasia is the term used to describe a gentle and easy death rather than what could be a protracted and distressing end to a life. As our pets age, are injured or become very sick, we need to carefully consider various treatment options, especially where there may be a poor chance of a recovery. The decision for euthanasia may then become a suitable option in order that our beloved pet will not suffer. This information has been compiled to help, offer support and provide some answers to queries you may have during a potentially difficult and emotional time.
This is often a very difficult decision and may depend on the individual circumstances, so will often need a discussion with the vet involved. As responsible owners, we must consider what is in our pet’s best interests to prevent any suffering rather than just our own wishes for holding on to our beloved pets. As we become very attached, even after a short period of time, to the unconditional love we receive from our pets, the last thing we would naturally want to do is decide on euthanasia.
Pain can be obvious in some animals but subtle in others. Animals looking quiet and subdued, hunched up and showing little movement may be in a lot of pain. This is especially seen in cats, rabbits and exotic animals.
This may be due to: Brain problems, where animals may exhibit abnormal behaviours, senility, disorientation and having fits Laboured breathing asscoiated with respiratory distress.
Is your pet having problems feeding and drinking?
Can your pet stand up and walk by themselves?
Does your pet enjoy his/her favourite activity (e.g. walks, playing with toys etc)?
Is your pet incontinent or having difficulty passing urine or faeces? This can become a major problem on a daily basis.
For some of these conditions, specific treatment can be appropriate so that your pet’s quality of life can be improved to a reasonable standard. However, there are certain problems that cannot be resolved with treatment, which may mean that euthanasia would be the most appropriate decision.
Consider whether you would like the euthanasia at the surgery (usually at a quiet time whenever possible) or in more familiar surroundings at home. Please let us know in advance if a visit is required, so that we can arrange a mutually suitable time.
Once the decision has been made, the vet will ask you to sign a consent form and will often request the assistance of a veterinary nurse. The injection is an anaesthetic overdose, normally injected into a vein. A small amount of hair is normally clipped from the front leg of a dog or cat or the ear from a rabbit in order to locate the vein. With the nurse’s help, the anaesthetic is injected directly into the vein to enable a quick and peaceful end. Your pet will then rapidly lose consciousness, then the heart and breathing will stop shortly afterwards. The vet will then stay until death has been confirmed.
Some pets may be distressed or have poor circulation, and so may need sedating prior to the anaesthetic. These pets will take longer to pass away and the vet will do all that they can to try and make the process as smooth as possible.
Once your pet has lost consciousness, and after the heart and normal breathing have stopped, further movements may often be observed for some time afterwards. These are natural reflexes via nerves and muscles and include:
- Intermittent “gasps”
- Muscle twitches anywhere on the head, body or legs.
- Toiletting-the passing of urine and faeces
We will understand if you need some time with your pet after euthanasia and will do our best to accommodate your wishes.
Following euthanasia, you may take your pet home for burial in a suitable place. Ideally, this should be as deep as possible and with a stone on top.
Alternatively, your pet will be safely stored at the surgery until collection for cremation at a pet crematorium.
A standard cremation will involve your pet being cremated with other pets. If you would like to collect your pet’s ashes, individual cremations are performed at Pet Cremation Services and the ashes are returned to the surgery in your choice of casket. We will contact you as soon as the ashes have been returned. There is an additional fee for this service so please ask for current prices.
We have personally visited Pet Cremation Services and found them to provide a very professional and reliable service for all pet cremation needs, including very individual requests.
Pet Cremation Services PCS,
West Lodge Farm
West Hatton Road,
This is a fully-licensed family-run business established in 1986, providing a caring and dignified cremation for each and every animal.
This is often a very upsetting time, and you may feel various emotions including shock, disbelief, anxiety, anger, guilt, despair or relief.
Crying is a common and natural reaction so please do not feel embarrassed about this. It is often a real help to talk through your experiences with a close friend or relative as part of the grieving process.
There are confidential support services available to help you at this difficult time.
Pet bereavement and support services (P.B.S.S.)
Run jointly with The Blue Cross and Society of Companion Animal Studies (S.C.A.S.).
Tel: 0800 096 6606 (8.30am-8.30pm)
Cruse Bereavement Care
Tel: 0844 477 9400
Losing a pet by Jane Matthews
Goodbye dear friend by Virginia Ironside
Absent friend-coping with the loss of a treasured pet by Laura and Martyn Lee
Pet Loss and children by Cheri Barton
What if I want the vet to examine my sick pet, but I do not want to decide on euthanasia at the moment?
This is a familiar scenario, where the options will be discussed with the vet. The vet will try to provide the most appropriate treatment in the short term, so you can go home and come to a decision on the most appropriate option.
Will it hurt?
Your pet will feel the prick of the needle as the injection is administered, but should not feel any further discomfort as the anaesthetic takes effect very quickly.
Do I have to stay/may I stay with my pet?
You may stay if you wish, but you do not have to. This is entirely your choice.
Can I hold my pet?
We will try whenever possible to allow owners to hold their pet, if desired, although this may not always be possible. The nurse and vet will require access to administer the injection in a safe way. You will always be allowed to comfort your pet throughout.