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Time to Say Goodbye

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How do I Know it is Time?

As pet owners we endeavour to make sure that our faithful companions stay fit and healthy enabling them to live to an old age. Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as us and at some point we will have to prepare to let them go. Sadly, few of our pets pass peacefully away in their sleep therefore we have a responsibility to do the right thing at the right time fulfilling our commitment as pet owners in their final days. We hope these words will help you and your family in a time of conflicting emotions.

Nobody knows their pet better than you and your closest family and friends so let them help and share in making a reasoned judgement on your pet's quality of life.

Indications that things may not be well may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • A reluctance to play and move around as normal
  • Restlessness or becoming withdrawn from you
  • Inappropriate toileting
  • Aggression

When the time is right to put your pet to sleep you may see evidence of a combination of all the above indicators and your pet may seem distressed, uncomfortable or disorientated within your home.

Is there nothing more I can do?

Your vet will have discussed all treatment options available for your pet to relieve their symptoms but there will come a time when all forms of treatment have been exhausted, we have discovered the disease is incurable or you feel your pet is suffering too much. You and your family may wish to talk to help you all come to this final decision; in this case we will arrange an appointment for you.

Is it better to wait until your pet passes away peacefully at home?

Undoubtedly, some animals do die peacefully and comfortably at home in what can be a very moving and natural experience so it can be tempting to think that rather than having your pet euthanised, is it better to keep them at home and let them pass away peacefully in their sleep?  However unfortunately this is not the case very often, even if your pet is very ill, it can take a long time for natural death to happen and it can be a painful and uncomfortable time for them. Having your pet waiting at home can lead to he or she becoming unable to eat or drink resulting in dehydration and malnutrition, incontinence, among other issues therefore causing them more stress, and of course we want to do as much as we can to prevent unnecessary suffering and ensure your pet receives the best care possible.

What will happen?

We hope this section will help you and your family understand your pet's end-of-life journey. This is known as 'euthanasia' (meaning painless death) but often referred to as 'putting to sleep'. After discussing with your family and your vet and having decided that the time has come you can contact your surgery and make an appointment, we will always make this appointment at a time that is convenient for you.

Euthanasia is the last act of kindness which we can do for our pets. However, it can be one of the most difficult decisions we ever have to make. We are here to support you during the entire procedure and make those final moments with your pet as peaceful and stress free as possible. 

The euthanasia procedure can be difficult and confusing, so this page aims to help you understand what happens.

How do I book the appointment?

You can book the appointment by calling the surgery you would like to attend; we will always book extended appointment slots. If you would prefer the euthanasia to take place at home, we can arrange a date and time for a vet and a nurse will come to your home at the designated time. Please note that this can only be arranged when we have sufficient staffing levels to do so and cannot be during evenings or weekends.

Can I bring someone else to the appointment?

Experiencing the loss of a pet is a very difficult time, so if you feel that bringing someone else to the appointment with you will help then please do so. It is a very emotional time and can be hard to retain any information from the vet, so having a friend or family member with you can help and give comfort. They don’t have to come into the consulting room with you, however they can if you wish.

Will I have to wait in a crowded waiting room?

On arriving at the surgery, you may wish to wait in the car with your pet or you can wait in one of our consulting rooms when availability allows to avoid a potentially busy waiting room. You can also come into the surgery through our side door if you would prefer this to avoid the waiting area. Just speak to our receptionists to inform them where you would prefer to wait.

Do I have to stay?

Most people choose to stay with their pet during the procedure. However, it is completely understandable if you would prefer not to stay with your pet and, in this instance, he or she will be looked after by one of our clinical team. The vet will carry out the euthanasia and one of our nursing staff will be on hand to assist and comfort your pet. Our entire team carry out all their duties with the utmost care and compassion so please be assured that they will look after your pet as if they were their own.

What happens next? 

Before the euthanasia is performed, you will be asked to sign a consent form. This form gives us permission to go ahead with the procedure and will also outline details of the options following euthanasia.

How is the drug administered and how quickly does it work?

In most situations, euthanasia involves an intravenous injection i.e. into a vein on your pet’s front or back leg. An intravenous cannula is placed into the vein at which point your pet may feel a small scratch, similar to us having a blood test. Some pets may benefit from some light sedation if they are particular stressed or upset prior to placing the cannula. The sedative, which is administered by injection into the muscle, will make your pet sleepy and relaxed. If you feel that you would prefer your pet to be sedated first, please let us know at the time of the appointment so we can discuss this with you.

Once the cannula is in place and only when you are ready, we will administer the euthanasia injection. There is no rush to proceed with this step, we will only start when you are ready. The injection is often brightly coloured, usually a pink or blue colour, so please do not be alarmed by this. When the injection is administered it travels throughout the body very quickly and your pet will drift into an unconscious state within a few seconds, breathing will slow down as well as the heartbeat, after a few more seconds the heart will cease to beat. This procedure is very peaceful and quick – usually within 30 seconds. The vet will listen to your pet’s heart to confirm that he or she has passed away. 

What should I expect following my pet’s euthanasia?

Please be aware that your pet’s eyes may remain open following death, so do not be concerned by this, it is perfectly normal. You may also notice occasional muscle spasms or twitches. Sometimes pets will take a reflex breath that gives the impression that he or she is breathing. Be reassured that this does not mean they are still alive; it is simply part of the process that occurs after death. Quite often pets will pass both urine and faeces following death, this is due to the muscles relaxing. Again, this is completely normal, so please do not be alarmed.

How long can I stay afterwards?

You are welcome to stay for as long, or as little as you want following the procedure. Please do not be afraid to show your emotions, as veterinary staff and pet owners ourselves we all completely understand what you are going through.

If you would like us to take a fur clipping or a paw print from your pet then please let us know at the time of the appointment and we can arrange this for you.

The euthanasia can be paid for prior to the appointment so that after you have seen a vet, you can leave the surgery through our side door to avoid walking through a busy waiting area or having to wait at reception. If you are undecided with regards to options for cremation, you can have some time to discuss with family then give us a call at a later date and payment can be taken over the phone to save you coming into the surgery to do so.

Afterwards

There are several options available for your pet and our clinical team can discuss these with you and give you an idea of costs involved.

  • Burial at home
  • Cremation without the ashes returned
  • Individual cremation with the ashes returned to you

If you choose to bury your pet at home be aware that the grave will need to be at least 3 feet deep. Some people will prefer to have this ready before the euthanasia.

There are two different types of cremation; either you can opt to have your pet cremated and choose not to have his or her ashes back, or you can choose an individual cremation and the ashes will be returned to you in an urn or box of your choice. Please be aware that ashes can take a couple of weeks to be returned to the practice. Please speak to one of our receptionists if you would like more information regarding these options, you may also be given a leaflet by one of our veterinary surgeons during the appointment to take home and consider your options.

Grief is very natural after losing your pet, it’s an understandable reaction to losing a much-loved member of the family. It is a very personal emotion, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Guilt can also be felt after making the decision to euthanise you pet. However, you have made the decision to end your pets suffering and this is one of the most selfless acts you can do. Please talk to us if you are struggling and we can help.

When will I need to decide?

We would encourage you and your family to discuss these options before your pet is put to sleep and let your vet know, we will keep a note of your wishes with your pet’s notes. However, in some cases the euthanasia may have occurred after an accident and you will need more time to make this decision so it is possible for us to keep your pet for a short time afterwards to give you and your family time to reflect before making a decision.

Coping with the loss

Everyone deals with grief in different ways. When grieving for a much loved pet you or other members of your family may experience a range of emotions from shock, denial, disbelief and very often guilt. Should you wish to talk to anyone at your veterinary surgery we can offer support and advice.

If after reading these pages there is anything you would like to know we will be more than happy to help with these. Please contact us at the surgery.

The following organisations can provide further help and support:

The Ralph Site

Compassion Understood 

Blue Cross

The Blue Cross also offer a bereavement support line if you would like to talk to someone. The number is 0800 0966606.

The sites above also offer special books that have been written to help your children understand the loss of their pets.

Bereavement

Our pets are members of the family, each with their unique personality and place in our lives. Losing them is never easy and in many cases unexpected, leaving us feeling sad and alone. Unfortunately we often have to make the difficult decision on their behalf and this leads to conflict with the love and trust we share with them. Feeling a sense of guilt or betrayal is normal, especially if they do not appear to be in obvious distress or discomfort at the time. Many medical conditions lead to discomfort that can be subtle and difficult to detect, as your pet has good days and bad days, unable to communicate clearly about the problem. Euthanasia is a final act of kindness, a chance to prevent suffering at the end.

Knowing when the time has come is not always straightforward, but always comes down to quality of life. We recommend you come in and talk through the options with us. There may be treatment you were unaware of or we may be able to manage any discomfort for a time. Whatever the decision we are here to help.