Updated: Jan 30
When the time comes for your furry friend to pass over rainbow bridge it will be incredibly upsetting. Your beloved companion is part of the family, and it can be a very difficult decision to make. Letting them slip away peacefully and quietly can be an act of kindness to your much loved companion.
You spend more time with your pet than anyone and know them best, but a chat with your vet can help you to decide if the time is right and give you reassurance and guidance on your decision.
Once your precious pets quality of life is no longer what is should be, there is no significant treatment to elevate their clinical signs and you believe this is the end of the road for them then humane euthanasia can be carried out by your vet.
What happens during euthanasia
Once the decision has been made then contact your Veterinary Surgery and arrange an appointment to see your vet. It is a good idea to let the reception staff know what the appointment is for as they will often make the appointment a little longer and arrange it for a quieter time in the day.
Make time for the family to say goodbye. You may want to consider taking a family member or friend with you for support.
I am going to give a description of what typically happens during a euthanasia. The procedure is designed to be as calm and quick as possible but some may find this description distressing.
On arrival you will be greeted by the vet, you may want to discuss concerns you have with your pet and get their opinions, others have made the decision and will not.
A consent form needs to be signed by the owner to consent to the euthanasia.
Euthanasia in dogs and cats is usually carried out by an injection given into the vein in the front leg. A small patch of hair is clipped in this area prior to the injection. The nurse will often gently hold your pet in the correct position for the injection and you will be able to stroke and talk to your pet if you wish.
All your pet feels is the small prick of the needle, the injection is painless.
Within a few seconds the animal will become unconscious and unaware, within a couple of minutes the heart will stop and the pet has passed away. It can take a little longer if the animal is particularly unwell
After your pet has passed you may still notice tiny movements, this is reflexes in the muscle, occasionally the animal may open its mouth after passing or pass urine. These actions are all completely normal and are involuntary and occur as the body shuts down. Your pets eyes will often remain open after they have passed.
Occasionally there are circumstances where you animal may be difficult to handle or incredibly nervous. In these situations it is possible to discuss with your vet about sedation of your pet prior to euthanasia.
Small animals such as rabbits and hamsters may be given some anaesthetic gas before the injection is given to sedate them. With smaller pets the leg vein may not be used due to their size and an alternative route of injection is given. As the pet has had anaesthetic gas they will not be aware of this or feel any discomfort.
Should you stay with your pet during the euthanasia?
There is no right or wrong to this, it is entirely your preference. Some owners want to be there and reassure their pet right to the end, others are unable to watch as find it too distressing. Whatever you decide is best for you and your pet, the vet and nurse will always be incredibly kind and sympathetic. You may decide you would like a few minutes alone with you pet after they have passed.
What happens afterwards?
Speak to your vet or nurse about any keepsakes you would like. Some owners would like a clipping of hair or a paw print with ink. If you would like to keep your companions collar, lead, carrier or box just ask.
Once you have said your goodbyes your animal will be treated with upmost respect. There are a number of options for what happens afterwards and again this is all personal preference.
Communal cremation is where your pet is cremated with other loved animals and the ashes scattered at the crematorium.
Individual cremation means your pet is cremated alone and their ashes can be returned to you. There are options where the ashes can come in a box for you to open and scatter them in a favourite place. Other options include closed caskets and urns. Your pets ashes are normally returned to the practice for you to collect.
Home burial If you wish to take your pet home to burry this is often possible.
Our lives are transformed by the love and companionship our pets bring so saying goodbye is always incredibly difficult and sad. It affects people in many different ways.
It is entirely natural to feel upset when a pet passes away, they were a member of the family and grieving is a normal process. It can take days, weeks or even years to come to terms with your loss, some experience feeling similar to human loss.
You may feel a sense of calm and relief that your pet is no longer suffering and is now at peace.
I know from personal experience how hard a decision this is to make. I had my cocker spaniel for 14 years, she had been with me through thick and thin and she was my best friend. I woke up on my sons 7th birthday and went down to see her, and the minute I saw her wee face I knew that day was the day. The happiness she has in her eyes every morning for 14 years was now gone. She didn't even move from her bed to greet me which was unheard of. She had been struggling for the past
few months with a few old age problems I had been treating but that morning I knew enough was enough. She had given me an incredible 14 years and I owed it to her to prevent her from ever suffering. I took her to work and my nurse cuddled her and she passed away in my arms. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my career but I knew she deserved that dignified, calm ending to her life after all she had given me.
Never feel guilty for your decision, the decision is made with the animals best interest at heart to avoid suffering.
If you have other pets they often grieve the loss aswel and may be unsettled and loose their appetite for a few days or show behaviour changes. Its a good idea to give them a little extra attention and comfort.
Talk to friends and family and share cherished memories, there are pet bereavements services that give free, confidential support to anyone struggling with loosing a pet.