Often referred to as ‘putting your pet to sleep’; euthanasia is a quick and peaceful procedure for your pet. Quality of life is an important issue and letting go of your much loved companion is never easy. Death is a difficult subject for many people, but making this painful decision is a positive and loving thing you can do to alleviate your pet’s suffering. If possible plan ahead and look at all the options. It is helpful to talk it through with family and friends, your vet or vet nurse. You may also want to think about where it will take place, either at home or at the surgery.

At Severn Edge we have staff trained in bereavement support who can be a listening ear during this difficult time. Our clients can contact them here.

Further Advice

Common Questions

When is the right time?

It is important you discuss this in good time as waiting too long can mean unnecessary suffering for your pet. It is a very personal and individual decision that you and your family have to make together. When assessing your pet’s quality of life things to take into consideration are:

Mobility – including ability to toilet normally
Effort to breathe
Mental capacity/confusion
Discomfort, not being able to settle or sleep

You can also discuss with your vet the prognosis associated with illness and whether treatment is in the best interest for your pet or more stressful than the condition itself. Being well informed and what to look out for can minimise the amount of suffering your pet experiences.

For pets that are ill another consideration is the long term cost of treatment. It is right and reasonable that this may be a factor in making the euthanasia decision.

Your decision to have your pet euthanised is based on realistic and reasonable expectations of prognosis and what can be medically achieved with the knowledge that euthanasia in all cases brings peace and relief from pain and suffering to your beloved pet.

What is the usual process for euthanasia in adult dogs and cats?

You will be asked to sign a consent form giving permission. Your pet may be sedated at this stage to calm him or her before the process if that is required or if you request it. If you do not wish to stay with your pet for the euthanasia you can leave at any point.

Your pet is made as comfortable as possible and a nurse or assistant will help hold so it is still possible for you to continue to stroke, talk to and comfort your pet.

The vet will clip a patch of fur on one of your pet’s legs, usually a front leg over the site of the vein.

The next step is for the vet to administer the euthanasia solution into the vein. The solution contains a drug called pentobarbital; euthanasia is essentially achieved by administering an overdose of this anaesthetic drug so your pet will be unconscious at the time of death. He or she will not experience any awareness of the end of life. The drug works very quickly, typically within seconds and causes your pet’s muscles to relax, breathing to cease and finally the heart to stop beating.

The vet will check that your pet’s heart has stopped and confirm that they have gone. In some cases your pet may pass urine or stools, gasp or twitch. These are reflexes that can occur despite the lack of a heart beat and are not a sign that your pet is still alive.

Following the euthanasia, you can if you wish spend a few moments alone with your pet saying goodbye. Some people like to take a tuft of fur or the pet’s collar.

Please note the process may vary in rabbits as an ear vein is often used instead of the leg.

What happens to my pet’s body?

Once your pet has been put to sleep, you will need to make a decision on whether you would like to have your pet cremated or buried. We will look after your pet until you are able to decide.

You can choose to have your pet cremated at a specialist pet crematorium, either alongside other pets, or individually. If your pet is cremated on its own, the ashes will be carefully collected and returned to you in a casket, scatter box or urn. We will be able to arrange this for you and give you details of the trusted veterinary crematorium we use.

If you choose for your pet to be buried at home, please be aware that certain restrictions apply. For information contact your local council’s environmental health department.

Are bereavement services available?

First reactions to the death of a pet can include numbness and shock, followed by intense feelings of sadness, despair, pining and anxiety.

Feelings can be overwhelming. Your house may feel emptier without your pet. Empty beds and food bowls, even meeting other pet owners in the street, can be painful reminders of your loss.

Treasure good memories and, where possible, share them with friends and family. You may like to create a memory box with photos of your dog, their collar, lead, favourite toys etc.

Remember we are here to help. Our branches have staff trained in bereavement counselling who can offer you professional and compassionate support with complete confidentiality.

Talking about your grief helps to initiate the healing process and reduce the pain and guilt often felt after the loss of a pet.

Our clients can contact our trained bereavement support staff here:

There is also support available from the Blue Cross: