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.

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 endures.

For pets that are ill another consideration is the long term cost of treatment. It is absolutely right and reasonable this should 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. Puppies/kittens and small mammals are anaesthetised first in an anaesthetic chamber before the pentobarbital solution is applied to the abdominal cavity around the liver.

What happens to my pet’s body?

It is possible to bury your pet in the garden if this is practical for you.

We arrange for your pet to be cremated. This would be along with other animals and the ashes are not returned.

We can arrange individual cremation with the ashes sent back to your nearest clinic for you to collect. The ashes usually come back in a wooden casket with your pet’s name on a brass plaque. You choose what you want engraved on it. There are also other choices of casket if you prefer something different.

We can also put you in touch with a local Pet Crematorium with a memorial garden.

Are bereavement services available?

Most of us experience a range of emotions following the loss of our pet. There is no set pattern of grief and your experience will depend on many factors including your individual personality your relationship and the circumstances of your pet’s death. How long it takes to feel better after your bereavement varies between individuals.

There is support available from the Blue Cross and the Ralphsite which also offer you ways to memorialise your pet.