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Sadly, euthanasia is part of owning a pet and it is a decision that many pet owners eventually may have to face. No one wishes to see their beloved pet suffer. We at The Charlesworth Veterinary Surgery provide this very important service, in order to save a pet from unnecessary suffering. We aim to help you and your pet through this awful time with sympathy and understanding.

Taking responsibility for a pain-free, peaceful death is one of the kindest acts an owner can do for a much-loved pet. We understand how hard this decision has been for you.

If you are considering euthanasia of a healthy pet then please talk to us about the reasons; do not forget that re-homing is an option. Ask our advice – many professionals can assist with solving behavioural problems and we have information on re-homing and can support you with this. Our Clay Cross and South Normanton surgery staff are ready to help you at this difficult time.

Before coming to the final decision to ‘put your pet to sleep’ we always advise having a discussion with the vet. Modern veterinary medicine has progressed massively over the decades and what owner’s often think of as ‘old age’ can often be manageable, even curable, illnesses and your pet may be able to have months or years of good quality life with appropriate treatment. Sadly, we realise this may not be the case and few pets die peacefully in their sleep at home as we would wish. Most reach a point when their quality of life has deteriorated so much that a difficult, heart breaking decision has to be made.

How is euthanasia carried out?

It is not something we want to think about but we want you to be prepared. For dogs, cats and rabbits the vet will clip a small area of fur off the front leg (or ear for rabbits) while the nurse holds your pet. A spirit swab will be applied to the clipped area to help us see the vein more easily. The nurse will then ‘raise the vein’ by applying light pressure to your pet’s foreleg (or ear). The vet will then inject an overdose of pentobarbitone anaesthetic into the vein. In most cases your pet will be asleep within a matter of seconds and all heart and brain activity will stop within another few seconds. At this point your pet has passed away but after a few seconds they may twitch and take a few last breaths, they may also empty their bladder and bowels. These are signs they have passed away and are to be expected, they are not signs your pet is fighting the drug. In very poorly animals there may be different events but the vet will discuss this with you.

The nurse will usually hold your pet during euthanasia if that is ok with you. We find that in most cases this allows a more peaceful passing, but of course your pet will want to know you are there, so its fine to be with your pet, stroke them and talk to them if you wish; this may soothe and reassure them if they are worrying about things. If you are not able to stay with them then that's ok, we will comfort them as though they were our own.

For some types of small pet we may take them into a theatre and give them some anaesthetic gas until they are asleep, this means they will be unaware when we give them their injection and limits their stress and upset.

Should you stay with your pet during euthanasia?
This is entirely your choice. Your pet may worry if you leave them, and It may be a comfort to you to see that euthanasia is usually a quick and gentle process, but try not to feel guilty if you feel unable to stay – it can all be just too much - and if you get very upset then this unfortunately may upset your pet. If you don’t stay but wish to see your pet afterwards then that is fine too.

What happens afterwards?
You can take your pet home to be buried if you wish, but most people choose to have their pet cremated. The standard cremation is a communal cremation where so you will not get your pets ashes back. If you wish to have your pets ashes returned then this is something that we can arrange. There are several options you need to consider for ashes return but we will go through these with you at the time.

It is entirely natural to feel upset when your beloved pet passes away. After all, your pet is a best friend and family member. Do not be embarrassed about showing your emotions –  we understand your heartbreak, veterinary staff have to stay strong for you and your pet but it does make us very sad. It takes time to get over the loss of a loved pet and, although reactions differ, very often a mixture of feelings – sadness, loneliness and anger – can follow after the initial shock of losing them. Grief affects us in different ways, please do talk to us if you are struggling to cope.

Try not to feel guilty though or blame yourself – the decision for euthanasia is only ever taken with your pet’s best interests at heart and must be made to avoid suffering. Some people find themselves questioning whether they did the right thing, It is normal to feel some doubt, though this will ease in time.

Pet Bereavement Support Service

Sometimes it helps to share your feelings with someone who knows from personal experience how distressing the loss of a pet can be, and who will listen with compassion and sympathy. 

The Pet Bereavement Support Service is a telephone helpline and email service that offers such support to bereaved pet owners, through a national network of trained volunteer be-frienders. It is provided by the Blue Cross

Telephone: 0800 096 6606 (seven days a week 8.30am-8.30pm)