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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.

Taking responsibility for a pain-free, peaceful death is the kindest act an owner can do for a much-loved pet.

If you are considering euthanasia of a healthy pet then do not forget that re-homing may be a better option. Ask our advice – many can help with solving behavioural problems, and they have information on re-homing. Our Clay Cross and South Normanton surgery staff are ready to help you at this difficult time.

Before coming to a decision to ‘put your pet to sleep’ it is always worth having a discussion with a 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, this isn’t always the case and few pets die peacefully in their sleep at home. Most reach a point when their quality of life is unsatisfactory, and a decision for euthanasia has to be made.

How is euthanasia carried out?

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’ but applied light pressure to your pet’s elbow (or ear). The vet will then inject an overdose of pentobarbitone anaesthetic into the vein. In most cases your pet will be asleep with 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 they will probably lay still for about 20 seconds but then they may twitch, take a few gasping breaths and empty their bladder and bowels. These are signs of death and normal, 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.

We have the nurse hold your pet during euthanasia in most cases because in our experience this results in a very much more peaceful and relaxed experience for your pet.

For other animals we will often take them into a theatre and give them anaesthetic gas until they are asleep and then inject an overdose of anaesthetic into a major organ.

Should you stay with your pet during euthanasia?
This is entirely your choice. 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 watch – if you are very upset then this may upset your pet. If you don’t stay and wish to see your pet afterwards then just say so.

What happens afterwards?
You can are welcome to take your pet home to be buried but most owners choose to have their pet cremated. The standard cremation is a communal cremation where you do 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 dog dies. After all, your pet is a beloved family member. Do not be embarrassed about showing your emotions – veterinary staff expect you to be upset. It takes time to get over the loss of a loved one and, although reactions differ, very often a mixture of feelings – sadness, loneliness and anger – can follow.

Try not to feel guilty or blame yourself – the decision for euthanasia is taken with your pet’s interests at heart 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 without judgement.

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 befrienders. It is provided by the Blue Cross

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