When the time comes…
The sad but inevitable part of having a pet is that we will eventually lose them, through old age, illness or accident. The grief and sadness we face at this stage can be immense as our pets are part of our family and they have often seen us through tough times and been our constant companion. We owe it to them to ensure this time is as gentle, peaceful and dignified as possible.
Euthanasia means good death and it is usually performed to relieve or prevent pain and suffering. Making the decision to euthanase your pet can lead to feelings of confusion and guilt but remember it is a brave and loving decision, putting your pet’s needs above your own suffering and distress.
We as veterinary professionals would like to help support you through this difficult time and this section of our website is aimed at discussing the process of euthanasia and answering some of the questions that many people have.
We offer free nursing consultations in the days or weeks before euthanasia to enable you to discuss the process and tailor-make a plan to suit you and your pet. Coronavirus has had an inevitable impact on the options available.
When is the right time?
We are often asked if the time is right and we will always try to help you decide but we believe that a pet owner is best placed to know when it is time for their pet. We will ask you does your pet have more good days than bad? Are they still interested in eating, walking or playing? Do they want to interact with you or are they going off to be by themselves? Are they showing signs of pain that medication cannot control? Are they confused or less aware? Are they breathing comfortably and easily? Are they continent or do they soil in the house? Do they have to be carried outside to toilet? If your pet is ill, what is the prognosis? Is treatment available and is it affordable and likely to improve their quality of life? By building up a picture of their (and your) day to day life, we can help you decide when is the right time.
What actually happens when my pet is put to sleep?
Your pet will be settled on a comfortable bed or blanket. We will clip a small patch of hair from a front leg and either inject directly or place a cannula into the vein. Sometimes you may prefer that we do this without you present, allowing you to avoid something that can be a little uncomfortable for your pet. If your pet is very nervous or fractious, sedation can be given to relax them. We then inject an overdose of an anaesthetic drug called pentobarbitone which works painlessly and quickly, usually after just a few seconds, to send your pet to sleep. We sometimes find that cats are less anxious if the injection is given painlessly into a kidney, avoiding clippers and the need for restraint. The vet will listen to the heart with a stethoscope to confirm they have gone. Sometimes your pet will take a big gasp or their muscles will twitch, they may pass urine or faeces but these are all a natural reflexes, not them feeling anything. Most people find the process surprisingly quick and peaceful.
Can I hold my pet?
A veterinary nurse will need to hold them whilst we clip and place a cannula but once this is positioned, you are most welcome to cuddle your pet or sit them on your lap whilst we administer the injection via a long infusion set to ensure we remain over 2 metres apart.
Can I say goodbye afterwards?
The whole process will be performed in a quiet consulting room where you may spend as much time as you wish with them afterwards. During Covid-19, we are making use of our heated outdoor shelter. With good ventilation, it can be cold so please wrap up warm.
Can this be done at home?
We are always willing to perform euthanasia at home and can usually arrange a visit at a time to suit you and your family. Please discuss this with any of our team. Do bear in mind that we might not be able to come out at very short notice. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic makes home visits extremely difficult as we cannot travel in a vehicle with other team members and cannot enter your home. In warmer weather, a secure garden may be a suitable option if a pet cannot be moved.
Should I let my other pets see them?
Some people feel that their other pets benefit from seeing the pet that has died as they then seem to understand that they are not coming back. It certainly can do no harm.
What happens afterwards?
You are able to bury your pet at home if you wish and we can give you guidance on the best way to do this. Most people though choose to have their pet cremated and we work with two excellent crematoriums both of which we have visited and are thoroughly confident to use. If you would like to have your pet’s ashes returned to keep or scatter, we recommend Alison Todd’s wonderfully caring service called Trusted Friends, based locally in Nash. Your pet is collected from the surgery or your home the same day, still lying comfortably on their bed or blanket and Alison will contact you to discuss your requirements. She has a comfortable room in which you can visit your pet beforehand if you wish and also see the selection of caskets, frames and memorials available. These can also be viewed online at her website www.trustedfriendspfs.co.uk
If you prefer not to keep any ashes, your pet will be taken to Cambridge Pet Crematorium www.cpccares.com
In all circumstances and at all times, they will be treated with dignity and compassion.
If you wish, a lock of hair can be clipped as a keepsake either here or at the crematorium. Trusted Friends also offer a footprint that can be framed. For pets buried at home, a shrub or flowers to mark the spot can be a lovely reminder, especially if you choose one which flowers at the time of year they died. We intend to add a memorial page to our website so please feel free to send us a photo and a written tribute and we will display them.
We hope this helps you with the many questions and dilemmas you will have but remember you can phone us to discuss any aspect or come in and see one of the vets to help put your mind at rest that your beloved pet will be well looked after in their final moments.
The Bluecross has an excellent bereavement service, accessible 365 days a year www.bluecross.org.uk
and their telephone number is 0800 096606.
For children, we can recommend a lovely book called Missing my Pet, written by a vet and her son Alex, who was 6 years old when his dog, Star, died. We keep a copy at the surgery that you are welcome to borrow.