As pet owners, we endeavour to make sure that our faithful companions stay fit and healthy, enabling them to live to an old age. Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as us and at some point, we will have to prepare to let them go. Sadly, few of our pets pass peacefully away in their sleep. Therefore, we all wish to do the right thing at the right time, fulfilling our responsibility and commitment in their final days. We hope these words will help you and your family in a time of conflicting emotions.
Nobody knows their pet better than you and your closest family and friends, so let them help and share in making a reasoned judgement on your pet’s quality of life.
Indications that things may not be well may include:
- Loss of appetite
- A reluctance to play and move around as normal
- Restlessness or becoming withdrawn from you
When the time is right to put your pet to sleep, you may see evidence of a combination of all the above indicators and your pet may seem distressed, uncomfortable or disorientated within your home.
Is there nothing more I can do?
As your vet, we will discuss all treatment options available for your pet to relieve their symptoms, but there will come a time when all forms of treatment have been exhausted, we have discovered the disease is incurable, or you feel your pet is suffering too much. You and your family may wish to talk with your Veterinary Surgeon to help you all come to this final decision; in this case, we will arrange an appointment for you.
When and where can we say goodbye?
We hope this section will help you and your family understand your pet’s end-of-life journey. This is known as ‘euthanasia’ but often referred to as ‘putting to sleep’. After discussing with your family and your vet, and having decided that the time has come, you can contact your surgery and make an appointment. We will always try to make this appointment at a time that is convenient for you – usually at a quieter time of the day.
Will I be able to stay with my pet?
Being present when your pet is put to sleep will be both emotional and distressing, but the majority of owners feel that they give comfort to their pet during their last moments, and can make their final goodbyes. But this is not comfortable for everyone; we understand if you do not want to stay in the room with your pet but make your goodbyes afterwards. We will always make time for you and your family to do this.
What will happen?
Initially, your vet or another member of our team will ask you to sign a consent form to give us permission to put your pet to sleep. You may have already discussed with your vet what you then wish to do with your pet’s body, but we will confirm this on the consent form.
Many owners are surprised by how peaceful euthanasia can be. Euthanasia involves injecting an overdose of anaesthetic into the vein of your pet’s front leg. Some of our vets would have previously inserted a catheter into the vein or sedated your pet if they are particularly nervous or uncomfortable.
After the anaesthetic has been injected, your pet’s heart will stop beating and they will rapidly lose consciousness and stop breathing. Your vet will check that their heart has stopped beating and confirm that they have passed away. On occasion, the pet’s muscles and limbs may tremble and they may gasp a few times, these are reflex actions only – not signs of life – but may be upsetting. If they occur, they are unavoidable. Your pet’s eyes will remain open and it is normal for them to empty their bowel or bladder as the body shuts down.