It is difficult to imagine a life without our beloved pets. We like to think that they will always be with us. We hope our pets will gently pass away in their sleep. It would save us from having to make a very difficult decision. Unfortunately it rarely happens this way and we then have to discuss putting our pet to sleep (euthanasia) with our vet. Euthanasia, when carried out at the right time, is one of the last acts of kindness we can do for our pets, but for many owners the procedure is an unknown and therefore frightening prospect. The following is a guide to assist you through the process of euthanasia and the aftercare options available. If you need to speak to someone, please just ask.
When is it the right time?
This is a common question to which there is no easy or correct answer; it will be a decision made by careful consultation between yourself and your vet. Just call Walter or Boris to talk things over.
Where will the euthanasia take place?
The euthanasia can be carried out here at the surgery or, if you prefer, in your own home. If you wish to visit the surgery with your pet we will endeavour to arrange for you to come at a quiet time and arrange for you to have privacy before and after the euthanasia. If you request a home visit we will try to arrange a mutually convenient time.
Will I be able to stay with my pet?
Of course, most owners wish to remain with their pet. You will be offered the choice and the decision of whether or not to stay is ultimately yours, but it may be nicer for your pet if you are present. Even if you do not stay you can see your pet, and spend some time with him or her afterwards if you wish.
What is the procedure?
The veterinary surgeon will firstly fully explain the procedure to you. Sometimes a small sedative is given before your pet is put-to-sleep and ultimately most euthanasia injections are given intravenously so a small area of hair will be clipped from a front leg in order to visualise the vein into which the injection is to be given. A nurse will then hold the front leg in order that the vet can perform the injection. Within a few seconds of injecting the medicine, breathing will cease, followed by the heart stopping. The vet will monitor this closely and inform you when this has happened. Our aim is to make the whole procedure as quiet and gentle as practically possible for both your pet and you.
What should I tell my children?
You are the best judge of how much information your children can handle about death and the loss of their pet. Don't underestimate them, however. You may find that, by being honest with them about your pet's loss, you may be able to address some fears and misperceptions they have about death.
Honesty is important. If you say the pet was "put to sleep," make sure your children understand the difference between death and ordinary sleep. Never say the pet "went away," or your child may wonder what he or she did to make it leave, and wait in anguish for its return. That also makes it harder for a child to accept a new pet. Make it clear that the pet will not come back, but that it is happy and free of pain.
Never assume a child is too young or too old to grieve. Never criticise a child for tears, or tell them to "be strong" or not to feel sad. Be honest about your own sorrow; don't try to hide it, or children may feel required to hide their grief as well. Discuss the issue with the entire family, and give everyone a chance to work through their grief at their own pace.
Will my other pets grieve?
Pets observe every change in a household, and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. Pets often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor of such a pair may seem to grieve for its companion. Cats grieve for dogs, and dogs for cats.
You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this period. Remember that, if you are going to introduce a new pet, your surviving pets may not accept the newcomer right away, but new bonds will grow in time. Meanwhile, the love of your surviving pets can be wonderfully healing for your own grief.
What happens afterwards?
There are three choices, after your pet has passed away:
If you wish, you may attend and witness the cremation but this is by prior appointment only. We use the very well respected Norfolk Pet Crematorium for all cremations; they are fully licensed to UK and EEC standards. For further information, please see Gone but forever in our Hearts (Pet Cremation)