What is euthanasia?
The word euthanasia originates from Greek and means “good death”. Although, it is commonly referred to as ‘put down’ or ‘put to sleep’. The procedure offers a peaceful and painless end to our pet’s lives when illness, injury or old age affects their quality of life, and their pain and suffering can no longer be well controlled or managed.
When is the right time to say goodbye?
It can be difficult to know how our pets are feeling, as they can’t tell us if they are in pain. Therefore, it is our responsibility to look for signs of any changes that suggest that their quality of life is deteriorating. Signs you may notice include being particularly withdrawn or quiet, not wanting any physical contact or to go out. Or, they may have stopped eating or drinking, their toilet habits may have changed, or they may have an injury or illness that could be affecting their quality of life. It is important to talk through options with one of our members of staff who will help to guide you on the right time for making a decision about euthanasia. An additional resource that may be useful is a quality of life scale that has been developed to aid owner’s decision making. One can be found here: https://my.vetmatrix.com/0033049/storage/app/media/5c2145cb7e460_QualityofLifeScale.pdf
Should I be there?
This is an extremely personal decision, which you may wish to talk through with friends and/or family. Some owners prefer to be with their pet during the euthanasia, whilst others feel it’s too difficult, preferring to say goodbye before the procedure or afterwards. It’s entirely your decision and we can support you with whichever you choose, including if you change your mind during the process.
What to expect?
You may wish to consider where you’d like to say goodbye, this can be accommodated for at the practice or at home. Either way, please contact us and we’ll endeavour to fulfil your wishes. A house visit does require some planning at our end, so if you’d like this option, please try to give us some notice - although we appreciate this is not always possible.
When the time comes, you will be asked to sign a consent form to give permission for the vet to proceed with the euthanasia, usually with the assistance of a veterinary nurse or animal nurse assistant. We may sedate your pet, to help them feel more relaxed, and this can take up to 20minutes to take effect. You will be informed if this is going to happen, and this is also an option you can choose. Often, an intravenous cannula is placed in a front or back leg to aid the administration of the injection, or it is administered via a needle into the vein. The injection given is a high dose of an anaesthetic agent. This results in your pet losing consciousness immediately, causing their breathing and heart to stop.
Sometimes if your pet is very old or frail, a vein can be difficult to find so this injection may be administered into another part of the body. This can often take longer to take effect.
After the injection is given, your pets’ eyes do not close, they may lose control of their bowels and/or their bladder, and they can make an involuntarily gasp or twitch. These are reflexes as the body’s muscles relax after their breathing and heart stop. A vet will then listen to their chest to confirm their heart has stopped beating and the euthanasia has been completed.
What happens next?
You can choose whether you’d like to take your pet home to bury, or whether you’d like their ashes returned to you. Our Pet Cremation services are fulfilled by CPC Cambridge (https://www.cpccares.com/) who offer many casket options, which can be shown to you at your request or at the time of your pet’s euthanasia. Or you may also wish to use another local Pet Cremation service. If you wish for your pet to be cremated but do not wish for their ashes to be returned to you, they will have a communal cremation. Either way, you can be reassured that your pet will be treated with respect and dignity, and we are happy to accommodate whichever option you choose. We do also offer inhouse ink pet pawprints and fur clippings free of change.
We understand it is a sensitive time, and we also understand that the cost of putting your pet to sleep can also be an added concern during this difficult time, so you may wonder how much it will cost.
Costs are subject to change and depend on your cremation and casket wishes. We therefore recommend you contact our compassionate reception team on 01263 713200 who will be able to advise you of a more accurate estimate.
Please be aware that if you are seen at our out of hours providers at either Westover Vets or Mill House Vets, the costs will be different and likely higher due to the emergency nature of the procedure. They are always available for free telephone advice out of hours though and will also be able to advise you of costs and whether home visits are possible. Please be aware that during out of hours times (6pm – 8.30am) home visits are not always possible due to the nature of veterinary work. We thank you for your understanding.
This can be a time of mixed and raw emotions leading up to and following your pet’s euthanasia. We understand that they hold a special place in our hearts and are a part of the family. It is normal to experience intense feelings of grief, with owners often describing feelings of guilt or numbness over their loss, which is entirely understandable. For others, there can be a sense of calm and relief. Nearly all our members of staff have also experienced these feelings and empathise with owners during this difficult time. Sharing your feelings and experience with others before and after putting a pet to sleep can be helpful.
The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service is a confidential telephone and email support line service that offers emotional support and information for all ages.
To make contact call: 0800 096 6606. The support line is open every day from 8.30am – 8.30pm. Or email support: firstname.lastname@example.org. Their email support line service provides support for people who prefer to write about how they are feeling.
Further information can also be found here: www.compassionunderstood.com