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Euthanasia: Saying Goodbye To Your Pet

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Author: Dr Lizzie Youens BSC (HONS) BVSC MRCVS

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The passing of a beloved pet can be a difficult and highly emotional time. The decision can involve many conflicting emotions, and a home can seem empty with the loss of a loving presence. 

Knowing more about the process involved and what options you have can help pet owners feel a little more in control throughout the process and bring some relief at this sad time. 

For some, the euthanasia appointment is a complete shock: a sudden emergency or a rapid deterioration. This is extremely difficult to deal with and not the type of situation you can prepare for. 

In many cases, an appointment may be planned to have a pet put to sleep. This can be a very difficult decision, but it is comforting to many owners to be able to give their beloved pet a peaceful, pain-free and dignified way to go. 

Before the appointment

If you have some time to prepare, consider taking some last photographs of your pet, give them their favourite meal or take them out to their favourite spot. There will never be enough time to spend with our companions, but making some last pleasant memories can be very comforting.

It can be difficult to make decisions whilst grieving, so consider making a plan before the appointment itself. 

Here are some helpful questions to mull over:

  • Would you like anyone to accompany you?
  • Would you like to take a favourite blanket or toy with your pet?
  • Would you like to keep their collar afterwards, or request a small cutting of hair?
  • Are you going to stay with your pet?

One of the most important questions to decide is what you will do with your pet after they have passed. There are three main options.

Firstly, you can take your pet’s body home with you for burial. This option can be practically difficult, especially if there is wildlife such as foxes in your area.

Secondly, you can opt to have your pet cremated. This will be all arranged by your vet unless you choose to organise this yourself. You can opt to have your pet individually cremated, with the ashes either returned to you or scattered, or you can choose a communal cremation. There is often a significant price difference between these options, which may be worth discussing with your vet before the appointment. Some owners prefer to pre-pay for the appointment so that they don’t have to deal with the financial side at a later stage.

During the appointment

Your vet will understand that this is a very difficult time, and give you plenty of time to discuss your decision. They may examine your pet, or just discuss their health with you. 

The euthanasia process can vary slightly, depending on your pet’s temperament, health conditions and the vet’s preference. Sometimes, the pet is given a sedative injection first, so that they become very relaxed and sleepy. The vet will often place a catheter/cannula into your pet’s vein, which they may do out of the room with a nurse assisting. An injection is given which causes your pet to fall into a deep sleep and then pass away. This can happen quite rapidly, or be slower, depending on the method used. 

Whether you stay with your pet is a very personal decision. Some owners prefer to say their goodbyes whilst their pet is still conscious and aware, while others prefer to stay with them until the end. Whatever your decision, it is the right one for you, and if you decide to leave your pet will be well looked after by the veterinary team.

After the euthanasia

The vet will give you some time with your pet after they pass away. They may offer to take some hair clippings for you, or a paw-print using ink.  

It is normal to grieve for our pets, and we all cope differently.

We will always have our memories of our pets, but having a keepsake can be a lovely way to remember their love and companionship.

A keepsake can be as simple as a framed photograph or drawing. Some vets will take a paw print from your pet which can also be kept as a remembrance. You may have lovely memories of your dog in their collar and lead, and these can be kept safely as a keepsake. You can even use a collar wrapped around a water bowl as a pot for a plant. 

If your pet, or their ashes, are buried, this site can become a comforting place to remember them. Consider a plaque or a plant at the site. If you have your pet’s ashes returned to you, they can be kept in an ornamental urn, buried or even scattered in a favourite place. 

Ashes and hair can also be made into beautiful keepsakes. Many companies offer to turn ashes or hair into jewellery, keepsakes and art. They can be combined into various materials to make beautiful keepsakes, or kept in jewellery such as a locket.

Whatever choices you make, and however you remember them, we all keep our pets in our hearts. 

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