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In some circumstances your vet may suggest that you should consider having your pet 'put to sleep' (euthanased) such as if your pet has a terminal illness from which it cannot recover or if it has incurable pain. This will enable your pet to die in peace, with dignity and without further suffering. It can be a very hard decision to make, but it is one of the kindest things an owner can do for a suffering pet.
What happens when a pet is 'put to sleep'?
The vet will often give your pet a sedative first, so there will be less stress and a calm environment is created. When it's feeling a bit sleepy, the nurse will often be called in to assist the vet. A lethal injection will be given in the vein of the front leg. In some pets this vein is not easily accessible and the injection might need to be given in the kidney or heart. Loss of consciousness and death will happen very quickly. This is a very controlled and painless method of euthanasia. Your pet's eyes will remain open afterwards.
Is it usual for the owner to stay with their pet when it is 'put to sleep'?
It is best to do what you feel comfortable with. It is possible to stay during the whole procedure or only a part of it. Some people like to stay until sedation has set in, so their last memory can be of their pet while it was alive. Others might not want to be present at all or only after the procedure has finished.
The decision whether to stay or not is a very personal one, which should preferably be made in advance to avoid further distress.
Can I have my pet 'put to sleep' at home or is it better to take him to the surgery?
It is possible for the vet and a nurse to come to your house. This involves a bit more planning, since there will be a period of time they will be away from the clinic. If there are difficulties arranging an appropriate time, then it is usually also possible to book an appointment at a quiet time in the clinic to avoid undue stress to both pet and owner.
What can I do with my pet's remains?
- home burial
- Individual cremation with return of the pet's ashes. This can be arranged via the clinic.
Grieving for your pet
It is very natural to feel upset and emotional when your pet dies. Don't be afraid to show your feelings in front of your vet, he/she will understand. Feel free to ask all the questions you like and take your time to say goodbye.
It'll take time to get over your loss and it often helps to talk about it.Counselling is also available. It's quite normal to feel angry, this is part of the process of coming to terms with your loss. Try not to feel guilty or blame yourself for your pet's death. Try to focus on remembering the good times and what you loved most about your pet.
Helping children to cope
The death of a pet is often a child's first experience of death. Tell them the truth and encourage them to talk about their feelings and let them know how you feel yourself. Help them understand that they are not to blame and talk to them about the good times you have had with your pet.