Time to say ‘Goodbye’
Sadly the inevitable result of having a pet is that we have to say ‘goodbye’ at some point. In our long lives, we may have several generations of companions, but the experience of loss can be hard, however many pets we have owned.
Ideally we would like our pets to die peacefully in their sleep, and, indeed, some do. In some cases, the pet (often a cat) will just disappear, and this can lead to additional heartache, as we can never be sure what has happened, or, whether the pet will return one day. Occasionally the illness or accident is so sudden, that we do not have the chance to prepare ourselves, and our grief can be worse if we do not have the chance to say goodbye in the way we would have wished.
With recent advances in veterinary medical and surgical care, many animals have long and healthy lives, but at some point, a decision may have to be made, and it will always involve consideration of the pet’s quality of life, together with family circumstances and owner wishes. Euthanasia should be an act of love towards a pet, which is no longer able to enjoy life.
What is Euthanasia?
The word literally means ‘gentle death’. An alternative phrase that we use is ‘Put to sleep’. Our aim is to allow the pet to peacefully die, from an overdose of a powerful anaesthetic. This is usually administered as an injection into a vein, but occasionally we may have to use other medication combinations, especially if the pet is difficult to handle. A Veterinary Nurse or assistant will be present to steady the pet.
We will ask you to sign a form, giving permission for euthanasia. Occasionally, for instance if the pet is in surgery or having an operation, permission may be given verbally, over the ’phone.
Should I stay?
This is a very personal decision, and you can change your mind, if you wish. Many owners prefer to be with their pet and may bring a friend or family member for emotional support. Others feel that their own distress would upset the pet and decide to leave the pet with the Vet and Nurse. Whatever you decide, the euthanasia will be performed immediately and the pet will be treated with the same dignity and respect whether you are present or not.
What happens afterwards?
If possible, it is helpful to have thought about what arrangements you want for your pet, after it has died. There are several choices. It is still allowable for owners to bury their pets at home (unless there are specific local bye-laws), but once buried you are not allowed to exhume the pet. Most pets are cremated and the crematoriums that we use can offer a range of services, from a communal cremation (with disposal of the ashes) to individual cremation when you can have your pet’s ashes back to bury or keep in a special casket. We have booklets with details about the various options at both surgeries. It is also possible for owners to attend the crematorium for the cremation. Please speak to one of our staff members to discuss these options, so that you can select what is best for you. We can note these choices on your pet’s record, in advance of actual euthanasia. This can be helpful if you might be away when the pet dies. There are also pet cemeteries, where pets can be interred, which can be suitable when owners do not have gardens or suitable areas for burial.
Both owners and other pets will miss the presence of their friend. It can be useful for other dogs and cats to see the body and although they do not often show much ‘emotion’, this can help reconcile them to the loss. For owners, the sadness over losing a close companion can be profound and as bad as losing a human relation or friend. It can be hard for other people to comprehend this despair, especially when it does not seem to fade. Be reassured that we have all lost pets ourselves and we know that each person’s grief is individual.
The Blue Cross offer a pet bereavement support service. Their telephone line is open from 8.30am to 8.30pm and the number is 0800 096 6606. Email support is also offered: firstname.lastname@example.org.