It is important to understand that the loss of a pet affects people in many different ways. Some people may be just as affected as others but don’t know how to or don’t want to show it.

It can be a time where many emotions come to the surface – grief being the most obvious, but also guilt, anger and uncertainty and indeed depression may also occur.

To some, a pet is a trusted and loved companion, or even a child substitute and loss of such a friend may be devastating.  It is important for friends and family to understand this and offer support in any way they can.

There are organisations that can help pet owners deal with their grief and these are The Blue Cross, pet bereavement support service. Here at Earls hall we have are own pet bereavement councillor, Lesley Morgan who works at our Value Pet Care Branch.

Euthanasia – making the decision

Deciding to have a pet euthanased can be one of the biggest and most difficult decisions a person may have to make.  It is important to feel comfortable with this decision and not to feel guilty (although we know that most people will do to some degree).  If we have recommended your pet be euthansed, it will be because we truly feel it is the kindest option for your pet.  We will always try to put your pet’s welfare above anything, which may unfortunately include you.  Not everyone will accept a recommendation to euthanase their pet because of how it will make them feel to lose their special friend.  Whilst we are sympathetic to everyone’s feelings and emotions, it is our responsibility to put an animal’s welfare first.

If your pet is recommended to be euthanased and you feel that you don’t fully understand why, please do ask us.  Once the decision has been made where possible, we try to book euthanasia appointments at the beginning or end of a surgery.  We want to avoid you being kept waiting (beginning of surgery appointments) and we also appreciate that some people want to be left with their animal to say goodbye (end of surgery appointments).  Please let us know when you make an appointment of this nature what you would like.

Sometimes owners prefer home visits and whilst we do our utmost to comply with your wishes and be sensitive to your needs at this time, if the surgery is very busy or if an emergency patient is admitted, we may not be able to visit you at the exact time appointed to you.

We recommend you think about what you are going to do with your pet once he/she has been euthanased.  Would you prefer to take him/her home to bury?  Or perhaps you would like an individual cremation with ashes returned.  This kind of decision can be hard enough to make, but to try and make it once you have come into the surgery and are really upset is even harder.  If you can make the decision before you arrive and then let us know as soon as you do, it will allow us to perform this difficult task without upsetting you further by asking you difficult questions.

During such a consultation, emotions are often highly charged.  We understand how upsetting it is to have to euthanase a pet (most of us have been there at one time or another) and we will want to be as quick and efficient as we can for both you and your pet’s sake.

In many cases, the vet will clip a little fur from one of the animal’s front legs ready to administer an injection directly into the vein in the leg, some of our vets prefer to place a catheter in at this point to ensure the venous access is guaranteed.  The injection is a concentrated barbituate, which will act very quickly.   A nurse will need to hold the leg to ‘raise’ the vein – a bit like when a tourniquet is placed on a human’s arm for blood sampling.  You can still cuddle your pet or talk to him/her and stroke their head.

The vet will then inject the solution and in most cases the animal will go limp very quickly.  The heart will stop almost immediately and sometimes it shocks owners how quickly it all happens.  Occasionally, a vein may be very delicate and tear, thus causing the injectable solution to begin leaking into the area around the vein.  If this occurs, immediate swelling will be seen and the needle will have to be removed.  Another leg will be clipped or the pet will be sedated – see below.

In some cases, particularly when an animal is very poorly or is known to have low blood pressure, the vet may feel it is kinder to give an injection to sedate the animal sufficiently so that the barbiturate can then be injected directly into the bloodstream via a kidney or the heart without causing undue stress.

Following euthanasia

The vet will let you know when your pet’s heart has stopped. If at this point you think you will wish to be left with your pet for a time, please inform the vet before he/she begins as the procedure can then be performed in a room where you can be left in peace.  You will then be able to either take your pet home for burial or leave him/her with us for cremation. We understand that you may prefer not to be seen by anyone in the waiting room whilst upset and so you can leave via a side door if you wish – just ask.

When a pet dies at home

Sometimes, (though not as often as many people would prefer), an animal dies in their sleep at home. If this is the case, we can still cremate the pet and obviously we can arrange a quiet time for his/her body to be brought in. If this happens and an owner wishes to bury their pet at home – we ask that we be notified so that we can amend our computer records accordingly, thus preventing future mail outs, for example, vaccination reminders, which can be very upsetting. If a pet dies suddenly at home, perhaps through an accident, it can be very shocking and sometimes it may take a while to decide what to do, just let us know when you are ready.  If a pet dies under suspicious circumstances, we can perform a post mortem.

What now

This is often the most difficult time. Coping with the loss of a companion can be very difficult, especially to elderly owners if the pet in question was their main or only companion. Often people feel guilty, could they have done more, should they have seen signs earlier or was it the right thing to do.  In these circumstances, sometimes it can help to talk to someone. Our practice does have a bereavement support advisor and her name is Lesley Morgan. She can be contacted on 01702 421617.

Crematorium services

We use the services of Silvermere haven pet cemetery and crematorium for all of out pet cremations.

They are fully licensed and offer a range of services including the option of attending a pet cremation by prior arrangement. All ashes that are not returned to owners are scattered in their gardens of remembrance