When is the right time to say goodbye to your pet?
Sometimes it’s difficult to know how our pet is really feeling. They can’t tell us if they are in pain so it’s our responsibility to look for signs of any changes that suggest that their quality of life is deteriorating. You may notice your pet has become particularly withdrawn or quiet and doesn’t want any physical contact or to go out. They may have stopped eating or drinking, and their toilet habits may have changed. An injury or illness may be affecting their wellbeing. To prevent further pain and unnecessary suffering it is important to talk through options with your vet who will help to guide you on the right time for making a decision about euthanasia.
Should I be there?
It’s a very personal decision. If you have friends and family, talk it through. Some people prefer to be with their pet during euthanasia and others feel it’s just too difficult and feel unable to stay, preferring to say goodbye afterwards. It’s your decision; let the vet or vet nurse know.
What can I expect?
You may want to think about where you would prefer the euthanasia to take place. It may be at the vet surgery at an arranged time, or it may be possible for the vet to come to your home. Talk to your vet about this. You will be asked to sign a form giving your permission and the euthanasia will be carried out by a vet, often with a nurse to assist. You may want to ask for your pet to be given a sedative first to help relax them. A small patch of fur is shaved, usually from a front leg, and an injection is gently administered into a vein. This is a high dose of anaesthetic. As the injection is given your pet will lose consciousness within seconds. Their breathing and their heart will stop.
Sometimes, especially if your pet is very old or frail, or if they have had a sedative, the vet may have difficulty in locating a vein and may instead have to inject into another area of the body.
If your pet is a small animal, such as a hamster or rabbit, your vet may give them anaesthetic gas first so that they are asleep for the injection. These pets have smaller blood vessels and the injection is likely to be given into another area of the body. Horses are euthanased by one of two methods: lethal injection or a humane killer (gun).
It is important to remember that your pet will lose consciousness almost immediately and will not be aware of anything. With horses, it’s not unusual for minor muscle tremors, noises or twitching to occur for a short time after death.