Saying Goodbye – Pet Euthanasia and Bereavement
Realising that your pet has reached the end of their life can be an extremely emotional and bewildering time.
We want to reassure you that we will support you and give you all the information you need to enable you to come to a decision that is right for you, your family and your beloved pet.
Here is a resource we often use in practice to help when asking the question – How Do I Know When?
Things to think about before the time comes
- Do you want to have some special time with your pet on the day? Go for a walk to their favourite place, have a cuddle in the sun, play with them. Think of all the happy times you have shared, celebrate their life.
- Where would you like your pet to be when the time comes – You can decide where you would like your pets last moments to be. We can provide home visits, or you can come to the surgery.
- Have you prepared for going home without your pet? Is someone going to be at home with you or do you just want time alone.
- Would you like to have time alone with your pet just before and just after the Euthanasia?
- Who is going to be there during the procedure? Family and friends are welcome.
- Where would you like your pets final resting place to be. You can take your pet home to be buried in your garden. You can have them cremated and their ashes scattered in a communal garden. You can have an individual cremation and their ashes returned for you to scatter at a place that is special to you. Or you can keep their ashes in a personalised casket.
- What would you like your pet to be wrapped in afterwards? Some of our clients like to bring their pets own special blanket and their favourite toys.
- Would you like us to take a hair clipping from your pet?
- Does your pet have a bonded friend or brother or sister at home? If your pet suddenly disappears this can cause distress to the pets left behind. Sometimes clients like to bring all ‘family members’ to say goodbye. This helps with acceptance and recovery from grief.
What will happen
Initially one of our team members will ask you to sign a consent form allowing us to put your pet to sleep. We will go through any questions you might have and discuss what you would like to happen afterwards. Once you are ready a vet and nurse will place a catheter into a vein in your pet’s leg. If your pet is particularly nervous or uncomfortable then we may decide it is best to sedate him/her beforehand. Once placed, the catheter provides us with access to your pets circulatory system allowing us to administer an overdose of anaesthetic. This anaesthetic quickly and peacefully stops your pet’s heart, they will feel like they’re falling asleep. The vet will then listen to your pet’s chest to confirm his/her heart has stopped. Occasionally after a pet has passed away there can be reflex actions such as a muscle twitch or gasp, although sometimes upsetting these signs only occur after death and are completely normal. It is also normal for a pet to lose control of their bowel and bladder function as they slip away.
Your emotional reaction to the death of your pet can be unpredictable. Please do not be concerned if you just want to walk away and show no emotion or if you burst into tears and become very upset or even distressed.
We are here to support you and will never judge you.
Many of our staff have completed training in pet loss and bereavement through ‘Compassion Understood’.
Coping with loss
Grief is a normal reaction to loss and can be a difficult time. Some people have difficulty accepting the loss of their pet and can struggle to cope with the roller coaster of emotions that they feel. Talking about your feelings can help with your recovery. If you feel you are not coping very well or do not seem to be feeling better over time you may find it useful to contact an organisation that deals specifically with the loss of a pet.
Here are some helpful organisations and links on pet bereavement:
- Blue Cross: Pet Loss and Bereavement on 0800 096 6606
- Cats Protection: ‘Paws to Listen’ on 0800 024 94 94
- The Ralph Site: Support, information and advice
- Find counselling near you: www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
Here at the Mayne Vet Clinic we offer a free Bereavement Appointment which is with the Nurse. This appointment will give you the opportunity to ask questions and to seek advice on resources that are available to help you.
Pet loss and children
Children need to know that it is fine to feel sad and cry if they need to. When talking about the situation and actual process of euthanasia with children, it is important to keep it simple, truthful and easy to understand. Try to allow the child to talk about the pet to you to help express their emotions. Writing a poem, story or painting a picture of their pet can help, this can sometimes be put in with a pet when being cremated or buried.
Books can also be a great way to help children to work through and process their feelings. They are very visual and offer a way to approach the subject with an adult or on their own depending on their needs. The following are a selection of books that may be helpful depending on age:
- ‘Missing my Pet‘ by Adam Lambert
- ‘Muddles, puddles and sunshine‘ by Diana Crossley
- ‘Goodbye Mog’ by Judith Keer
- ‘The huge bag of worries‘ by Virginia Ironside
- The sunshine cat’ by Miriam Moss
- ‘I miss my pet. A first look at when my pet dies‘ by Pay Thomas
- ‘Badgers parting gifts‘ by Susan Varley
- ‘Do Dogs get sausages in Heaven?‘ by Sara Galli Green