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When it's time to say goodbye

Helping you with the loss of a pet

We're here to help

Making the decision to say goodbye to your pet is one of the toughest you’ll ever make. Pets provide us with unconditional love, friendship and comfort, so it is normal to have intense or conflicting emotions when it comes to euthanasia. At Vets4Pets we’re here for you and your pet for every step of your journey together.  

Below we have tried to answer some of the common questions asked when having to consider euthanasia for your pet. However, we know further one-to-one support can also help during this sad and difficult time. So if you feel the need to talk or ask further questions, either call your local practice or make an appointment for a vet or nurse consultation. Specific pet bereavement support services are also available. 

Leave an online memorial

See pet memorials

What is euthanasia?

The word euthanasia comes from Greek and literally means “good death”.

It is commonly referred to as ‘put down’ or ‘put to sleep’. Euthanasia offers a peaceful and painless end to our pet’s lives when illness, injury or old age affects their quality of life and causes pain or suffering that cannot be cured or adequately managed.  

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How do I know if it’s the right time?

This can be difficult, after all, none of us like to think about saying goodbye to our pet. However, in our experience, rather than a ‘right’ moment in time, there is usually a time period where euthanasia is the kindest and most appropriate action to take. Severely injured pets may need a prompter decision, depending on whether their pain and other conditions can be managed adequately.

 

Ask your vet about the likely progression path of your pet’s illness, which signs to look out for that can help you define boundaries on the deterioration of quality of life which may lie ahead. Assessing this is very much an ongoing process, not a one-time decision.

 

One consideration that may help is to think about and write down examples of what your pet enjoys. You can then keep a daily diary, scoring each day as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to help track your pet’s quality of life. 

What is quality of life?

Quality of life is a very subjective term and depends on many factors including your pet’s personality, the disease process or injury, as well as your personal beliefs, which means every case is very different. 


Due to advances in veterinary medicine and surgery, many of our pet’s conditions can now be treated and managed for longer, whilst maintaining a good quality of life. 


That said, it can be very difficult to know exactly how your pet is feeling and whether they might be in any pain or discomfort. Our pets are very good at adapting to injury or illness, which may mask the severity of the situation. This can be especially difficult in older pets where a lot of their signs are put down to the general ageing process. 

What about my pet if I am worried about my own health?

If you are elderly or have a terminal illness, owning a pet can bring huge benefits but also difficulties. However, there are charities who can help you with the day-to-day care of your pet including providing a fostering service if you face a spell in hospital. There are also charities you can register with who will care for your pet if you were to outlive them, giving you peace-of-mind.


Saying goodbye to a much loved pet can be very difficult and if you need somebody to talk to, our Pet Bereavement Support Service is here for you.

To arrange a convenient time for us to call you back,

please email us at Here4You@vets4pets.com

Alternatively, you can call us on: 0800 028 9660

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How do I know if my pet is suffering?

At the end of the day, it’s you who knows your pet best. You know their endearing little ways and will often be the first to notice the, sometimes subtle, changes, which could suggest their quality of life isn’t what it used to be. These can include:

  • Changes in appetite or thirst
  • Decreased interest or willingness to exercise, play or interact
  • Being unable to stand or difficulty walking around
  • Change in toilet habits
  • Change in attitude - such as depression, aggression or confusion

If you are concerned about your pet’s quality of life or you’re not sure what to look out for or expect, then a vet or nurse is the best person to talk to. They can give you more specific instructions on how to monitor your pet’s condition and support you along the way.

What is a pre-euthanasia consultation?

Having a pre-euthanasia consultation doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made the decision to have your beloved pet put to sleep. It’s simply your opportunity to discuss all the options available, and for your vet to discuss ways to prevent pain and unnecessary suffering to your pet, tell you what to expect as things progress, offer you guidance on what’s best for your pet, and support you should euthanasia be indicated. Preparing for your pet’s passing is not always easy or possible but it can help make this difficult time a little bit easier if there is time to do so.

 

Like you, we have your pet’s interest and wellbeing at heart, so please don’t feel guilty or embarrassed to talk about end-of-life care or euthanasia with your vet or vet nurse, even while your pet’s quality of life is still very good. Ask as many questions as you like - and remember no question is inappropriate or silly.

Once you've made the decision...

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Where and how will my pet be put to sleep?  

Usually pets are put to sleep, peacefully and painlessly by injection, at the vet surgery, at a quiet time of the day. It may also be possible for a vet and nurse to come to your home if you prefer- this is something you can discuss with your local practice. It might not always be a familiar or your favourite vet or nurse who will be present during the procedure. If this is important for you, make sure you request this in advance. Your practice will do their best to accommodate your wishes.


You may wish to bring a friend or family member for additional support. Think about whether they may be able to drive you home afterwards, as you might be too distraught to do so, or arrange a taxi to pick you up and collect your car from the practice at another time.


It is possible for pets to receive a sedative injection before the final injection which can help them relax. Some vets will recommend sedation but it’s not always possible or indicated in every case. Don’t be afraid to discuss this with your vet if you think this is something you would like for your pet.

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Should I be there for my pet?

Not everyone chooses to be present during the euthanasia procedure, this is a very personal decision and can be different for each family member. Some people feel it’s too difficult to stay and prefer to say goodbye before or after euthanasia and only remember the good times, while others prefer to stay and be the last person their pet sees. There is no right or wrong answer and you should be reassured that there will be a vet nurse or assistant holding, stroking and comforting your pet if you do not feel you can stay yourself.

How and when do I make payment?

It’s a good idea to find out your practice’s terms for euthanasia and cremation. You may wish to pay in advance to avoid further upset having to do so on the day. Some practices might send you an invoice afterwards but this can be an upsetting reminder for some people.

Should I bring a child along to be there for my pet?

Having children present during a euthanasia is a very personal and difficult decision for parents, and depends on different factors including the child’s age, maturity, and individual personality. As a guide, very young children (1-5 years old) tend to be more attached to their parents’ emotions than their own, so they probably shouldn’t be present. Children over five years old can be asked whether they would like to be present or not, as long as the parents will then honour their decision. Your veterinary team can discuss this further with you to help advise.  

Can Vets4Pets arrange cremation?

Yes, of course your local Vets4Pets practice can arrange for a dignified cremation for your pet. There are two options available: 


Individual Cremation 

With this option, your pet’s body will be cremated by itself and their ashes will be returned to you, which you can decide to keep at home, bury in the garden or scatter in a favourite place as you feel is appropriate.


Communal Cremation

With a communal or group cremation, your pet’s body is cremated along with the bodies of other pets and their ashes will therefore not be able to be returned to you. This is a less expensive option compared to individual cremation. 


You also have the option to bury your pet at home without cremation.

Afterwards...

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Is getting a new pet after losing one a good idea?

While many people miss the love and friendship of a pet and get another pet fairly quickly, this might not be the right thing for everyone. Getting a new pet too soon might leave some people disappointed that their new pet is not ‘the same’ as the one they lost. However, for other people, the loneliness of an empty house can make grieving more difficult and a new pet can help with the process.

 

Also, consider any other pets you may have when thinking about introducing a new pet to the family. Some pets, such as rabbits, shouldn’t be kept alone for long whereas other pets, such as cats, can enjoy their own company.

 

If you are considering getting a new pet, it’s a good idea to talk things over with your vet who will be pleased to give you some support and advice. And, remember, there are lots of pets in shelters just waiting for a loving, forever home.

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What about a memorial for my pet?

 

There are many memorial and remembrance options available. This could include planting a tree or flowers, a memorial plaque or stone, tribute photo frames, framing a lock of hair or making a clay paw print. Ask your vet which options they offer and don’t be afraid to ask them for a memento such as a lock of hair.


You could also leave an online memorial for your pet on our website. This can be a comforting way of remembering your beloved pet and you can also see memorials other owners have left for their pets. 


Leave an online memorial


In addition to this, we have compiled a list of recommended books to read and charities you may wish to donate to in memory of your pet. 


Suggested books and charities


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Who can help me cope with my grief?

Grieving for the loss of a pet is different for everyone and can be a very difficult time. There is no set pattern for grief and feelings can include a mixture of sadness, confusion, shock, anger, guilt, self-doubt, relief, denial and even depression. Your emotions may include all or none of these feelings listed and will be felt in different combinations and intensities.

 

It’s important to know that there is no right or wrong way to feel and whatever feelings you encounter are perfectly normal and nothing to be embarrassed about.

 

If you need help dealing with your loss or want to seek advice for other family members, your GP will be able to point you in the right direction for some professional advice. There are also specific pet bereavement support services available. 


Saying goodbye to a much loved pet can be very difficult and if you need somebody to talk to, our Pet Bereavement Support Service is here for you.

To arrange a convenient time for us to call you back,

please email us at Here4You@vets4pets.com

Alternatively you can call us on: 0800 028 9660

How do I explain the loss of a pet to children?

Be prepared to answer any questions they may have but take care when using words such as ‘put to sleep’ or ‘put down’ which can cause confusion and anxiety. Don’t be afraid to use the words ‘death’ or ‘died’ instead. You may also need to explain the difference between sick and very sick; and that our pets age much faster than we do - for example, 14 years for a cat or dog is a long life, while 14 years for a child is a very short life.


You are the best judge of how much information your children can handle. Their age will play a big role in how they react: toddlers generally need a lot of reassurance because even though they may not be aware of the concept of death they may miss their pet and will also pick up on their parents’ emotions. 


Communication is key: always be honest and open keeping children informed if their pet is dead or dying; this will help them to cope with grief. Don’t underestimate children’s feelings and encourage them to talk about it. It is important not to hide your own feeling of sadness from them or they might feel they need to hide their grief as well. 


Getting children and young people involved in planning how to say goodbye or remember a pet can be helpful and comforting for them.