The definition of euthanasia is the act or practice of putting, painlessly, to death, especially in cases of incurable suffering. Sadly, the decision to euthanase our pets is something that many of us will face but we may take comfort in knowing that it is the last kind thing we can do for them.
Our pets give us companionship and non-judgemental love and often accompany us through many years of our lives that may include changes in personal circumstance, relationships and health.
For these reasons, we try never to underestimate the sense of bereavement associated with the loss of a pet and the pain of having to make this difficult decision.
This is always a difficult question to answer and some of the reasons for euthanasia would include intractable pain, debilitating disease with no hope of recovery, unacceptable decrease in quality of life. Quality of life may be judged by the pet's ability to perform normal behaviours such as eating, toileting and interacting with family members. We all would like our pets to live longer and to be untouched by the ageing process but need to recognise when it is the right time to say goodbye.
At the surgery - we often try to arrange an appointment either at the beginning or the end of surgery or at times outside normal consulting hours during the day to allow for some privacy and to try and avoid a very busy waiting room.
At home - we can normally arrange this during the working day if we have sufficient notice. A vet will often be accompanied by a nurse on a house visit.
We use an injection of an overdose of anaesthetic agent into one of the main veins on the front leg. The area to be used will have some hair clipped from it and will be wiped with a swab to allow the vein to be more easily seen. If a veterinary nurse is assisting the vet, she will now hold the leg around the elbow and give a gentle squeeze to make the vein rise from the surrounding tissues.
The injection results in a rapid loss of consciousness followed by the cessation of heartbeat and breathing. In older dogs whose circulation is not so good, this process may take a little longer and it may be harder for the vet to find a vein. Occasionally animals may take a few gasping breaths or twitch. Although this does look not look very pleasant, be assured that your pet is unaware of these actions. Most animals do not react to the injection as it i. Most dogs will pass urine or faeces at the point of death because the body relaxes completely. This is normal and we expect it to happen.
A vet will usually be assisted by a nurse and will ask if you wish to be with your pet when he or she is euthanased. This is a very personal decision and is entirely up to the individual. If you do not wish to be present, we are happy for you to spend some time with your pet before and after he or she has been euthanased. We would recommend that small children are not present for euthanasia.
What happens after?
We are happy for you to take your pet home or we can take care of his or her body for you. We can arrange cremation - either routine or individual with many options for return of ashes from a scatter box or casket to individual memorials such as statues and urns.