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Understanding Pet Euthanasia: Making Informed Decisions for Your Beloved Companion

Understanding Pet Euthanasia: Making Informed Decisions for Your Beloved Companion

The journey with a pet is filled with joy, companionship, and unconditional love.

However, part of loving and caring for a pet involves making difficult decisions, especially when it comes to the end of their life. Knowing when it's time to say goodbye is one of the most challenging moments a pet owner can face.


How Do You Know When It's Time?

Understanding when your beloved companion is no longer enjoying a good quality of life is crucial.

It's a decision that comes with a heavy heart, requiring deep consideration and compassion. To aid in this emotional process, the Pet Quality of Life Scale Calculator offers a valuable resource.

This questionnaire helps assess your pet's current state, guiding you through evaluating factors such as pain, appetite, and happiness to determine whether euthanasia might be the kindest option.

It can also be really helpful to keep a daily diary about your pet. Sometimes when we are with them 24/7, it can be hard to notice a gradual decline, but by keeping a diary you can look back a few weeks or months and see what the differences are. 

This diary might include:

- how was their appetite today?

- did they willingly go for (and enjoy) a walk?

- did they want to play their usual games?

- if applicable, did they take all their meds?


Euthanasia: What to Expect

If you've never been through the experience of having to say goodbye to a pet, you might not know exactly what is involved. 

Your vet should explain everything to you clearly before and during the process.

The process is straightforward and usually very quick and painless.

Firstly, you will be asked to sign a consent form for your pet to be put to sleep.

Depending on your vet, they may give your pet a sedative first (usually injected) so that they are relaxed and sleepy. This makes it less stressful for them as they are not that aware of what is happening.

The anaesthetic will either be directly injected, or the vet will insert a catheter (small tube) into your pet's front leg and administer it via this.

At this point, your pet will be given an overdose of anaesthetic. This will act very quickly. Your pet will become unconscious and brain activity will cease, meaning that the heart and lungs will stop working.  

Your pet will not feel any pain and often they have passed away before the full overdose has even been given - sometimes it may take a minute or two, but be assured that your pet will not be aware of anything or feel any pain.

Some animals will not move at all after they have been put to sleep, but it is perfectly normal to see some muscle movement or even something that looks like breathing or gasping for a few minutes after the heart and brain have stopped working.

This is not a sign of life, but just automatic muscle movements that can go on for a few minutes after death – it is not a reason for worry or concern.

The vet will make absolutely sure that your pet has passed by listening for a heartbeat.


At the Vet's vs At Home Euthanasia

Choosing euthanasia for your pet often involves deciding where it should take place.

The first option many consider is euthanasia at a veterinary clinic.  While this option is professional and compassionate, it can feel impersonal to some pet owners, and the clinical setting might be stressful for the pet. 


The Gentle Alternative: Home Euthanasia

For those seeking a more personal farewell, home euthanasia represents a gentle alternative. In the UK there are services that specialise in providing this service in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

The benefits of choosing home euthanasia include:

  • Familiar Environment: Your pet can remain in their most comfortable and familiar surroundings, reducing stress and anxiety.  
  • Privacy and Intimacy: It allows for a private and intimate goodbye, where emotions can be freely expressed.
  • Family and Pet Inclusion: The whole family, including other pets, can be present, offering everyone a chance to say their farewells.


My Own Experience

I have said goodbye to 5 pets over the years. Two of these were at the vets, two were at home using our usual vet, and our last one, Sox, was at home using a private service.

Although in each case, the actual passing was very quick and the vets were very good at explaining what would happen, I found that the private firm made for a really tranquil passing. Everything was done at our (and Sox's) pace.

What's more, Sox had never met the vet, he wasn't dressed in vet scrubs, and so she had no concerns at all about him and lay there quite happily while he sat with her and petted her.

With the private vet, they gave us plenty of time for the sedative to kick in. In fact Sox literally went to sleep licking pate off a lickimat. The vet gave her a further few minutes to make absolutely sure that she really was fast asleep and completely unaware - we moved her onto her bed and she did not wake up at all.

This meant that she was totally unaware of that final injection and she passed so peacefully. It made it much easier for all of us who were there.

Whilst it is not the cheapest option, it is definitely one that I would use again.


Should Other Pets Be Present?

This comes down to personal choice. But if your pets have lived together for some time they are likely to have a strong bond with each other. 

Letting the surviving pet be present ensures that they know that they have lost their friend or sibling. It gives them the chance to process this and to grieve themselves (and make no mistake, pets do grieve!).

Bella was present when her good friend Kai was put to sleep. She was visibly upset, but after being comforted, she went and sniffed his body and then lay next to it until the private crematorium came to take him away.

She was upset for several days, not getting up for breakfast and definitely not her usual self. But with love and care, she soon bounced back.

If the surviving pet is not present, they will not know that their friend has passed, and may keep looking for them - this can be upsetting for you as well as for them.


Aftercare: Cremation Options

Following euthanasia, many families consider cremation as a respectful way to handle their pet's remains.

There are typically two options: communal or mass cremation through your vet, where your pet is cremated with others, or private cremation, so although you do receive ashes back, you need to be aware that these may not strictly be your own pet's.

There are now also many private pet crematoriums, where your pet is cremated alone and you are guaranteed to receive only their ashes back.

A Lasting Memory: Choosing an Urn

To honour your pet's memory, selecting a bespoke urn can serve as a beautiful and lasting tribute. Chow Bella's handmade urns are crafted with care and love, designed to celebrate the unique bond you shared with your pet. 


Saying goodbye is never easy, but understanding your options for euthanasia and aftercare can help provide peace during this difficult time.

Whether you choose euthanasia at the vet or a more personal farewell at home, followed by a respectful cremation, remember that it's about honouring the love and joy your pet brought into your life.

For more information on our range of handmade urns, please visit Chow Bella.


Useful Resources

Pet Crematoriums:

Recommended Pet Crematoriums


Private at home pet euthanasia services:

Final Rest - dog and cat euthanasia service in homes within a 30-mile radius of Havant, Hampshire. Personally recommended by Chow Bella

Peaceful Pet Goodbyes Sussex and borders

Cloud9vets - covering most of the UK


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