Why is it important?
We look after our dogs, let them into our home and our hearts, and love them dearly. In the end, though, all too often it's us who have to decide when to call it a day and let them go. In this short guide, we'll talk about how and when to make that decision, preparing yourself and your family for it, and then the procedure itself.
Does it need to happen?
Sadly, it is quite rare for dogs to die peacefully in their sleep at home; more commonly, they will struggle on, suffering more and more each day. We can (and should) prevent this, and one of the worst mistakes you can make is to leave it too late - a decision you are likely to regret. Making the decision that it's time to put your dog to sleep is never easy - and it shouldn't be.
How do I decide when the time is right?
(1) When your dog is healthy and well, make a list of all the things they most love doing - those things that, for them as an individual, life wouldn't be worth living if they couldn't do. (2) Then, make a list of all the things your dog hates most. (3) When they become old, or ill, take out those lists and compare them to their current life. Are they still getting to do things they love? Are they having more good days than bad? Or are they uncomfortable or in pain most of the time; having to constantly do something they hate just to keep going?
When the time comes, how do I tell the family?
When you have made the decision, it is important that everyone in the household is on board with it - if there is significant disagreement, have your vet check your dog over and talk to you about the options. If there are children involved, it is all the more important to make sure that they are kept informed - don't try to spare their feelings by making up a story, as it may be harmful in the longer term. You can check out some excellent information on dealing with the issue here: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-loss-support-children-missing-my-friend.
What is the procedure?
When the time comes, it is best to book an appointment in advance - it means we can make sure that there are both the time and the staff to have everything go smoothly. We may give your dog a sedative, if they seem distressed, and then we will clip a small patch of fur, usually on the foreleg. A veterinary nurse will hug your dog and raise the vein, and the vet will give an injection of an anaesthetic (it's not a poison or anything nasty, just an overdose so they go quietly to sleep and don't wake up). If you would like to stay with them, that's absolutely fine; if not, that's fine too. Finally, the vet will perform some checks to make sure they've gone. Don't be alarmed if they seem to move, or even gasp after death - this is due to reflexes, it's quite normal, and isn't a sign that anything's gone wrong. There are usually a number of options for dealing with their remains - talk to one of our staff for details.
Is it wrong to be sad afterwards?
It's quite normal to feel grief, anger, or depression - don't let anyone say "it was only a dog", because they were your dog, and part of your family!
Although it can be the hardest decision in the world to make, it's even harder to live with the fact that you left it too long, and allowed a beloved pet to suffer unnecessarily. If you need to talk to anyone, please feel free to give us a ring.