We are very lucky that we have the option to end our pets suffering in a controlled manner. It can often end a poor quality life. But that doesn’t make it any easier when it’s your pet.
Table of contents
Euthanasia – when is the correct time?
One of the most difficult decisions you may need to make for your pet will include deciding when the time is right. Understanding the process of euthanasia, how it works, what it will feel like for your pet and the different decisions within the euthanasia that need to be made will make it happen more smoothly.
It is always going to be a difficult decision
Recognising this is important. You know your pet better than anyone else and can therefore determine how happy your pet is. If the number of days where your pet is just ‘not themselves’ are becoming more common than the good days, the time is right. Some people use the Ohio Quality of Life survey, or similar tools. These allow you to create realistic expectations for yourself regarding your pet’s welfare. Keeping a diary of this can help to regulate hope and allow the best decision to be made at the right time.
Every euthanasia is emotional. We must, however, try to distinguish hope from reality. It is much easier to make big decisions when your mind is clear. Euthanasia is better done one month too early compared to a day late. Pets’ health can deteriorate quickly, and none of us want our pet to suffer.
As your pet gets older, there is an increased risk of many diseases. You should start to think about euthanasia and putting some money aside ready for when that time comes.
The actual euthanasia will roughly cost £70-200 which may include group cremation. You may opt for individual cremation which will cost more.
There are many different options as to what you can do with your pet’s body and each option will cost a different amount. It is important to think about which option you would prefer before the event occurs if possible.
However, once you’ve taken into account these factors, there are some decisions that will need to be made.
Where do you want your pet to be put to sleep?
Would you rather have your pet put to sleep in a place that they feel is familiar, maybe the place they feel at home? Some would rather their pet was put to sleep at the vets, as it prevents the home from having negative connotations and memories. At-home euthanasia often costs more, but for pets who don’t travel well, it can be the best option.
Do you want to be with your pet when they are euthanased?
This is a decision which you need to think about prior to arriving at the vets. When an animal is euthanased, communicating with your pet throughout the procedure until they lose consciousness can comfort your pet as they have familiar noise around them. Equally, if you do not want to see your pet pass away, this option is not the optimal option for you – and every case is different. It’s usually better for a pet to be without you in a calm quiet place with respectful vets and nurses, then with you if you are very distressed.
There are different options once your pet has passed away. You can bury your pet at home, although there are legal rules which you must adhere to. If you opt for this, you are able to take your pet home immediately.
If you opt for cremation, you then need to decide if you would like an individual cremation (where your pet is cremated on their own) or a group cremation (where your pet is cremated with other pets).
There’s no right or wrong way, and your pet’s remains will be treated respectfully whatever you decide. Some people would rather their pets were treated – like a person – as a solitary individual at the crematorium, while others prefer to think of them going with others. It’s entirely an individual choice for you.
The other main advantage of individual cremation, if you choose it, is that you can have your pet’s ashes back. This normally takes 7-10 days, but may vary depending on location. Should you request their ashes back, you may get an option regarding what type of box you would like these ashes in.
With group cremation, it is not possible to have your pet’s ashes returned. Instead, they are usually scattered in a memorial garden with others.
Whether you choose individual or group cremation, your pet will need to remain at the vets. Your vet will organise the transport to and from the pet crematorium and give you a call once your ashes are ready to collect, if you have requested this.
There are many memorial items you can take from your pet. Some great ideas include: a paw print, a tuft of hair, a nail clipping, their collar or a lead. Planning these things ahead is important as there may not be many opportunities to obtain them. You can organise and keep any of these things regardless of whether you have decided to have an individual or group cremation.
The amount of time taken to make the decision
The amount of time needed to make this big decision is going to vary from person to person. Nobody can tell you how much time you should take on this decision. As an owner, you are in control and it is your decision which we, as veterinary professionals, can provide advice upon. When you’re ready to decide, we will support you through the process and the practicalities.