The Final Farewell


All owners know that, sadly, there comes a time when we have to say goodbye to our pet. This can be sudden and unexpected or a decision that has to be reached after a period of illness.

Euthanasia comes from the Greek for ‘a gentle death’. This decision may be one of the hardest you will have to make, depending on the circumstances it may be the kindest thing that you will do for your pet. We understand that this is a very emotional time for the owners and the vet.

Forgetmenot - a symbol of love, hope and rememberance


How can you tell when the time is right?

Taking the decision to let go of a treasured companion is never easy and your veterinary surgeon will provide guidance, although ultimately the decision has to be yours and your family’s. Don’t make any rash decisions that you may regret at a later stage.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you decide if your pet has a good enough quality of life to justify keeping him going. Can they:-

  • Eat and drink enough to maintain normal body function?
  • Breathe without difficulty?
  • Urinate and defaecate normally, without discomfort or distress?
  • Walk and move well enough to get around without falling or risk of injury?

Is your pet:-

  • Still interested in life, playful and affectionate?
  • Free from pain, serious discomfort or distress?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no” then you may have to consider euthanasia for your pet.

What to expect

Most pets are euthanased at a veterinary surgery because the procedure can be carried out more smoothly with veterinary nurses available to assist, however it may be possible to arrange for a home visit if you think this will be less traumatic for your pet. You will be asked to sign a form for permission and the euthanasia will be carried out by a vet, often with a nurse to assist.

It is entirely up to you whether you want to stay with your pet or not. Some people prefer to stay during euthanasia while other people find it distressing, which can upset your pet. You have to decide what would be best for you and your pet.

Your pet will be given an injection which may be into a vein in their front leg. This may involve shaving a small patch of fur. The injection is a high dose of anaesthetic which will cause your pet to lose consciousness within seconds. Their breathing and heart will then stop. After death, the body of your pet may experience muscle spasms leading to trembling legs or sudden gasps, and there may be some loss of bowel and bladder control. This can be distressing to see but it is perfectly normal and it is a good idea to be prepared. Sometimes, the vet may have difficulty in locating a vein, especially if your pet is old or frail so they may have to inject into another area of the body.

Feel free to ask for a few moments with your pet alone to say goodbye.

Horses are either euthanased by a lethal injection or a humane killer (gun).

Be prepared for the vet to take your pet’s body away in a black plastic bag if you have arranged for a cremation to take place. This may seem undignified but is essential for health and safety reasons.

What happens next?

You may wish to keep a small keepsake of your pet, such as a collar or name tag, a paw print or a small patch of fur. You will be asked to make the decision about whether you want to take your pet home to be buried in your own garden or use a pet cemetery. You may also wish to consider cremation. They can be cremated communally with other pets or they can be done individually where you can arrange the return of the ashes to scatter or to keep in a casket or urn.
Whatever you choose as your pet’s final resting-place, remember that this decision is totally valid, and friends or relatives have no right to criticise, even if they consider it a waste of time and money. It is important for you to make the right decision at this time, as it can affect the grieving process.

Ask your vet about all the options available to you, the likely costs involved and the service you can expect.

A grieving pet owner will experience a variety of emotions including confusion and frustration. A feeling of isolation may result from not feeling able to openly grieve, due to a fear of being considered silly or overly sentimental about the death of an animal by other people. It is important to recognise that it is okay to take as much time to grieve and heal as you find necessary. Your pet has been a special companion and member of the family and you must recognise this.

Helpful books and reading:

boyanddogAbsent Friend
By Laura and Martyn lee
Published by Hensto
ISBN :978-1850540892

Goodbye, Dear Friend
By Virginia Ironside
Published by Robson
ISBN: 978-1906217938

Time to say Goodbye
Pet care leaflets available to download at :