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Euthanasia – the last appointment

It’s the saddest trip to the vet. Carrie Kearns details what you can expect and also some ways to deal with the inevitable grief…

You’ve made the appointment and now the day has arrived. It’s time. This is the day that has been weighing heavily on your heart, but you know it is for the best, even if it doesn’t feel like it.


You may have been here before; you know what to expect but that doesn’t stop the feeling of wanting to turn around and go home.


For those who don’t know what to expect, I will outline the basics. I am a former veterinary care assistant and for over 16 years I assisted with many a euthanasia. Here is what you can expect, while bearing in mind that every veterinary practice is different.


Euthanasia means ‘good death’ and we wouldn’t want anything less for our loved ones.

Here are the steps involved:


1. The receptionist will book you in and then they or the vet or vet nurse will go through the consent form and ask you to sign it.


2. You may be shown into a private room, where you can have a moment with your pet, or the vet will be there ready.


3. Your pet may need a sedative if they are anxious or they are wanting to bite or scratch defensively. We want them to be calm and as relaxed as is possible.


4. The sedative may cause your pet to vomit, or wander or get vocal; they may be wobbly or very sleepy. This is to be expected but doesn’t always happen.


5. The vet will shave a section of fur from a front or back leg. The nurse assisting or other staff member will hold your pet for this.


6. Once the fur has been shaved, the vet has access to the vein in the leg. They may put a catheter into the vein to administer the injection. A catheter is a thin plastic tube that sits in the vein and allows fluids to be injected straight into the bloodstream.


7. The catheter has to be administered via a needle and this may sting but is probably more uncomfortable than painful.


8. The vet or nurse will then bandage or tape the catheter so that it doesn’t come out.


9. You may be advised where to stand, and where to hold your pet so that the vet can access the leg freely and you are able to soothe and hold your companion.


10. Now comes the injection. Essentially this is an overdose of anaesthetic and as it is injected your pet will quickly become unconscious and then their heart and brain will stop functioning.


11. This process can take as little as a few seconds or minutes. It depends on the pet. Some pets may become quite agitated, moving around a lot or being vocal. This is normal, and they are not aware they are doing it. They are not in pain even though it can look quite distressing.


12. Your pet may slump, or if laid down they may become floppy and may stretch. This stretch is not a sign of life; it is something that can happen once they have died.


13. You may be given some time alone with your pet, and then when ready, the vet or another member of staff will come in and you can leave your pet with them, unless you are taking them home.


14. You then are able to pay either in the room, or at the front desk. You may also be given the option of online payment or paying by invoice.


15. If you have chosen cremation, this will be arranged by the practice unless other arrangements have been made.


You may find that there is a member of staff who is trained in pet bereavement, who you can speak to if you need to. It is important that you know where you can go for support if you need it in the following days and weeks.


• Pet bereavement counsellors can be found on the Ralph website

• Or you can access support from Living with Pet Bereavement:

• I am also here to help with recent or historic losses:

Once the appointment is over, once you have got home and life is expected to return to ‘normal’, you may find that you are struggling to process or handle the absence of your loved one.


Family and friends may seem like they are coping well and that they are not suffering like you are. But we all cope in different ways and outward expressions don’t always match what we feel inside.


You may be experiencing guilt, anger, numbness, self-blame. All are natural grief reactions. You may have flashbacks.


If you are experiencing any of these, and while doing so you feel you cannot cope or you are worried, if you feel that you are not coping, that you don’t have anyone to talk to or that family and friends seem to want you to stop talking about the loss, please reach out to a pet bereavement counsellor.


Providing a neutral, non-judgemental ear, we hold space for you and help you to untangle the thoughts and grief. You aren’t alone and you aren’t overreacting; you are grieving and needing support is not a weakness or a failing.


If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call Samaritans on 116 123 –

and speak to your GP. They will be able to help you.

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