We are more intimately bonded with our pets than ever before and often more than we allow ourselves to realise until they become unwell. They offer no judgement, balance our stress and cheer us up when we are down. They provide that crucial human need for physical contact when we are lonely.
A deep relationship built over time can make the decision to end a pets life one of the hardest we make.


How will I know when?

Due to the gradual nature of most pet health problems it can be challenging to know when the correct time for euthanasia has arrived. This time will also be different for different people.

It can be helpful to try and determine what "quality of life" means for your pet by making a list of things he or she most enjoyed. Such as interactions with other pets and people, playing with a favourite toy, a walk on the beach etc.
Assessing the number of good days compared to bad over time can also be helpful. This can be as simple as putting a marble in a bowl on a good day and removing one on a sad day or putting coloured stickers on a calendar.
Drawing a "line in the sand" such as, if my pet drops below a certain weight or has not eaten for a certain number of days can help.
We would encourage you to download the following "Quality of life scale and diary" to monitor your pet and help your decision making.

Quality of life scale

A close relationship and communication with your Vet is important at this time to ensure your pet remains as well treated and comfortable as possible.

Your personal quality of life also needs considering. What effect will appropriate treatment have on your finances and family? Do you have time to tend to your pets needs? What other obligations and stresses do you have in your life at this time?

Processing grief and moving forward

The death of a pet can be a massive emotional loss in our lives. It is important to recognise this and give yourself permission to grieve. Don't be hard on yourself, give it time. Surround yourself with those that understand the bond you had with your pet so that you can talk without judgement. 

Try to ignore comments from those who can not understand the relationship you had with your pet.
Try to let go of guilt and "what ifs". Remember you did what you thought was right at the time with the intent of love.
It may be best to sort out your feelings before getting a new pet so you can welcome it with open arms.

Helping children with pet loss

Pet loss can cause significant grief for some children and may be their first experience of death. It is considered best to be honest and acknowledge your child's grief. It is tempting to lie about a pets death to try and minimise grief but this can lead to issues of unresolved grief or even the child blaming themselves for the loss of the pet.

Discuss the reasons for the pets euthanasia and encourage questions.
Having a ceremony to celebrate the pets life is often helpful. The clinic can provide a clipping of your pet's hair for this.
It may be best to wait a while before getting a new pet so the memories can be treasured and so the pet is not viewed as easily replaced.



The process of euthanasia

When the decision for euthanasia has been made we very much wish to make this as respectful and comfortable for you and your pet as possible.

Making an appointment
Our Reception team will try to select a time that will allow as much privacy and time with your pet as possible. Euthanasia can also be carried out in the families home when appropriate.
The entire family can be present for the euthanasia or if you prefer you can leave before the actual injection. A consent form clarifying your wishes will need to be completed.
The injection
Euthanasia in pets is a painless process. An injection of an anaesthetic agent is given to overdosage. Consciousness is lost as the injection is given. This is rapidly followed by both your pets breathing and heart beat stopping. The Vet will confirm when this has occurred.
The injection is administered via a vein in the foreleg or hind leg. This does require the minor prick of a fine needle and some mild restraint to hold the vein steady. We wish this to be stress free so if your pet shows any sign of aggitation we will recommend sedation first. You will need to allow 10-20 minutes for your pet to drift to sleep before proceeding.
Another option is to have a catheter pre placed in a vein by staff behind the scenes so when the family is ready there is no need to find a vein and there is minimal need for restraint.
Please be aware you can request sedation and or catheter placement.
Last moments
After the overdosage has been administered and life ends there are some unavoidable natural events to be aware of and prepared for. A small proportion of dogs will have one to several reflex gasps. This can appear frightening if you are not expecting this but be assured your dog is not aware or suffering and that this is a normal body function. As oxygen leaves the bodies muscles they may react briefly by twitching slightly. As muscles relax the bladder and occasionally bowel will empty. The eyes remain open after life ends and the pupils dilate.

What happens next?

Before your visit it is best to consider what would suit your family most for the care of your pet after euthanasia, 
Taking your pet home for burial is an option but becoming less common as sections become smaller and with less time spent in a single home.
Your pet can alternatively be left in our care for a cremation service provided by "Pets at Rest". Your pet can be cremated communally with no ashes returned or individually with return of your pets ashes. Ashes can be returned in a simple cardboard box or a rimu box with engraving. Examples are available at the clinic and our staff will be happy to discuss these options and others.

Remember to celebrate the wonderful memories and much loved life of your special friend