by Chantal Moreton, BVSc





Euthanasia is the humane ending of an animal’s life, which can only be performed by a veterinarian. Euthanasia can be performed for many reasons e.g. if a pet has become old and sick, after a traumatic accident where treatment is not possible, or in some instances for population control (generally through the SPCA).



How do you know?


Coming to this decision for your pet is never easy – talk to your veterinarian or veterinary nurse and we can help by discussing the options that suit both yourself and your pet. In the end though, we need to think about our pets and the best decision for them. No animal should ever be in pain or suffer unnecessarily.


Our pets become part of our family, our best friends and when the time comes to say goodbye, at the Veterinary Centre we appreciate that this can be a particularly hard time for both you and your family.





What are the options?


When the decision has been made to euthanise your pet, you have a few options as to how the process is carried out and what to do with your pet’s body once they have gone. We will endeavour to make the process as easy as possible for you and your pet.


The first thing to decide is whether you wish to be present or not when your pet is put to sleep. Depending on the circumstances that surround the end of your pet’s life, it is generally a very quick, relatively painless process. An overdose of an anaesthetic is injected into the vein of your pet and they pass away within a few minutes – after the needle has been inserted (generally the hardest part for your pet), they drift off to sleep and then the heart slowly stops. They are not aware what is happening and it is usually very peaceful.


It is important to be aware that all pets are individuals and some respond differently to handling/medications – the veterinarian will explain the process before anything happens and cater to the needs of your pet – some may require a mild sedative before being euthanized or the assistance of gas to calm them down.


There will be a veterinary nurse present to assist the vet and hold up the vein but you can be with your pet until the end. However if you choose not to be present, the very caring veterinarians and veterinary nurses at the Veterinary Centre will be there for your pet.


The veterinarian will always ensure that your pet’s heart has stopped beating and that they have passed away but sometimes a few things can occur once they have passed – urine or faeces may leak from their body or they may give little gasping breaths – this is due to chemical processes in the body’s muscles – they are not waking up. Also animals generally don’t close their eyes but get a peaceful stare. Rigor mortis (stiffening of the body) can start to occur within 30 minutes of passing.



Can I have a house call?


Please note for long time clients or in special circumstances we can arrange a house call for euthanasia. Make sure you discuss with us the pros and cons of a house call for euthanasia so that you know what to expect, before deciding on this as the best option.



What happens once my pet has passed away?


Once your pet has passed away, you need to decide what to do with their body.

There are three options:

  1. take your pet home to bury somewhere in the garden – this needs to be in a deep enough hole and away from waterways (at least 50m)
  2. the clinic can arrange burial of the body – generally a mass grave for animals from around the city;
  3. cremation with/without ash return – this can either be in a cardboard box or urn with/without engraving. Ashes will usually be returned to the clinic for you to pick up in 7-10days – the staff at the clinic will ring you when they are back.


Dealing with grief


As with all instances of death, we go through a grieving process and it may take some time for you and your family to overcome the loss of a beloved pet.


There are grief centres available to help (please ask for their details at the Straven Road or Animates Papanui Vet Centre) and all the staff at the Vet Centre have had experience with loss of either their own pets or the many pets we get to know and love who come to our clinic – please feel free to talk to any of the staff if you wish to – we understand and care.


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