This article may not be for everyone, and may be upsetting. Euthanasia of our beloved companions can be a emotion time, and sometimes knowing a little more about it can help ease worry.
In this article we attempt to answer some of the questions you may have surrounding euthanasia but may not have wanted to ask.
Will they feel anything?
Euthanasia is ultimately a peaceful and painless procedure. The actual injection is pain free. It is an anaesthetic which is deliberately given as an overdose. Your dog will initially feel sleepy and will then peacefully drift into unconsciousness within a couple of seconds. Shortly after this, their breathing and heart will stop. Your dog may feel a sharp scratch when they are given the injection or if the vet decides to place a catheter in your dog’s arm first. If your dog is very nervous or agitated, the vet may decide to give them a mild sedative first so that they remain peaceful and calm throughout the procedure.
How quick is the procedure?
Within a few seconds to minutes of the vet administering the injection, a dog will drift into unconsciousness. A short time after, its breathing and heart will stop. The whole process however, from the time you see the vet to the time you say your final goodbyes will take as long as you require and will not be rushed.
Can I stay with my dog while it is being put to sleep?
This is something you may like to discuss with your vet and your family about before the event if possible. Being there can provide closure and help you come to terms with the loss. Some people want to be there until the end, while others are there at the start, but decide to leave the room and come back at the end. It is true that your dog will get some comfort from you being there but do not feel guilty if you are unable to, there is always a comforting nurse and compassionate vet with them throughout.
What do I do with my dog’s body once they have passed peacefully?
There are a few options when your dog is deceased. Some people choose to bury their pet at home in the garden. Current law allows your dog to be buried in the home where they last lived or in a licensed pet cemetery. This is fine if your dog is not too big or you are unlikely to move home and have to leave them there. Some people actually find the process of digging a grave and having a ‘funeral’ or small memorial service can help in coming to terms with the loss. It can often provide some closure for you and your family.
Another alternative is to have your dog’s body cremated. There are a number of pet crematoriums across the country. They will collect the body from your vet practice and take the ashes back to them. Your vet will deal with all the logistics of this so you need not worry about it. Some pet crematoriums now offer a direct service, and will collect your dog directly from your home. If your dog has died at home and you wish them to be cremated, get in touch with your vet and they will advise you what to do next.
What do I need to know about burying my dog in the garden?
There are a few things you should bear in mind when burying your dog in the garden.
The property must belong to you and must not be rented.
The dog must have lived in the property where they are going to be buried
You should not bury your dog near to a water source
You should try to bury the dog at least 2 feet deep in heavy soils, and 3 feet deep in light soils.
You should not bury your dog if it is hazardous to human health eg. if it has been treated with drugs which are harmful to human health for instance chemotherapy drugs.
If possible, cover the grave with heavy objects initially, to prevent it being dug up by wildlife or another dog.
You may want to wrap your dog in a blanket or place them in a coffin made from wood or cardboard.
How are my dog’s ashes returned?
There are a number of different ways you can have your dogs’ ashes contained and returned to you. The most popular containers include a casket, urn or scatter tube. Your vet practice or pet crematorium will show you a catalogue to help you decide.
Ultimately, it can depend on what you want to do with the ashes once they have been returned. Some owners like to scatter them on their dog’s favourite walk or place, in which case a scatter tube is often more appropriate. If you are thinking you would like to keep your dog’s ashes with you at home, then a casket, urn or sculpture may be preferable. Some owners like to incorporate the ashes into items of jewellery so they can carry a part of their dog with them at all times.
Should I let my other pets see the body?
Nobody really knows the answer to this. Many owners believe it is important for their other pets to see their friend’s body as it may stop them looking for the deceased pet or wondering where they have gone. We still do not know exactly what another animal is going through or whether they fully understand, but many owners have found a benefit to this. If you need help coming to a decision, we will be happy to discuss this with you.
How should I break it to my children?
Losing the family dog can be a child’s first experience of death. The way you cope with it can influence the way they cope with grief in adult life. As their parent, you will know what is best for them but honesty is usually the best policy especially if we explain to them in simple terms so they can fully understand that the dog has died. Using terms like “sleeping” or “being put to sleep” or “gone away” can give them a false sense of hope that they may see them again.
It can help some children to mark their passing with some form of remembrance – a funeral or burial can help or planting a tree or painting a picture of their dog. Talking about your dog and sharing memories can all help in the healing process. There are also some age-appropriate books about losing pets from a child’s perspective that may help you and your child talk about your loss.
Remember to look after yourself too! Coping with the loss of a dear pet and grieving children is tough. Taking time for yourself, talking with friends and family, and giving yourself space to grieve is important, and helps you to help them.
Will my other dogs grieve for their friend? How can I help them?
It is difficult to know if dogs feel the same ‘grief’ as we do. Animals tend to be more matter of fact about death but that’s not to say that they do not miss another family member when they are no longer with them, that they do not have a feeling of sadness or loneliness and that they do not grieve for them in their own way.
Look out for the signs: not eating as much, depressed or quieter than normal, difficulty settling or searching the house and seeking your affection.
As with humans, there is no cure for their grief, but you can help them along the way. Dogs love routine so trying to stick to this as much as possible will help. Giving them extra fuss or cuddles or finding a new stimulating activity or walk are all ways which may help them as they gradually get used to their friend not being around
I am really struggling to come to terms with the loss of my dog. Is this normal? Is there any help?
Society’s view on pet bereavement is starting to change as the impact of losing a beloved pet is becoming more understood. It is now widely accepted that the grief we experience on losing a pet can be akin to that of losing any other member of the family. Some workplaces are now starting to offer compassionate leave in such circumstances although widespread adoption of this enlightened policy is a long way off.
Grief can affect us all in different ways and at different times, and there is no ‘normal’. If you are struggling, there are a number of support lines out there manned by experienced people who can listen and help.
Pet Bereavement Support Service:
0800 096 6606
Open every day 8.30am-8.30pm
email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will reply within 48 hours
EASE Pet Loss Support Services:
www.ease-animals.org.uk - offer a wide range of support resources, covering different aspects of grief in pet bereavement - free to download or view or listen to online:
Animal Samaritans Pet Bereavement Service:
0203 745 9859
Alternatively, the team here at MyDogDoc, as dog owners ourselves, understand that the loss of a pet can be truly devastating. If at any point in the process you would like to chat to one of our team then we would more than happy to talk you through the process, and be an understanding and sympathetic ear to listen. We all understand how special our canine companions are, sometimes you need to talk.