Euthanasia, or "putting to sleep" is something that most pet owners will have to encounter at some stage of their life.  It is usually performed because there is no other way to alleviate pain or suffering caused by a disease, illness or old age.


It is up to us human beings, both as caring pet owners and vets, to ensure that we have the animal's best interests at heart. Are we keeping the animal going for our sake or theirs?  Many diseases or illnesses that can't be cured can be controlled but unfortunately many animals still suffer from painful or debilitating problems that can either only be temporarily controlled or controlled up to a certain point.  It is often with these cases that it has to be decided when things have reached a critical point.


Unfortunately there is never an easy time to make the decision to have your pet put to sleep, however there is usually a correct time to make that decision.


Euthanasia of very old or terminally ill animals is an important decision that we can help with.


How are animals "put to sleep"?


Normally, with dogs and cats, an injection is given directly into a vein on the foreleg.  In some old or very ill cats the injection is sometimes given into the side of the tummy.  The drug used is a very strong anaesthetic based drug which anaesthetises the brain first (so the animal become unconscious) before then stopping the heart. The process is very quick - often occurring within a few seconds.  If we feel the animals may be frightened or fractious, then we may give them a little sedative beforehand to make them much less anxious.  Rabbits are usually given the same injection, but into a small vein running along their ear.   Smaller pets such as Guinea Pigs, mice, hamsters etc are often anaesthetised first of all using an inhaled anaesthetic gas which they can just breath in mixed with oxygen.  Once they are fully unconscious the same injection is then given directly into their abdomen or chest.


The whole process is performed so as to be as gentle, stress-free, painless and dignified as physically possible. We obviously have the animal's best well-being at heart.



Does the animal feel anything?


Absolutely not.  The drug injected is designed to render the animal fully unconscious before the heart stops.  All they are aware of, is gradually drifting off to sleep - just like having an anaesthetic.  The injection itself is not painful and feels like any other injection - a sharp scratch.



What actually happens when my pet is put to sleep?


Normally both a vet and veterinary nurse is present when your animal is put to sleep.  After having explained the whole process to you the nurse will gently hold the animal so that the vet can have access to administer the drug.  If the injection is going to be given into a vein, then a small patch of hair will be clipped away and a surgical swab will clean the exposed area.


There are some reflexes that can occur after your pet has passed and these will be explained in detail at the time.  It is normal for the eyes to remain open afterwards, and it is also common that some wee or poo can just leak out as everything relaxes.  Occasionally you can get some muscle twitching and it is also possible to get a sudden sharp intake of breath.  This can upset people if you are not expecting it, but again is normal and it is just due to the diaphragm relaxing.  The animal is absolutely not aware of this.



Does Euthanasia have to take place at the surgery?


Not necessarily.  We are fully aware that the surgery is not the best environment to have such an emotional event take place. It is well known that some animals are more anxious when visiting the vets at the best of times! We are also aware that as owners you don't want to be waiting in a room full of people and other animals having made such a difficult decision.


Therefore we are more than happy to do home-visits wherever possible, should you decide to have your pet put to sleep. Both a vet and nurse can come to your house at a suitable time to perform the euthanasia.  This is often preferential as the animal is in his or her usual and well-known environment with familiar sights, sounds and smells.  You may have a special place or bedding that you want your pet to lie on so as to make the whole process as stress-free as possible.


We leave the location entirely down to you.  If you do want to come to the surgery, we advise that you let us book you in a for a specific time when the surgery is more likely to be quiet.  Once we know you are here, you are more than welcome to ask to wait in a quiet room to wait in until the vet is ready.



What happens to my pet after he or she has been put to sleep?


 There are several options available to you.



  • You can take the animal home (or leave at home if you have had a home visit) and you may decide to bury him or her in the garden.  With this option, you may want to ask yourself how you would feel should you decide to move house at any point in the future.  To bury your pet anywhere other than private land, you would have to seek specialist advice.
  • You can have the animal individually cremated.  We make arrangements with Lawnhill Pet Crematorium and they will pick you animal directly up from our surgery after the euthanasia and will cremate him or her individually, and the ashes returned back to you.  You can either have the ashes in a plastic pot which can be opened (this is better if you have decided to scatter or bury the ashes), or you may have the ashes returned in a wooden casket (with or without a brass plaque) - an option usually chosen if you want to keep the ashes for a longer period of time.
  • You can decide to have a standard cremation.  Again, the animal is picked up from the surgery by Lawnhill Pet Crematorium where he or she will be cremated.  These animals are not cremated individually and the ashes are not returned back to you.


Saying goodbye to your pet can be a difficult time. We try to make the whole process as easy and dignified as possible for you and your pet.

We absolutely guarantee that after putting you pet to sleep, he or she is looked after correctly and with the dignity and respect that they deserve.  Lawnhill Pet Crematorium is a small family run business that the Bilton Veterinary Centre has been working closely with for many years.


Please be aware that having your animal individually cremated is more expensive that the standard cremation, so please ensure that you are fully aware of the costs before making your decision.  There is more information about cremation on this part of our website.



What do I do about paying the bill during this upsetting time?


We obviously understand that paying the bill is probably the last thing on your mind at such a difficult time for you.  If you have come to the surgery, we are more than happy to show you quietly out of the back door to our car park.  You needn't worry about paying the bill at the time - we can sort all that out later on.  Some people ask to pay beforehand which is equally acceptable.  Again during a home visit, we will post the bill on to you at a later date.


If you have your animal cremated, Lawnhill Pet Crematorium will invoice you directly.



How is it best to emotionally deal with having my pet put to sleep?



This is very difficult question to answer and people will react in different ways.  Some people are better suited to coping with the loss of a pet than others and there is no "normal" way to react.  Our vets and nurses are more than happy to discuss any aspect your concerns either before or after your pet has been put to sleep, and friends and family may also be on hand to help you.


If you feel you need extra support, then the Bilton Veterinary Centre strongly recommends Pet Bereavement Support Service, run by the Blue Cross Charity.  This organisation is staffed by volunteers who will understand what you are going through and will talk to you privately and confidentially.

The Blue Cross provides support for people who are struggling with the loss of their pet.

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Warwickshire, CV22 7EQ


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Euthanasia of very old or terminally ill animals is an important decision that we can help with.

Saying goodbye to your pet can be a difficult time. We try to make the whole process as easy and dignified as possible for you and your pet.

Call Us

01788 812650

Find Us

259 Bilton Road, Rugby, CV22 7EQ

24hr Emergency Service

For Registered Clients