Euthanasia: When and what to expect

When is it time?

It is really difficult to decide when it might be the right time to consider euthanising your pet. Our emotional attachment to them as a family member is so strong it can be hard to separate our feelings and let go when our pet needs to.

Sometimes we hope that our pet will pass away on its own peacefully in its sleep but this is rarely the case and sometimes we have to take the decision to euthanise our pet to prevent suffering and compromise of their welfare in their final stages of life.

The centre point of understanding an animals welfare is revolved around the ‘five freedoms’

The five freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear and distress

If any number of these are compromised and cannot be helped it is reasonable to discuss end of life care.

Common factors to consider when evaluating a pets quality of life and how that effects the difficult decision for euthanasia:

Pain or discomfort: It is sometimes difficult to identify pain in our pets. They do not always vocalise their pain in the same way we would.

Common signs of pain in cats and dogs: Pacing, excessive panting, hiding in unique areas, not seeking interaction with family, growling, snarling, snapping, immobility, whining, not eating, flinching when touched.

Discomfort mean a variety of things, it could mean difficulty breathing, it could mean stiffness or pain, it could mean difficulty going to the toilet or suffering with an illness.

Appetite: A decline or lack of appetite or thirst can be a sign that the body is starting to shut down or just too painful. However, some pets never lose their appetite so you may need to look at other indicators.

Incontinence: Some pets may become incontinent and may soil themselves. Your pets are naturally quite fastidious about their litter habits and keeping clean. So soiling themselves is not a comfortable experience for them mentally or physically.

Mobility: Mobility issues such as osteoarthritis or severe muscle weakness are common in older pets. They may be unable to stand, unable to toilet, they may fall more often. This may make them quite anxious, they may be quite painful and no longer responding to medications. It may greatly compromise your pets ability to carry out doing the things it loves doing, like going for walks or jumping on the sofa.

Happiness and cognitive function: Your pet may start to show signs of being disengaged with its environment. They may no longer want to play, or be interested in food or toys and may no longer want to be affectionate towards you. You may notice a decline in their cognitive function and may be much more disorientated.

Quality of life questionnaires

There is access to a few quality of life questionnaires available. You may find them a helpful resource when examining your pets end of life welfare and aiding the difficult decision for euthanasia.


Taking a day to day diary of these can help you evaluate if there are more bad days to good days.

The euthanasia process at Mulberry House Vets

This is an extremely difficult decision and will be an extremely difficult day.

Make sure you have someone with you who can be there to look after you and maybe drive you to and from the practice.

We do offer home euthanasia and this can be arranged with some advanced notice. We appreciate it is not always possible to know what day will be the day, and at late notice we may be able to arrange a home visit but some days we may be unable to do so.

You will have the option of being with your pet during the whole process, but if you prefer not to be present this is absolutely fine and we will look after your pet and love them in their final moments.

Your pet will have an injection of an anaesthetic into their vein. The overdose of this anaesthetic will let your pet fall asleep very peacefully and painlessly.

Some pets may need a bit of sedation prior to this to make the process calmer and more comfortable for them.

Most pets fall asleep very peacefully but as the body lets go sometimes they can do gasping breaths or stretch their limbs or vocalise. These reflexes of the body are completely normal and your pet will be completely unaware of it. It is just the body letting go.

You will be given some time alone with your pet to say your goodbyes if you would like this.

You can decide to take your pets collar, coat, blanket or belongings with you if you would like that. Some cremation services do also allow your pet to be cremated with one or two small belongings.

What happens next?

We look after your pet with utmost respect and dignity after their passing. It is important to us that they are treated in the best way even after their death.

Ink paw prints and fur clipping can be taken from your pet if you wish.
We are also able to offer a Pet Paw Impression. Your pets paw will be gently pressed into a preprepared section of soft clay. The impression is then reversed to create a 2 dimensional ceramic outprint.
For more information please click on the website link –

You can decide whether you would like to bury your pet at home or have them cremated.

Home burial:

We recommend for burial checking with your local council environmental health department for advice. Home burial requires at least a 6ft hole to prevent any disturbance to your pets grave.


What is the difference between individual and communal cremation?

Individual cremation means your pets ashes will be returned to you. You have a choice of what type of casket or urn you would like your pet to return in.

A communal cremation means your pet will be cremated with other loved pets and their ashes will be scattered in a quiet location within the crematorium grounds where they can rest.

We can also take paw prints of your pet or a bit of fur as a keepsake, just let one of us know.

We have two crematorium services. Please feel free to look at their websites below:

  • Dignity Pet Crematorium is located in Hampshire. They can offer same day collections from the practice or your home and have a variety of options for caskets and urns. We can contact Dignity on your behalf to arrange your pets collection. Dignity will then contact you to go through the wishes for your pet’s cremation.
  • PCS Crematorium is located in Northamptonshire. They can offer routine cremation where pets are cremated along with others. The individual ashes would not be returned.

If there is any way in which we can make the process smoother for you please feel free to let us know, we are here to help.

Here is some more in depth and comprehensive advice around euthanasia and making that decision:


It is normal to deeply grieve the loss of your pet. You are not alone. There is help out there if you need it:

  • Pet Bereavement Support Service – 0800096 6606 or
  • PDSA National Collection of Pet Memories – 0800 591248 /

Here is some more information and reading which you may find useful in coping with the loss of a pet:

  • “Absent Friend: Coping with the loss of a treasured pet” by Laura and Martyn Lee, published by Henston Ltd. (ISBN 978-1850540892)
  • “Companion Animal Death” by Mary F Stewart, published by Butterworth-Heinemann (ISBN 978-0750640763)
  • “A Loving Farewell” by Davina Woodcock, published by DogSense Publications (ISBN 978-0954163600)
  • “Goodbye, Dear Friend” by Virginia Ironside, published by JR Books Ltd. (ISBN 978-1906217938)

For children:

  • We have produced a printable Childrens information booklet to help support your child(ren) through the process.
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