We know that saying goodbye to a beloved pet is not something any pet owner likes to think about but sadly making the decision to euthanise (put to sleep) is often the kindest one.

This page has been created to inform you about the euthanasia process, what you should expect and how we can support you through the experience.

Euthanasia means “a painless death”. It is one of the kindest and most selfless decisions you will ever make as it relieves pain and suffering.

Euthanasia – what to expect

The first step is the completion of the consent form. We will give you some time to read this over, sign and spend time with your pet alone. We appreciate that reading about and discussing euthanasia can be upsetting. Please remember some elements of euthanasia can be hard to see and that your pet loses consciousness very quickly and so will be free from pain.

Normally both a vet and veterinary nurse are present when your pet is euthanised. The vet will administer an overdose of a concentrated anaesthetic. In most circumstances, euthanasia is a quick and peaceful procedure.

Some reflexes can occur after your pet has passed away and these are completely normal.

These can include:

  • their eyes remaining open afterwards
  • wee or poo leaking out
  • muscle twitching
  • a sudden sharp intake of breath

These reflexes can be upsetting. Please be assured that they are normal occurrences and your pet will not be conscious at this point in time. The vet will listen with a stethoscope to ensure that their heart is no longer beating and confirm your pet has passed away.

It is your decision if you wish to be present during the process.

If you would like to say a prayer or take a keepsake, such as their collar, a lock of fur or a paw print impression, please let us know. Our team will be sensitive to your needs.

After your pet has passed away

Following euthanasia, as a pet owner it is your decision as to what happens next to your pet’s body. The options available are:

  • Communal cremation – this means your pet will go to a pet crematorium* and be cremated with other pets. A token of the ashes are scattered in the crematorium memorial garden. There is a charge for this service.
  • Individual cremation – this means your pet will be collected from the RVC and individually cremated. The pet crematorium will contact you directly to discuss and finalise the service options and fees. The ashes will be returned to you.
  • Home burial – your pet will be placed in a pet coffin, and we will assist you to your vehicle.
  • Please notify our reception team of the time of your arrival so we can make sure we have prepared your pet for travel and minimise the time for you to wait in our reception. Please allow us some time to achieve this.
  • Post mortem – if you would like a full post mortem of your pet to further understand the cause of death for your own peace of mind, please discuss this with us.

* The RVC uses Peaceful Pets in Norfolk as a crematorium service provider. If you would like to use a different provider - we ask that you liaise with them to make further arrangements for your pet.

Commemorating your pet

Some families choose to donate their pet’s body to aid future education and research. This helps both train future vets and supports advances in veterinary medicine. Let us know if you wish to discuss any of these options further.

Educational Memorial Programme

Your pet will be respectfully prepared and stored before being matched to RVC researchers
and/or educators to help us treat animals in the future. Please note that your pet’s body will be cremated, the ashes cannot be returned to you. As a memorilisation gift, a brass leaf with your pet’s name will be displayed in our Hawkshead Campus garden.

Teaching post mortem

A limited examination will be undertaken of your pet by RVC pathologists for teaching purposes. This helps us determine the extent of their condition and you can be provided with a summary report of the findings on request. Please by aware that the body cannot be released afterwards for home burial but the cremation options as above are still available.

Memory Tree

Some owners like to leave a heartfelt tribute to their pet by adding a leaf onto our Memory Tree. In exchange for a small donation to
RVC’s Animal Care Trust, your beautifully engraved message will be displayed for a year*
This Memory Tree is situated in the reception area of the hospital.
* You will be contacted every 12 months to confirm whether you wish to renew your leaf’s placement.

Unsure what to do or need to make further arrangements?

It is not possible for us to keep your pet for more than 48 hours so please contact us as soon as possible once you have decided what you would like to do.
You can reach us on 01707 666399 or qmhreception@rvc.ac.uk
We can then make any necessary arrangements on your behalf.

Looking after you

It is normal to feel a mixture of emotions during this time. Our veterinary staff expect this and will be empathetic to this. Please do not be embarrassed if you are upset and please let us know what your wishes are during this difficult time.
We know it takes time to heal after the loss of a beloved pet, please talk to family and friends during this grieving period. We have a dedicated team who can provide confidential support.
If you feel that it will help you or your other family members, please contact us on bereavementsupport@rvc.ac.uk.

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