As I sit here typing this, my darling Jack Russell has less than 24 hours to live. Tomorrow morning the vet will come to our house and put him to sleep. So what have we done on this, his last full day? Nothing special, just trying to maintain normality with a lot of extra cuddles. He’s not keen on eating, even when I spoon feed him. He can hardly see and his hearing isn’t too good. A walk is out of the question as he needs now to be carried up and down steps and his back legs are very unsteady and so he keeps, despite his best efforts to remain standing, sitting down. I am strangely calm because I know he has a very poor quality of life, but I am dreading tomorrow when the vet rings our doorbell…
I wrote these words four weeks ago. I can hardly believe a month has gone by already. But I am now ready to write about what happened that Friday.
Although Husband and I have been in this situation before, it was many years ago. Again a Jack Russell, he was also an older dog and, in his case, had heart problems. But even though we knew it was the kind thing to do, Husband and I just couldn’t face taking him to the vet. In the end, my brother in law took him. We were so upset we couldn’t bear to hear the details. Which is why the process was a bit of a mystery for us this time.
So, what happens exactly?
We took Jack to the vet and he confirmed that it would be kinder to put him to sleep. He said that, when we were ready, we could opt for a home or surgery visit. Although heartbreaking, we knew it was the kindest option for Jack. A few days later, we rang the vet and made an appointment for a home visit.
Our vet – as I am sure all vets are – is a gentle and kind man. When he drew up, I went to meet him and he explained what the procedure would be. He was very respectful of both Jack and our emotions at all times, which was a massive comfort. It was a wonderful warm sunny day and so we sat on garden chairs, Jack laid on my lap with his head resting on his outstretched paws. Jack never moved a muscle and it was over almost instantly. It was very peaceful. Euthanasia literally means “a gentle and easy death”. I find huge comfort in that. I hope my own death is as dignified, quick and painless.
That was our experience but it can vary from pet to pet, so here are a few facts you may find useful about putting a dog to sleep:
You might be asked to sign a consent form.
Your dog may be given a mild sedative first to relax them.
The vet will gently shave or clip a small patch of fur from your dog’s front leg. A measured overdose of a drug, similar to an anaesthetic, is injected into the vein which will put your dog into a deep and permanent ‘sleep.’ All your dog feels is a tiny prick of the needle – then the injection is painless.
Unconsciousness follows within seconds, often before the injection is finished. Death occurs within a couple of minutes when the heart stops beating. It may take a little longer if the animal is extremely ill or has poor circulation.
In the few minutes after death you may see reflex muscle movement, or involuntary gasps. These are not signs of life, in fact, they are reflexes denoting that death has occurred. The eyes usually stay open and the bladder sometimes empties.
You can bury your dog at home or the vet will take your pet away and organise for them to be buried or cremated at a pet cemetery. Bear in mind, however, that some councils don’t allow home burials, or at least require you to ask permission, so speak to your local authority or ask your vet’s advice before you make your final decision. The ashes are usually ready for collection in approximately one week.
Costs vary according to the size of your dog – to give you an idea, we paid around £300 for the vet’s home visit and an individual cremation.
More information here from the Dogs Trust
In this vlog, Annabel and I talk about losing our dogs: