Saying good-bye during the Covid-19 pandemic
We have had enquiries from owners who are understandably anxious about euthanasia during the pandemic lockdown period. We understand this is a hugely emotive subject for our clients, as it is for our vets, but we hope that by addressing it head-on we may help you prepare better for what may happen and reduce some of the anxiety you may be feeling at this difficult time.
As you may be aware, in accordance with the governing veterinary bodies advice we are no longer allowing clients into our branches in an effort to protect both clients and staff. This means that, in most cases, you will not be able to be with your pet when we give the final injection during a euthanasia.
As a practice who cares deeply about our patients and our clients this has not been an easy decision. We have considered many alternatives and their associated risks and impact on our patients. For example, a lot of our patients would find it distressing to be surrounded by their owners, a vet and a veterinary nurse gowned, gloved and masked (let alone the ethical dilemma of using scarce PPE resources in this way) or to have the process rushed in an effort to reduce contact time. Nor do we want to be struggling to perform the euthanasia due to the practical difficulties associated with wearing full PPE during delicate tasks or restraining a pet in a sub-optimal position (e.g. in the car) while there are other clients around waiting for an appointment. These are all factors we have taken time to discuss as a team, with our patient’s welfare always being our top priority.
We acknowledge that there may be certain circumstances where alternative arrangements can be made depending on the condition and temperament of the patient but in the majority of cases, we regret it will not be possible for owners to be with their pets for the euthanasia.
Below we have laid out some FAQs regarding the euthanasia process which we hope you will find useful.
1) But I feel fine, why won’t the vet just let me in?
It is vital that we protect our staff, so that they are available to treat the next patient who needs us. This task is particularly difficult when there are “silent carriers” of Corona virus so whilst you may feel fine, there is no guarantee you are not a carrier of the virus and therefore our staff must take every precaution with every client. Remember, it is not necessarily one member of staff that will be affected but potentially the whole team and their families too.
2) My friend’s pet was euthanased in the car, why can’t you do this for me?
Our vets find this situation extremely difficult and have been making allowances where we deem it is possible to stay safe and when it is in the interests of our patients. Please respect the vet’s decision either way, it will not have been taken lightly.
3) What will happen when they take my pet away?
Our vets will endeavour to make sure that all discussions and good-byes have happened prior to us taking your pet inside so that there is no delay. We will take them through to a quiet room where a nurse will be waiting to help. A small catheter will be placed into your pet’s leg vein so that we may administer the final injection seamlessly and painlessly. The drug we use is an anaesthetic so your pet will first go to sleep and then his/her heart will stop. This usually happens within 30-60 seconds of injection. Please be reassured that our nurses and vets will make every effort to reassure, comfort and cuddle your pet as if they were their own.
4) What can I do to make this situation less traumatic for me and my pet?
If you feel it may be coming to that time when euthanasia may be in your pet’s best interests please contact us for a vet to discuss your concerns over the phone or via a video consultation. If you feel it would help, you can send us pictures or videos to our firstname.lastname@example.org email for the vet to look at before they call you. Our vet will be able to discuss your pet’s quality of life and your concerns thoroughly and without the stress of bringing them in straight away for an appointment. If we need to see them then this can be arranged but we will already have the history from you to reduce your time waiting in the carpark.
If you think your pet needs to be put to sleep then we would advise you take some time at home to say goodbye before coming to see us. This way your pet is more relaxed and will probably enjoy the extra attention.
It is also beneficial for you to think about what you would like to do with your pet’s body after the euthanasia. We can arrange cremations, with the ashes to be returned to you if you wish. Alternatively, you can arrange home burial. If you have any questions, our staff will be able to discuss these options in more depth with you.
When you arrive at the practice please call us from the car, we are happy for your pet to stay with you until we are ready to take them in.
5) My pet is terrified of the vet, can you give them something beforehand?
If you feel your animal is distressed coming to the vet, please contact us before-hand, it may be that we can offer to sedate them before we bring them in. We would only suggest this for truly anxious pets as sedation can cause its own issues e.g having to carry the animal in. We find most animals are happy enough to come with us as long as their owner reassures them.
6) How do I come to terms with my pet’s passing when I wasn’t there with them at the end?
Sadly this is a question many people are facing at the moment, losing both human and animal family members without the chance to say that last good-bye. We understand that, for a lot of people, being with their pets at the time of euthanasia is an important part of the grieving process and not being able to have this experience can cause immense distress. Its important to let yourself grieve and realise that it’s a normal and justified response to be upset at this time. We find some clients find celebrating and/or memorialising their pet comforting, for example, with a small family ceremony, preparing an area for a special plant or garden feature or scattering the ashes. We want to help you in any way we can and we also recognise the brilliant work of the Blue Cross Bereavement Support Service who can be contacted on 0800 096 6606 or by via their website https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss for those struggling with the loss of their pet.
We are sad that this pandemic has forced us into this situation and are looking forward to the day that we can relax these rules safely. In the meantime, please remember your pets are our patients and we care deeply for each and every one. We will do all we can to give them as stress-free, respectful and dignified end to their life as possible so please respect our vets’ decisions and remember it’s hard for us too.