Euthanasia - let's talk about it!


End of life care and euthanasia are not subjects that we enjoy discussing and they fill many of us with fear. Talking about what is a taboo for many though, can help accepting the inevitable. Taking on and caring for an animal is usually something that fills most of us with joy and happiness. However - our pets have a much shorter life expectancy than we have and most of us have to realize at some point that our pet's quality of life is not the same as it used to be. Deciding to end an animal's life will without a doubt be one of the hardest things we ever have to do.

We often find that taking the time and having an open and clear conversation about euthanasia can help the pet owner to decide that “now is the time”.

Surely there won't be any vets around who enjoy putting animals “to sleep”, but making animal welfare our top priority and appreciating a vet's privilege to have permission to end life puts us into a position of great responsibility. Responsibility to let the animal pass on as peacefully as possible and the responsibility of giving support to our clients in this emotionally very challenging time.

We want to try to shed some light on what “really happens when the time is there”, hoping this helps you to make the decision and that this takes away a bit of the fear of the unknown.

What happens?

  • To help an animal to die, we use a concentrated barbiturate, which is injected into a vein, usually into one of the front legs.
  • Sometimes it is better for the animal to be sedated first, which means, a first (intramuscular) injection is given. After about 5-10 minutes your animal should be sleepy, and then the intravenous injection is given.
  • We strongly recommend that you ring for an appointment first, so that we can try to arrange a time that guarantees as much privacy for you as possible, if the euthanasia is taking place at the surgery.
  • Generally you can bury your pet on your own premises, but for exceptions please refer to the government web pages.
  • We also offer our cremation service, and if you wish, you can opt for an individual cremation, which means that you get your pet's ashes back after about 2 weeks, but this involves extra charges. “Cremtor Services” is a family business in Newton Abbot, which has been working reliably for Dulverton Vets for over 25 years.

“I wish I had known this before”

  • When an animal is sedated prior to euthanasia, they do not close their eyes. Being unresponsive and “floppy” are signs that tell us that he or she is “ready”.
  • In very old and very sick and dehydrated animals it can be very challenging to find a suitable vein, that is able to take the amount of barbiturate that is required. We sometimes have to change to a different leg or ultimately resort to injecting into the heart. This is certainly the last resort and of course your pet will have received a deep (surgical) sedation prior to this.
  • It is very common for an animal to do “gasps” after it has been explained to you that the heart has stopped. Although this can be distressing to look at, this is just a normal reflex as the low oxygen levels in the brain trigger contractions of the diaphragm. Your pet is not aware of this! And we will always check meticulously that your pet's heart has actually stopped beating before declaring him or her dead.
  • A euthanised animal does not close their eyes after passing away.
  • A euthanised animal is in a relaxed state and it is normal to leak faeces and urine like any other dead body (please be aware of that if you take your pet's body home for burial).
  • For quotes and to arrange the details of a euthanasia please give our reception a ring on 01398-323285 or discuss your animals clinical details with one of our vets.
  • For help with bereavement the Blue Cross can be contacted.

We do hope you find this article useful, but we also hope that you will not need this information for a long time!

Opening hours

Mon-Fri: 9:00AM - 5:00PM
-by appointment only-
Saturday: 9:00AM - 11:30AM
- by appointment only-

Tue AND Fri: 3:30PM - 4:00PM
- by appoinment only-

TELEPHONE NUMBER: 01398 323285

Good to know

Covid-19 latest

We have received a lot of positive feedback from our clients regarding our appointment system which has been in place since the start of the pandemic. The main advantages of this system other than keeping us all safer, are:
  • no overcrowding of the car park
  • reduced waiting times
  • less stress for the animals
We therefore decided as a practice to stick to our appointment only system and not to return to open surgeries even in a post pandemic environment.


Repeat Prescriptions

We can be extremely busy at times, so if we have seen your pet within the last 6 months, please ring or email us with your request and we will have it ready for you when you arrive. We would also kindly ask you to order flea and tick treatments in advance to minimise waiting times. Thank you. Tel:01398 323285

Please ring us during opening times (9:00am -5:00pm), if possible 24 hours in advance, in case your prescription needs to be ordered in.