When the time comes ......
At AlphaPet, we are all pet owners too, which means that at some point we have had to go through this incredibly difficult time as well. We are all very conscious of how hard it is to come to the decision to let a beloved pet go. We treat every patient (and you, the owners) just as we would our own. We call this final act a “last service” because it is the last thing we can do for our much loved pet to prevent any unnecessary suffering: it is the last act of caring.
We have found that it can help owners to know in advance a little bit more about the actual last service procedure and what the various options are afterwards, including help and support for you and your family, if you need it. We hope that the information below helps you to be able to plan ahead and to know what to expect, to make the process a little more bearable.
If you need to talk to us, please feel free to call at any time to discuss this with our reception or nursing teams.
Booking appointments \ visits
We appreciate it is not easy to plan ahead but the more notice you can give us the better. We will try to book a time when it is quieter at the surgery (usually at the end of a consulting session) for you to come in with your pet. We can also offer a home visit, where a vet and nurse will come to your house to carry out the last service in the comfort of your own home. We will try our very best to accommodate this, but timings will vary depending on our existing workload at the surgery that day. (Please bear in mind this does increase the cost somewhat, please call us for an estimate)
The vet will almost always examine your pet and discuss any other treatment options with you before a decision is made on the best course of action. A Last Service decision is so important that every possible option must have been explored so that both you and we are sure it is the right decision for your pet.
If it is agreed that last service is the best option, the vet will ask you to sign a consent form giving us permission to carry out your wishes. On this form there are various options for funeral arrangements (see below) and also the option for us to look after your deceased pet for a few days whilst you come to this decision.
You may choose at this point to stay with your pet to be there with them for this final act of caring or some people prefer to leave them with us and remember them as they were. This is entirely up to you. There is no need to feel guilty if you would rather not attend, in fact sometimes this may be the best decision for your pet. If you are upset, it may upset them. There are no rights or wrongs and this is a very personal choice.
At this point a nurse will usually join you and the vet in the consulting room. The nurse is there to assist the vet. Usually, a small patch of fur is clipped from a foreleg to help us to locate a vein. This area is then swabbed with surgical spirit to make the vein more visible. The nurse will then raise the vein by putting some gentle pressure around the animals elbow. Some vets will choose to place a catheter into the vein first; others will give the injection from a needle.
If at any point during the procedure your pet becomes upset or stressed, the vet and nurse may decide that sedation is necessary first. Every patient is different and sometimes they can pick up on the understandable human emotions around them. The aim is always to make the procedure as calm and stress-free for everyone (especially the pet) as possible.
If sedation is necessary, this is usually done by an injection given into the hind part of the body. All your pet will feel is a slight pin-prick. The sedative will take a few minutes to work, so it will make the overall procedure a little longer. Once the sedative takes effect, your pet will no longer be aware of what is going on around them and we will then administer a further injection to help them pass away peacefully.
The injection used to put animals to sleep is simply a large dose of an anaesthetic, so your beloved pet will feel no pain: they will just drift off into a deep sleep and pass away quietly. Very occasionally, some pets make a slight noise when the injection is given, but they are simply reacting to the slightly odd sensation of the injection. It is not painful for them.
Shortly after the injection has been given, the vet will then listen to your animal's chest to check for a heart beat. They will also check your pet's eyes.
Occasionally, some pets may make movements, even after they have passed away. Such movements can be anything from a little muscle twitching to what can look like gasping for breath. This muscle spasm is normal and it frequently happens after natural death as well. These reflexes are not to be confused with signs of life – it is simply the body winding down. Your pet is not aware of any of it as they will already have passed on. However, it can be a little disconcerting if you are not expecting it.
Once they have passed away some people like to spend a little time with their pet. Others prefer to leave immediately. This is entirely your choice – again, there are no rights and wrongs here.
You may wish to take their collar & lead or a small piece of fur with you when you go.
Once you have said your farewells, we will endeavour to show you out of the building away from reception.
Whilst there are likely to be fees for Last Service options, we do not feel it is the right time to be thinking about money so, unless you wish to settle at the time, it is usual for us to send on an invoice at a later date.
1) Home Burial.
We offer some fully biodegradable coffins for a dignified burial – please ask the reception or nursing team for details.
2) Communal cremation:
Where your pet is cremated with several others together, and their ashes scattered. The cremation is carried out in a large communal chamber which means that that your pet will be cremated with other pets. In this type of cremation no ashes will be returned and there is no form of separation. A small token amount of the communal ashes will be collected and they get scattered or interred into a Remembrance Garden and the remainder is interred for deep burial at a licensed facility in compliance with the law.
3) Individual cremation:
The cremation is carried out in an individual, single chamber which means that there is only your pet in the chamber. Following the cremation the ashes are carefully collected before the next cremation ensuring that the ashes you receive are those of your pet only and no other. There is a variety of vessels available to suit different tastes and finances and AlphaPet can show you the various options. They range from vessels to scatter the ashes to caskets as well as picture frames, ornaments and forever keepsakes. You can view these options at www.pcsonline.org.uk/caskets-urns
There are other independent crematoria and burial services available for you to choose from but since we do not know these businesses personally, we cannot recommend them directly. We use Pet Crematorium Services (PCS) as our crematorium of choice. We have used this high quality facility for over 10 years and we regularly attend their open days to ensure that they are still offering the very best service to our clients.
Below are a couple of links that you may find useful, the Blue Cross also has some helpful advice for parents of young children who are facing the loss of a pet.
For general information on the crematorium we use: Pet Cremation Services
Please remember that we are always at the end of the phone and able to lend an ear, if you need to chat to someone, either before or after losing your pet.