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Independent Family owned vet practice
Extra special care for your pet

Bereavement advice

Help for when it is time to say goodbye



How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard

-Winnie the Pooh

Improvements¬†in veterinary medicine and better nutrition have greatly extended the happy¬†times we can spend with our beloved pets. However there inevitably comes a time¬†when it is no longer appropriate to try and ‚Äėmend‚Äô your pet any more and the¬†focus needs to be shifted to ensuring that you both have the best quality of¬†life and relationship right to the end.

Golden Valley Vets can be with you through this very difficult period and offer a number of different ways forward as you feel the end is getting near.

We offer¬†everything from full end of life support including a home assessment with¬†advice and guidance on how to maintain the best quality of life and help with¬†identifying the ‚Äėright time‚Äô, to a peaceful put to sleep in one of our¬†surgeries. Another possibility is to¬†arrange a home visit but we would appreciate it if we could work together on¬†any plan to make sure that we sort the best solution for you and your beloved¬†pet.

When is the right time?

Your best four legged friend is very good at masking some of the signs that they need help. They obviously can’t tell you if they are in pain but it is our joint responsibility to look for signs of any changes that would suggest that their quality of life is deteriorating. You may notice your pet has become particularly withdrawn or quiet or does not want some of the cuddles or walks that they looked forward to before. We may notice that their gait has changed or their facial expressions are suggesting they are in pain.

These signs¬†may be subtle and are different for every pet but our vets and nurses will be¬†happy to work with you to mitigate these changes wherever possible but also to¬†identify when it might be time to call it a day. It is a really big decision and we do not¬†take it lightly but we also know you would not want your pet to be in any¬†uncontrolled pain or suffer for very long with any debilitating condition. The hardest decisions are often the ones that¬†involve a slow deterioration, which is sometimes difficult to monitor if you¬†are living with it day to day, so we have developed a simple diary system which¬†will help you to judge when the ‚Äėbad‚Äô days outweigh the ‚Äėgood‚Äô.

Should I be there?


This is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong. We suggest you take time to talk it through with friends and family and decide what is right for you. Some people prefer to be with their pet during these last moments and take comfort from the peaceful way they pass away but others feel it’s just too difficult to stay, preferring to say goodbyes afterwards. We want these last precious moments to be what you want for your pet so we are more than happy to work with you whatever your decision; just let us know. Whichever decision you make we will try and arrange things so that you can spend as much time as you need with your pet before and after the procedure. In particular at Nailsea and Clevedon we have a special comfortable more homely room where you are able to take as much time as you need to say goodbye.


Below is a reasonably detailed description of what happens if you ask us to put your pet to sleep, as some people want to be fully informed before the procedure is carried out. Please do not read the text in blue if you feel this will in any way cause you distress or upset. If you do want some limited information any of our staff would be more than happy to talk to you personally and give you answers to just the questions you want to ask. Further general advice follows the blue passages.

What will actually happen?

We understand that saying the sad goodbye to your pet can come at the end of a very long happy and rewarding friendship between you and we hope that we can make their end as peaceful as possible.
Being realistic this does need some planning and is best achieved during the working day in a planned manner when we have the time and space to extend to you the courtesy you and your pet deserve. We suggest you give some consideration as to where you would like to say goodbye which can be either at our surgery or in your home by prior agreement.
In order to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible we will¬†always try and involve two members of staff and¬†hope you will understand that this is sometimes difficult to achieve in¬†an ‚Äėout of hours‚Äô situation especially if it requires a home visit.

Prior to the procedure taking place you will be asked to sign a form giving your permission and recording your instruction on what you would like to happen afterwards. There are then several ways that we can proceed. These can be influenced by any condition your pet is suffering from, or the individual vet’s opinion as to the best way to achieve the peaceful end we all hope for. Sometimes we will administer a sedative which can help relax your pet but also has the side effect of both requiring a second injection and lowering their blood pressure. With older pets or those with a compromised circulation we may suggest the placement of an intravenous catheter first.

If¬†you wish to be present your vet will then discuss with you how involved you¬†would like to be and if you would like to hold or just be with your pet. It will be necessary for us to have your pet¬†held safely and for one of our nurses to have access to your pet‚Äôs front leg to¬†assist in the procedure. A small patch¬†of fur will be clipped away from the injection site. Your vet will then gently inject what is¬†effectively an overdose of anaesthetic into their vein. Please¬†be ready for your pet to be asleep within seconds as the speed that this¬†happens sometimes comes as a surprise.¬†From this point your pet will feel and know nothing, but they may¬†continue to make involuntary breathing movements or shake for a few¬†seconds. This is quite normal but could¬†be distressing to you unless you are prepared in advance for this possibility¬†and understand that your pet will know absolutely nothing about this. Your vet will then confirm that your pet’s breathing and heart have stopped. Very¬†occasional your vet may have to try a different location to administer the¬†injection especially if your pet is very old or frail.

If your pet is a smaller animal, such as a hamster or rabbit, your vet may suggest giving them anaesthetic gas first so that they are asleep for the injection. These pets have smaller blood vessels and the injection is likely to be given into another area of the body.

Please rest assured that we will follow the same procedure irrespective of whether you wish to be present or not and we will always treat your pet with the utmost respect possible in the situation.

What should I expect afterwards?

After¬†the procedure it‚Äôs not unusual for minor muscle tremors, noises or twitching to¬†occur for a short time after death. Your pet may also take one or several apparent¬†breaths but they will not be aware of this and we need you to understand that¬†this is perfectly normal and should not cause you further distress – it is all just¬†part of the body shutting down and everything relaxing. You should also expect¬†that your pet’s eyes will remain open.


What happens next?

Once your pet is at peace you have several options which you can either arrange for yourself or we can carry out your wishes.
If you prefer to take your pet home with you for burial in the garden we will do all we can to help you and do have the telephone number of someone prepared to dig a grave if you are unable to do this yourself.

If you wish your pets body to be cremated we can arrange this but will need your instructions as to which of the two options you would like to take.


Communal cremation- This means your pet will be cremated with other much loved pets and their ashes will be disposed of by the crematorium.

Individual or Private cremation- With this option your pet will be cremated individually and their ashes returned to you in a box for scattering or in a casket of your choice.


Either way, you can be assured your pet will be treated with all possible dignity and respect.

Golden Valley Vets use the Summerleaze Pet crematorium based in South Wales. If you wish to visit or transport your pet to them yourself Summerleaze have a small chapel and memorial garden and will do their best to work with you to try and achieve any of your requests. For more information, please visit http://www.summerleaze-pet-crem.com/

Before or after losing your pet you may want to consider having a small keepsake such as their collar or name tag, a paw print, or a small tuft of their fur. Please let us know as soon as possible so we can ensure that this is done for you. You could also remember your pet in a special way by planting flowers or a shrub, making a special photo album, or by creating a memorial online. If you would like to send us a few words about your pet and a photo we would be very pleased to add them to our memorial page on our website. The idea of the page is to celebrate all the happy times we have had with friends sadly no longer with us.

How to cope with the loss of a pet

We at Golden Valley Vets all have our own pets and however professional we appear when dealing with you, our clients, we are exactly the same as you when it comes to our own pets. We really do understand the grief you feel from losing a much loved friend. There is unfortunately no way round the feelings of grief, loss and emptiness you will feel after losing your pet but this is a natural response to the loss of a loved one or companion and it will take time to adjust to them not being around. Here are some suggestions on how to cope and where to find additional help and support:

Firstly don’t let anyone tell you how to feel:

Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to move on. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgement and we suggest that you seek support from family and friends who will often have had their own relationship with your pet so are best placed to understand the nature of your loss. It’s okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and we suggest you try and focus on the many happy times we are sure you had together.

Remember them:

Having been part of your life for a long time your pet will have all sorts of memories and associations attached to them and it is sometimes nice to be able to remember this part of your life in a special way.
Preparing a memorial, planting a tree or compiling a photo album or scrapbook can help focus on all the happy times you have had and recognise the important part your pet played in your life. All members of your family could be asked to contribute which may also help them with their grief. Positive memories can usually help ease the pain of parting.

 Look after yourself:

The stress of losing a pet and sometimes the build up to having to make a very difficult decision can easily emotionally and physically drain you. We suggest you give yourself a bit of slack and allow yourself to take some time to address your physical and emotional responses. Eating well, getting plenty of sleep and talking to and visiting friends and family can all help.

If you have¬†other pets in the house we suggest you try to maintain your normal routine as¬†much as possible.¬†Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies,¬†or they may become distressed by your grief, either way they will be helped by¬†maintaining what they understand as ‚Äėnormal‚Äô. Everyone should benefit from maintaining¬†daily routines or even increasing exercise and play times.

Explaining to children:

Being honest with children is hard but will allow them to grieve too. Giving them time to say goodbye and encouraging them to make or draw a memento of their pet can help them to come to terms with the loss. The way a child reacts to the loss of a pet will vary with age and a good site for further information is http://www.aplb.org/support/children_and_pet_loss.php#1

There is lots of help and support available on the internet and we have listed below some of the sites we have used or been recommended to. Alternatively you could call the Blue Cross bereavement support line on 0800 096 6606