At Charter Vets we endeavour to look after your pet as we do our own. We empathise and understand how hard it is to make the decision to say goodbye to your furry friend.

How can you tell when the time is right?

As an owner, you will have a deep intuition of what is right or wrong in respect of your pet’s quality of life. We can combine both your knowledge of how they are at home with the veterinary and clinical knowledge we possess to enable the correct decision to be made.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when considering your pet’s quality of life.

With the necessary veterinary attention, can your pet:

  • Eat and drink enough to maintain normal body function?

  • Breathe without difficulty?

  • Urinate and defecate normally, without discomfort or distress?

  • Walk and move well enough to get around without falling or risk of injury?

Is your pet:

  • Still interested in life, playful and affectionate?

  • Free from pain, serious discomfort or distress?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no” then you may begin to consider euthanasia for your pet.

Animal pain and mobility clinics at Charter Vets in North Devon

How can I prepare?

Consider when to make your appointment, at a time when you feel ready. The practice tries to arrange a quiet time of the day and a longer appointment to avoid undue stress. Alternatively you may prefer a house visit and we would be happy to arrange this for you

You may like to be present at the time and this is absolutely fine. Many people find it too distressing to be there but this is nothing to feel guilty about. Consider if you would like to keep a small keepsake of your pet such as their collar, name tag, a paw print or small tuft of fur and what arrangements you would prefer after they are put to sleep

There are several options:

  • Home burial
  • Communal cremation, with no return of ashes
  • Private cremation with ashes returned to you in a casket with a floral tribute, and certificate of cremation

How is euthanasia carried out – and what happens?

When the decision for euthanasia has been made, you will be asked to sign a consent form, which allows the vet to carry out your decision. This also allows us time to discuss the procedure, fees and aftercare arrangements. We will talk to you about issues such as whether you would like to be present during the euthanasia, where you would like it to take place, and what to expect from the actual procedure. A copy of your signed consent form can be made available to you on request.

Cat euthanasia:
Cats are very individual creatures and as such the circumstances surrounding their needs for euthanasia are always taken into consideration when deciding how to put them to sleep in the gentlest way. Often that is without moving them from the position they are most comfortable in – on their bed, on your lap, or in their safe, familiar surroundings at home.

Dog euthanasia:
Dogs are trusting, loyal and people-loving companions and we want them to be as comfortable as possible before we start our procedure, so if your dog isn’t too ill, tasty treats, cuddles and extra attention are important ingredients as well as being in a favourite location such as on reassuring blanket, your jumper, or in your arms.

With the assistance of a nurse, a small patch of fur is clipped usually over the front leg, the area is swabbed and the vein raised by the nurse to allow an injection of a high dose of anaesthetic to gently be administered into the vein. As the injection is given your pet will feel very sleepy, lie down and will lose consciousness within seconds. Their breathing and their heart will stop.

Sometimes, especially if your pet is very old or frail, or if they have difficulty locating a vein, the vet may instead have to inject into a different part of the body.

Occasionally a brief twitch or small muscle spasm can occur for up to 20 minutes after death as the remaining energy in the cells is used up. This is perfectly normal and should not be taken as a sign of life. As the body relaxes, so does the bladder and sometimes the bowel, which we are fully prepared for and will take care of. Your pet’s eyes will remain semi-open and the vet will then always check for a heartbeat, reflexes and pulses before putting your pet into the sleeping position.

On occasions if your pet is anxious, nervous or aggressive it may be necessary to give a quick and painless sedative injection under the skin, the sedative will make your pet very sleepy in about 10-15 minutes. During this time you can sit, hold and stoke your pet. Once it is clear that your pet is fully relaxed the euthanising injection will be given.

Small pet euthanasia:
In order to reduce stress in our smaller pets; hamsters, rabbits and other small furies they are usually given an anaesthetic gas so that they are asleep before the injection is given. These pets have smaller blood vessels so the injection is likely to be given in another part of the body.


All our staff are animal lovers and as such we ensure that all pets are treated with the utmost respect and dignity at all times. We use a pet crematorium with the highest standards of care and quality. For more information on our chosen service provider please visit

Home Burial – your pet should be wrapped in a cotton towel or sheet and buried in the garden of the house in which they lived. There should be 2-3 feet of soil over the top of the body, and you are not allowed to bury your pet near a watercourse.

Communal cremation – is performed at Valley Pet Crematorium, with no return of ashes.

Individual cremation – your pet is cremated individually and their ashes are returned for you to keep or scatter in a special place. Your pet will be returned to you in a wooden casket with a nameplate, which is protected in a cardboard outer and decorated with a floral tribute along with a certificate of cremation. This is a more expensive option and the cost should be discussed before you make any decision. Return of your pet’s ashes to the practice usually takes two weeks, and on return one of our dedicated reception team will contact you to make you aware that they are ready for collection.


We appreciate that this is a distressing time for you. However, due to the significant costs involved in cremation, we require the payment of our fees before we are able to release your pet to our chosen service provider, Valley Pet Crematorium, Exeter.

If you do not feel able to settle these at the time of euthanasia, a member of our team will contact you by telephone within 72 hours to check your wishes, take payment and if necessary advise on Pet Bereavement Services. Following payment, we will then be able to fulfil your request. Alternatively we are happy to process your payment prior to your appointment so you do not have to deal with this at such an emotional time.

Bereavement Support:

For many of us, our companion animal is a member of the family, and when the bond we share is broken the sense of loss and grief is as real and as overwhelming as when we lose a relative or human friend. Sometimes it helps to share feelings with someone who knows from personal experience how distressing the loss of a pet can be.

Bluecross Pet Bereavement Support Line: 0800 096 6606
Email support line:
Pet memorials: remember your pet at
Samaritans: Free phone 116 123

Children may also have difficulty coming to terms with euthanasia. This may be a child’s first experience of death and it is important to be honest with them. Tell them the truth and encourage them to talk about their feelings and share your feelings with them. We can also provide leaflets and recommended literature to help support children through this difficult time.

It is also important to make sure that you do not drive home in a distraught state and if necessary we can arrange a taxi to take you home and return some other time to collect your vehicle from the car park.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some pets may be confused or distressed at the loss of a pack member, there may be a change in their attitude as the hierarchy will change. It may help if they see the body of the deceased pet. Behavioural treatments such as DAP diffuser or Zylkene can help, just ask the vet if this appears to happen after the event.

As soon as it feels right for you. Please don’t feel guilty, when the time is right, new pets are not replacements, they are their own individuals and they may play a valuable part in helping you when you are upset.

Professional Pet Care

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Pet owners trust us to look after the needs of their beloved companions. We are committed to delivering the very highest of veterinary care and affection.

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