Pet Euthanasia: What to Expect How to Cope with This Difficult Situation

Pet Euthanasia: What to Expect

When a pet becomes seriously ill or injured to the point that it affects their quality of life, it may be time to consider euthanasia. It is not an easy decision to make, but if your pet is suffering, it may be the humane one. Read on to learn what you need to know.

Our pets mean so much to us. If your pet is young and healthy, it may be hard to imagine that they’ll ever get sick or old. But as pets age, many develop conditions that are painful or difficult to live with. And if this happens, your veterinarian may suggest that you put your pet down to spare them any further discomfort. In many cases, this is the right decision, albeit a difficult one. Here we’ll review how to prepare for euthanizing your pet and what to expect from the procedure.

Preparing for Pet Euthanasia

The days or weeks leading up to the euthanasia procedure can be difficult. You may experience a wide range of emotions, and you may be tempted to keep you feelings bottled up inside. But sharing your feelings can make the grieving process easier, so find a trusted outlet to confide in; a friend, a family member, or counselor, or a support group.

You may also want to explore resources specifically intended for those dealing with the loss of a pet, such as:

  • The ASPCA has a pet loss hotline and a website containing frequently asked questions about losing a pet
  • The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement has free, online chat rooms for pet parents who are anticipating a loss or dealing with a recent loss
  • A list of Pet Loss Support Groups can also be found on APLB’s website
  • provides resources for online and phone support
  • has a great list of resources for grieving pet parents
  • Founder of the APLB, psychologist Dr. Wallace Sife, wrote a guide to handling the pet grieving process titled The Loss of A Pet

For children, losing a pet can be especially difficult, especially if it is the first time they’ve experienced death. The book When a Pet Dies by everyone’s favorite neighbor, Mr. Rogers, may help children to understand and deal with the loss.

When preparing for euthanasia, you will also need to decide if you or any family members will be present during the procedure. It may not be appropriate for very young children, but older members of the family may decide they want to be there for their friend’s last moments. For others, however, the situation may be too much. It is a personal decision that you and your family members will have to make together.

The procedure usually takes place at the vet’s office, but some vets will come to your home. When scheduling the procedure, take into account the fact that you may need time to care for yourself and your family for a day or two after. Don’t take self-care for granted; if you do not take care of yourself, it can make the grieving process much more difficult.

The Procedure

The unknown can be scary, and this is especially true when it comes to something like euthanasia. Understanding what will happen during the procedure may help to calm your nerves. Here is how it happens:

  1. Your veterinarian will explain what is about to happen; don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  2. Smaller pets may be placed on an exam table while larger pets may remain on the floor. This can vary depending on the set up of your vet’s exam room, but the important thing is that your pet is comfortable. Feel free to bring a blanket or something soft for your pet to lie down on.
  3. While you may wish to hold your pet during the procedure, the best you can do for your pal is let the veterinarian and vet tech take over. They will show you where you can stand so that you may comfort your pet with your voice, and in some cases you may be able to offer a soothing touch.
  4. Next, your veterinarian will administer a sedative to relax your pet and put them to sleep. If your veterinarian is planning to skip this step, you may want to consider looking elsewhere for the procedure. The APLB really stresses the importance of this step so that your pet is not startled or frightened by the forthcoming IV.
  5. After the IV is inserted, your vet will give your pet an overdose of the euthanasia solution -- usually an anesthetic drug called sodium pentobarbital. This is not at all painful for your pet and happens quickly.
  6. Within seconds, your pet’s muscles will relax and their heart will stop beating. Your veterinarian will confirm it with a stethoscope, and may give you a moment alone with your pet to say a final goodbye.

After your pet has passed on, your veterinarian will present options for what to do with your pet’s remains. Cremation is a popular choice, and you may choose to bring your pet’s ashes home with you. There are also pet cemeteries, and in some states, you may be able to bury your pet in your yard. Be sure to check local ordinances.

Euthanasia is never easy, but if your pet is suffering, it may be the most important gift you ever give them. Be sure to take care of yourself.


Euthanasia of a Beloved Pet
Euthanasia: Making the Decision
Euthanasia… What to Expect

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