Putting Your Pet to Sleep: An Overview

The decision to put your pet to sleep (or euthanasia) is probably one of the most difficultPutting your pet to sleep (and important) decisions that you will have to make as a pet owner. In veterinary medicine, we are fortunate that we can offer this service to pet owners who want to stop their pet’s suffering. Pets are euthanized for a variety of reasons, including incurable illness and unmanageable injury. In this series of three articles, I will discuss what to expect when you take your pet to be euthanized, what tools you can use to help you determine when it’s the best time to euthanize, and ideas that you can use to bring you (the grieving pet owner) peace after your pet’s passing.

Where to Put Your Pet to Sleep

Once you make the decision that it is time to euthanize your pet, you need to decide where the euthanasia should take place. In the majority of times, pet owners will bring their pets into their family veterinarian’s office for euthanasia. This can be a convenient place for the euthanasia, because there are veterinary professionals there to manage the process for you. It is possible, however, that you may decide that you prefer to have the euthanasia performed at home, or at another special place. There are many mobile veterinarians who can perform the euthanasia outside of the veterinary hospital. In addition to deciding where to euthanize, deciding when can also be an important decision. Is your appointment time at your veterinarian’s office around the commute time? Is the appointment during the busier times of the day? If you decide to have the euthanasia performed at the veterinary office, the veterinary staff can often recommend specific times that will coincide with slower business times.

Putting Your Pet to Sleep in the Veterinary Office

When the time comes for your appointment, in many cases, the veterinary office will be expecting you and show you immediately into an exam room that has been prepared for your visit. Sometimes there are blankets on the floor, tissues in the room, and soft lighting. In some veterinary hospitals, there are special “euthanasia rooms” that are comfortably furnished for this procedure. Once you are situated in an exam room, you will need to decide if you wish to be present for the euthanasia. This is a very personal decision, and whatever you decide is the right decision for you and your pet. If you decide not to be present, you can be confident that veterinary staff members will ensure that your pet gets loving attention through their passing.

At this point in the procedure, veterinary practices have different protocols for performing theTo put pet to sleep or not euthanasia. Some practices will place an intravenous catheter through which to administer the euthanasia solution. Other practices may simply inject the solution directly into the vein without a catheter. Some practices may place lidocaine in the catheter to numb the injection site. Other practices may lightly sedate your pet before the euthanasia process. You should ask your veterinary professional what their typical protocol entails so that you will know what to expect. If you have concerns about their policies (ie. maybe they don’t typically sedate the pet, but you are concerned about your pet’s anxiety level) then you should speak up and ask for a modification for your pet. Veterinary professionals will likely be happy to make any modifications you want to ensure that the experience is as peaceful as possible.

After any preparation work is done, (catheters are placed, sedatives are given, etc) you will be allowed time to say your final good-byes to your pet. At this stage, you should take as much, or as little time as you need. In my experience, I have helped clients who wanted to say good-bye for 30 minutes or more, and other clients who were ready for the euthanasia to be administered immediately. There is no right answer, you need to take the time you need to say your final good-byes.

What to Expect when You Put Your Pet to Sleep

Once it is time for the euthanasia solution to be administered, you can expect the passing of your pet occurs very quickly after the solution is administered. After the injection, your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s chest to ensure that their heart has stopped beating. After your pet has passed away, there are times when they may expel air out of their lungs, urinate, defecate, or have small movement in their body. These are all normal functions of your pet’s body shutting down. After the euthanasia, you will again be given the option to stay with the body as long as you need to.

Another decision you will have to make is what is to be done with your pet’s body. There are manyPet euthanasia options available, including cremation with and without ashes being returned to you, burial at a local pet cemetery, or home burial. If you decide you want to bury your pet at home, you should check your local regulations to be sure that such a burial is legal in your area.

Euthanasia is never an easy decision or experience. However, ending your pet’s suffering with dignity is an important (and necessary) expression of your love for their devotion.

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Angela Linvill

Angela has been the Hospital Administrator of a multi-specialty/ emergency/ and general practice veterinary hospital since 2005. She is also the Chair of the Contra Costa County Employer Advisory Council. Angela has a Masters of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University. She is committed to helping pet owners make good decisions about the health care of their pets regardless of their financial situation.

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