When Do We Euthanize a Pet? Saying Goodbye to Your Furry-Friend

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By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: April 16, 2020

sad pet looking into distance

No one ever wants to euthanize their furry-friend. But, unfortunately, all us pet lovers have to face this emotional rollercoaster at some point in our lives. So, if you’re euthanizing a pet for the first time or if you’d like to learn more about pet euthanasia then read on.

Understanding What is Pet Euthanasia?

Our pets have a beautiful way of making us feel appreciated and loved. But, once they come to the end of their journey, saying goodbye to our furry-friends becomes emotionally challenging.

When our pets reach the end of their lives, they may succumb to illness and diseases, which can often affect the quality of their lives. It is during these times when owners may have to decide on euthanizing a pet. Euthanasia is the act of ending the life of a pet ethically and painlessly.

Euthanized Definition

The term euthanize is derived from the Greek words Eu and Thanatosis. Together, the word euthanize translates to easy death or good death.

Understanding the Process of Euthanization

To euthanize a pet is not an easy process. It is difficult for the owners and veterinarians involved.

The process of euthanasia is genuinely a painless and straightforward procedure. Once a pet owner has decided that it is time to let their furry friend go, they will need to make an appointment with their veterinarian.

Veterinarians understand that the entire procedure can be complicated and emotionally confusing. So, to make things easier, your veterinarian will explain the method used to euthanize a pet.

To euthanize a pet, the veterinarian will first administer a sedative to the dying animal. Sedatives will be given mainly to animals that may still be slightly active or difficult to restrain. Many veterinarians may choose to use a combination of drugs such as xylazine and ketamine. Together, these drugs place the animal in a deep plane of anesthesia, which essentially renders them unconscious. At this point, your pet will no longer be conscious of their surroundings; instead, it will seem as though they’ve just fallen asleep.

Generally, after a dog or cat has been sedated, veterinarians will allow owners to hold and hug their pets one last time.

After, some time alone with your beloved pet. The veterinarian will administer a second injection.

The second injection will contain sodium pentobarbital, which is the drug responsible for ending a pets life. The drug is administered intravenously and at a high dose. Once this drug enters your pets blood circulation, it will begin to cause cardiac arrest. In other words, the drug depresses the central nervous system and shuts down the circulatory and respiratory system.

Finally, it is important to remember that once sodium pentobarbital is administered, then the animal will pass away within seconds.

How Long Does it Take for a Dog to be Euthanized?

Euthanizing a beloved companion can take a lot of time. Many pet owners will find themselves struggling to let their pets cross over. When you enter the veterinary clinic, you will likely be directed to a private room.

Some veterinary clinics may even have a separate grieving room where owners can take some time to say good-bye to their dear pets. In reality, the first step of saying goodbye takes the longest time. However, once your veterinarian begins the process of administering the euthanasia drugs, then death can occur in less than 15 seconds.

What Happens After after a Beloved Dog has been Euthanized?

dog waiting to be euthanize

Once your veterinarian has administered the last drugs, they will verify that your pet has now passed.

To do this, your veterinarian will follow a few steps. First, they will perform a blink and pinch test. This is to ensure that the pets nervous system is no longer functioning.

Secondly, your veterinarian will use their stethoscope to check the heart and lungs of your pet. They do this to ensure that the heart is no longer functioning and that breathing has now stopped.

Finally, many veterinarians choose to use the heart stick method to confirm the death of the animal. The cardiac aka heart stick way involves the veterinarian placing a needle into the animal’s heart.

Should there be any mild heart movement or contractions, then these vibrations will translate to the needle. It is important to remember that this method is not implemented in every euthanasia. Instead, veterinarians only use the cardiac stick method to ensure euthanasia of the animal has been 100% successful.

Dog Euthanasia at Home vs. At the Clinic: Which Should You Choose?

Many pet owners often contemplate whether or not a pet should be euthanized at home or the hospital.

Today, at-home euthanasia for pets is becoming more and more popular. Why? Because no one wants their pets last moments to be in a cold hospital room.

Veterinarians agree that many dogs and cats may have a fear of the veterinarian office. Perhaps years of visiting the vet’s office may have led to the pet associating the hospital as a negative place to be in. No doubt, animals feel more comfortable and at ease when they are in their home.  And so, in-home euthanasia can truly be quite a kind gesture for pets who are about to pass.

Nevertheless, if you’re not sure as to which is better—in-home or at hospital euthansia—here are a few tips to help you out.

  1. Surrounded by family members: With in-home euthanasia, you will have the ability to allow family members to be a part of the entire process. Children, mothers, fathers, and even other pets can all come together as a family, and say goodbye to their dying companion.
  2. You can make your pet comfortable: No one wants their last moments of life to be in a hospital room, right? Towards the end of your pets life, you can choose to make your pet comfortable by placing them in their favorite room of the house or surround them with their favorite blankets or toys.
  3. Your pet will know they’re home: Finally, no matter what condition your pet is in, they will know when that they’re home. Of course, we cannot read our pets mind, but by allowing them to pass on in the family home, they will feel comforted and at ease.

How Much Does it Cost to Put a Dog Down?

Unfortunately euthanizing a beloved pet can vary in cost. Many factors will determine how much the cost of euthanasia will be. Some factors that influence the price of putting a pet to sleep include:

  • Location of the clinic: The cost to euthanize a pet will vary depending on where you live and which clinic you choose. For example, euthanasia may be more expensive in rural areas as opposed to the main city.
  • Drugs used: Some dogs and cats may require more sedative drugs and analgesics. So, the price of euthanasia will also depend on the type of drugs used and how much is used.
  • In-home or at clinic euthanasia: In general, it will cost a lot more for a veterinarian to perform in-home euthanasia. This is because veterinarians may charge a travel fee as part of the process.
  • After-care services: Cremation, urn’s for pets, and any memorials may be offered as part of the euthanasia. After an animal has passed, you will have the opportunity to decide how your pet will be disposed of and whether or not you wish to receive the body back. In general, receiving the body back in an urn will cost more.

If you are about to euthanize a beloved pet, then, unfortunately, you will need to consider the financial part behind it. The cost of euthanizing a pet can range anywhere from $100 to up to $300.

Where to Euthanize a Dog for Free?

If you are unable to afford the costs of euthanizing a pet, then you do have a few options available to you. Firstly, you can speak to your veterinarian directly and request for payment plan options or a reduction in fees.

If this is not an option in your area, then you can contact a third party group. Organizations such as SPCAs and private rescues may offer low-cost euthanasia, or they may even cover the costs entirely.

When is the Right time to Euthanize a Pet?

Deciding to euthanize a loved dog or cat can be quite a hard decision to make. When making such a difficult decision, we as pet owners need to place one thought in our mind, that is, has their quality of life deteriorated.

Although no one but you can decide on euthanizing a pet, there are still a few ways veterinarians can help you make this decision.

  1. Is your companion in pain: Dogs or cats in pain may not move as much as they used to, they may be reclusive, tired, and whimper when touched. Dogs and cats in pain will whine, cry, and may have wounds that don’t heal. When an animal is in pain, then their quality of life is poor.
  2. Are they eating and drinking well: Water and food is an essential part of life. All animals require food and water to live healthy lives. A dog or cat that no longer drinks or eats will truly be suffering. Many of these animals will want to consume food and water but are unable to due to their terminal illnesses. So, an animal that does not eat or drink is slowing starving itself to death. This is a welfare issue and should be considered when deciding whether or not to euthanize a pet.
  3. Are they still physically active: Was Max once active? Does Max love to play? Dogs and cats who sleep a lot or not able to move or get up are animals suffering. Animals who have lost the ability to move and do the things the once loved are both in physical and emotional pain.
  4. Mental and emotional stability: Just like humans, dogs and cats too can get dementia! Emotional and mental stability is an important component of an animals welfare. Dogs with mental and emotional illnesses may appear lethargic, restless, they may aimlessly wander around the house, and they may even urinate themselves.
  5. Finally, is your pet happy: Finally, you need to ask yourself is your pet truly happy. As difficult as it may seem, you need to go back to the memories you had with your pet when they were young and well. You need to ask yourself if your pet still enjoys the things they once loved. And, if they still care to participate in the activities, they once cherished.

Euthanizing an Emotional Support Animal: How to Cope with Losing your ESA!

An emotional support animal is an assistance animal who works tirelessly to better the mental and emotional health of their owners. Emotional support animals not only provide comfort during difficult times but they also give us a sense of security. Unfortunately, when an emotional support animal crosses the rainbow bridge, our mental health may deteriorate. After an ESA dies, one might experience episodes of depression and even anxiety.

Coping with the loss of an emotional support animal can be difficult. If you’ve lost your ESA, then we highly recommend you talk to your licensed mental health professional (LMHP). A LMHP such a psychologist or therapist will speak to you one-on-one to see how they can work to help you get through this challenging time.

Should You Get another ESA after you’ve Lost yours?

Many people struggling with a mental illness will find it quite challenging to cope with the loss of an ESA.  So, sometimes a therapist may recommend getting another ESA after you’ve lost your first one. However, only you can decide whether you are ready to commit to another emotional support animal.

Losing a Pet isn’t Easy

euthanized dog goes to heaven icon

No matter what the situation, no one can tell you when is the right time to put your pet to sleep. And, no matter what your decision, you will never know if you were right to euthanize your pet. After euthanasia, you may be grief-stricken, you may feel as though you ended your pets’ life too early, or perhaps you prolonged their suffering by not ending their life sooner. But no matter what, you loved your pet, and they loved you.

Not Just a Dog or Cat: Consider Joining a Free Pet Loss Support Group

Bottling up your grief and denying yourself time to grieve will only make things worse in the long run. Some people find they need to grieve alone, while others need the support of sympathetic friends and family during this difficult time.

When your pet is not just your best friend but your sole companion, your ESA or helper, it’s natural to feel very alone after their passing. Talking to other grieving pet owners can help.

CertaPet’s “Not Just a Dog or Cat” is an online pet grief Facebook support group that you can join and meet others who are dealing with the loss of a pet.

This group is a safe place to meet, talk to other pet owners or just listen to advice on coping with the loss of a pet. Don’t hesitate to join the group now for complete support and guidance when you need it.

Common Questions on Pet Euthanasia

How much does it cost to have a pet put to sleep?

Does a dog feel pain when being put down?

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