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

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By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: June 22, 2021

when to euthanize

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.

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 disease, 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.

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, however. 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 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 state 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. The drug is administered intravenously and at a high dose. Once this drug enters your pet’s blood circulation, it will depress the central nervous system and the animal will pass away within seconds.

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

When you enter the veterinary clinic, you will likely be directed to a private room where you can take some time to say good-bye to your furry friend. In reality, the first step of saying goodbye takes the longest time.

However, once your veterinarian begins the process of administering the euthanasia drugs, death will occur in less than 15 seconds.

What Happens After after a Beloved Dog has been Euthanized?

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 pet’s 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 heart stick method 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.

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.

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.

Nevertheless, if you’re not sure as to which is better—in-home or at-hospital euthanasia—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: Towards the end of your pet’s 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 they’re home. Of course, we cannot read our pet’s 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?

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, urns 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’s remains will be handled. In general, receiving the remains back in an urn will cost more.

If you are about to euthanize a beloved pet, 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 or more, depending on the services you choose.

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 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: 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 and tired, and may 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 is unable to have the best quality of life possible. Many of these animals will want to consume food and water but are unable to due to their terminal illnesses. 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? Animals who have lost the ability to move and do the things they once loved may not be enjoying the best quality of life.
  4. 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.

How to Cope with Losing Your Companion

Losing a canine companion or feline friend isn’t easy. In fact, a survey about the loss of a pet found that 68% of pet owners felt that the loss of their companion animal was harder to deal with than the loss of a family member or friend. This is because the relationship we have with our companion animals is often very profound, and isn’t as complicated as the relationships we have with other human beings. Animals give us unconditional love. They don’t judge us, they don’t criticize us, and they don’t hold our flaws against us. As a result, our bonds with them are often pure and filled with nothing but affection.

No longer having that bond as a physical presence in your life can be challenging. According to the aforementioned survey on grief over companion animals, some helpful tips for healing and moving forward include:


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