Pet Euthanasia: When It’s Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep
Tue, April 20, 2021

Pet Euthanasia: When It’s Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep

While some pets die of old age in the comfort of their own home, others become injured or seriously ill that significantly diminishes their quality of life / Photo by: Jozef Klopacka via 123RF

 

Adopting pets is about being committed to taking care of them for as long as they live. And so we learn to love them unconditionally, and it feels like we have sons/daughters or siblings that we need to take care of every day in exchange for their unconditional love. Thus, it comes to a point where it’s hard to imagine a life without them, much more that we have to end it. Ending a pet’s life is never easy and a subject that a lot of owners do not want to talk about until they have to cross that bridge. 

While some pets die of old age in the comfort of their own home, others become injured or seriously ill that significantly diminishes their quality of life. In these situations, it is sometimes necessary for owners to consider having their pets euthanized. Euthanasia refers to the act of humanely ending the life of a living being to end their extreme suffering. In animals, this process is usually called “putting them to sleep” or “putting them down.”

Most of the time, owners decide to have their pets euthanized because they love them so much that they don’t want to see them suffering. Sometimes, letting them live just means prolonging their pain and hardships. However, owners have to do their due diligence first before considering this option. They also need to prepare themselves and plan out what’s best for their pets.

 

Knowing When It’s Time

Owners must know that euthanasia is only intended to end life when there is little or no hope of recovery from injury or illness. Although this can be a difficult decision, they should prioritize their pets’ welfare. It’s advisable to consult a veterinarian that will guide you through the decision-making process. Ultimately, the decision is up to the owners. Just make sure that your decision is made with your pet’s best interest in mind.

According to American Humane, an organization committed to ensuring the safety, welfare, and well-being of animals, owners should make the decision based on their observations of their pet’s behavior and attitude. For instance, they are experiencing pain that cannot be controlled with medication; frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing dehydration; have stopped eating or will only eat if you force-feed them; have lost interest in all or most of their favorite activities; cannot stand on their own or fall down when trying to walk; have chronic labored breathing or coughing, and the like.

If you are already decided, you will need to search for a veterinary clinic that offers this service. It’s important that family members or friends that have spent their time with your pet will be given a chance to say goodbye. As much as possible, we want to let them feel that they are loved and that you are doing this for their own good. If you have children, explain what’s happening in advance to help them prepare for the loss of their friend. Books such as “When a Pet Dies” written by Fred Rogers are highly recommended as a way to provide comfort and understanding for children.

Owners must know that euthanasia is only intended to end life when there is little or no hope of recovery from injury or illness / Photo by: motortionfilms via 123RF

 

Before the Euthanasia

It’s understandable that owners are already grieving with the thought that they would have their pets put to sleep. Nonetheless, it’s important that everything is planned. According to The Spruce Pets, an online site that offers practical, real-life tips and training advice to help you care for your pet, owners have to decide if they will be present during the procedure. It’s important to remember that your presence will be a comfort in your pet's final moments. Make sure that you have prepared yourself emotionally.

Also, you should decide where the pet will be euthanized. In-home euthanasia can be easier for vets to do the procedure if the pets have trouble moving or gets panicky at the vet's office. It is important to let the other pets in your house know that their friend will be gone for good. This is significant especially for dogs. As pack animals, they may get confused if they see another dog leave the house and not come back.

Aside from that, owners should plan about the aftercare of your pet. You have the right to take your deceased pet home for burial or choose to leave them with the veterinarian for burial or cremation. It’s important to sort out these details ahead of time instead of having to deal with this after you have just lost your pet. Owners should also not worry that vets will use them for experiments. Vets do not sell deceased pets or do experiments on them, so you can rest assured on these matters.

It’s understandable that owners are already grieving with the thought that they would have their pets put to sleep. Nonetheless, it’s important that everything is planned / Photo by: reddogs via 123RF

 

The Procedure

Now that you have all the details, it’s time for the procedure. Most of the time, euthanasia involves the intravenous injection of a solution of pharmaceutical agents that will quickly stop the heart. The first shot is a sedative. In an article by Today, an American news and talk morning television show, Dr. Shea Cox, a hospice and palliative care specialist with Bridge Veterinary Services in Northern California, said, "This provides for a gentle transition from consciousness to unconsciousness, and the only sensation a pet will experience following this injection is falling into a deeper and deeper sleep.”

Usually, this period will last between five to ten minutes. When the owner and the family are ready, the vet will then administer the second injection. The most common drug used during that stage is pentobarbital. This is another anesthetic that will cause the pet's heart to slow and then stop. There are several signs when death occurs, including closed eyes; there may be a last gasping breath, vocalization, muscle twitching, and the urinary bladder and possibly bowel contents will be released.

Grief and guilt are expected after the loss of a pet. Although this will surely be a difficult time for the owners, remember why you did that in the first place. It’s also helpful to think that our beloved pets will not suffer anymore.