Dog Euthanasia: When Is It Time To Say Goodbye?

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Sad pugEuthanasia of a pet is one of the toughest things — if not the toughest thing — a pet owner may ever have to do. Yet this is a decision everyone must be prepared to make when they commit to taking on the responsibility of giving a pet a forever home. Let’s discusses the unfortunate process of dog euthanasia; when it’s the right time, and how to cope when your friend is gone.

How To Decide When It’s Time To Euthanize

Deciding when it’s time to send your pet on is the first step in this incredibly tough process. Here are a few things to consider before making this big decision:

  • Is your pet in pain?
  • Do they seem to still enjoy life?
  • What is their medical diagnosis?
  • Can you afford treatment?
  • Are they struggling to perform normal bodily functions?

By asking yourself and assessing the truth of questions like these, you’ll more easily determine whether it’s the right time to make this decision. And remember, no one knows your pet like you do. Trust your heart and your judgement here, no matter how hard the answers are.

The Euthanasia Process

Once you’ve come to terms with the hard fact that it’s time to euthanize (commonly explained as “put your pet down”), you’ll need to begin preparing yourself emotionally for the next steps.

Make The Appointment

Your regular vet will often perform this procedure at their office or clinic, but it can often be done at home. Talk to your vet to discuss which option is best for you and your pet. If you don’t feel comfortable or your regular vet doesn’t perform this service, ask them to give you a recommendation. Other than who, you’ll need to ask yourself when. Be sure to consider your needs here; it’s going to be emotionally taxing for you, so plan a time that is not only considerate of your pup’s needs, but yours as well.

The Procedure

The procedure itself is quick, easy and painless for your pet. Your vet should allow you to be present during this procedure if you choose.

    1. A sedative is administered to calm and relax your pet.
    2. An IV is inserted and flushed with saline to determine its proper insertion into the vein.
    3. When you’re ready, an assistant will hold your pet while the vet administers the euthanasia solution.
    4. Within seconds (it’s a fast-acting medicine) your animal’s muscles relax and the heart stops beating.

Saying Goodbye

Whether you choose to be there with your dog for the whole procedure, or whether you prefer to say your goodbyes before, making a plan and sticking to it will help. Keep in mind, that if you decide not to be present in your dog’s final moments, it could be a source of guilt later on. Some even suggest that other pets who remain are present as well. This is a personal option to discuss with your veterinarian.

After it’s all over you must consider after care. Most veterinarians will keep your pet until these arrangements are made and carried out. Make sure you’ve discussed this with your vet beforehand so there’s no miscommunication about what to do with the remains before they make it to their final resting place.

Euthanasia At Home

While the majority of these procedures are done in a vet’s office, there is the option to perform euthanasia in the comfort of your own home. There is an online directory listing veterinarians who offer in-home euthanasia.

While the process of the actual procedure is much the same as outlined above, you’ll want to make sure that a few key things are taken care of.

  1. Your personal vet may not be able to come to your home. So, make sure you’re hiring a licensed veterinarian to perform this in-home procedure and that you’ve discussed the procedure beforehand so you’re comfortable with the process.
  2. Choose a comfortable place, and consider using your dog’s favorite bed and blankets.
  3. Give your pet lots of love.

Laying Your Dog To Rest

The final step in this process is choosing how your dog will rest after euthanasia. Both burial and cremation options are discussed in greater detail in our Dog Cremation article.

Parting Thoughts

This is a tough time for you, your family, and the other animals in your home. Be sure to take the time to process this loss and take care of yourselves. After all, your dog is your family, and losing a family member is life changing. Visit our article on Dealing With The Death of Your Dog to learn more and we invite you to leave your stories below in the comments to receive Pet Grief Support from our community. Sometimes talking with others dealing with the sadness associated with the loss of a beloved pet can be helpful.

What will you miss most about your sweet pup?

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Sara is a writer for Canine Journal. She adores dogs and recently adopted a rescue pup named Beamer. Whole she may be adjusting to life with another being to care for, she needed no time to adjust to all the extra love.

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Thank you for this article. I just had to let go of my handsome chocolate lab after 10 and a half years. It all happened so quickly and I had to make the decision right after his diagnosis as he was in extreme pain from bone cancer in his hind leg. I am having extreme feelings of guilt but like was said, I knew I had to relieve him of the pain. I had no idea where to go so just called a local Vet hospital. They were so gracious with him and gave me plenty of time before, during, and after the procedure. I choose to do the group cremation as it was what I could afford and they deposit the ashes in the Pacific Ocean. Thank again.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you were able to be with him and say goodbye. My thoughts are with you.
We just got back from having our big boy Gunner put to sleep and we had it done by “Angels for animals” and we opted to just leave him there because we had no place to beary him and he did weigh 150 pounds so that’s why we made the decision that we did but I was wondering, what do they do with our pets after euthanasia, what is done with the bodies? Thank you very much for your time.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I’m sorry for your loss. Most are sent to a crematorium and cremated as a group if people don’t want the ashes back and then the ashes are disposed of. I’m sure you could call Angels For Animals and ask for specifics.
Hazel Owens
That’s good to know that you can do pet euthanasia at home if you talk with your vet. My sister’s German Shepherd isn’t doing too well and is having a harder time doing normal things like eating, so she’s looking into euthanasia to help him not feel pain anymore. We’ll have to find a vet near her that is willing to do the procedure at home so her kids can say goodbye to him and he will be comfortable when he passes.
Kit Hannigan
I really like your tip about picking a comfortable spot for your dog to be in such as a favorite blanket. My dog really loves this pink, satin blanket that we have lying around in our living room. He is getting a bit old, so an at-home pet euthanasia is definitely on the horizon for us. This tip will really ensure that he rests his tired eyes as peaceful as can be.
Ellie Davis
Thank you for suggesting that you are going to need to consider what you want to do with the remains after care. My husband and I have had our dog for almost 15 years and she has been so sick for so long. I really think it will be best if we put her down. We just moved to a new city and haven’t found a vet so I’m going to have to do some research and find the best vet clinic in our area to help us put our poor baby out of her misery.
AnnMarie Taylor
My Baby Kari screamed in horrible pain when injected. Had to argue with vet to hold her close to my heart during procedure. Then not given any special moments with her for my final hugs and words of LOVE that I wanted Baby Kari to take with her !! Tech just insisted every two minutes that I leave.HORRIBLE last few seconds of her loving life. Vet quickly left room and did not tell me any reason for severe sceaming and Pain.What went wrong ???
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
OH AnnMarie, I’m so sorry. I’m not sure why you dog screamed when injected. I’m so sorry that happened. I’m sure that was very scary for you but I bet Kari knew how loved she was by you. I am so sorry for your loss.