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. This article discusses the unfortunate process of dog euthanasia; when it’s the right time, and how to cope when your friend is gone.

When is it 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 visit our Pet Grief Support forum to talk with others dealing with the sadness associated with the loss of a beloved pet.

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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