What is euthanasia? | What should I do? | Why is there a need for euthanasia? | What happens when an animal is euthanased? | Things to be aware of as death occurs | How can I make the process less stressful? | What happens to your pet’s body after the euthanasia procedure?

What is euthanasia?

Euthanasia literally means ‘gentle death’. Other terms you may hear are ‘put to sleep’, or ‘put down’. The decision to end a life is never easy. It is a personal, loving decision to euthanase a pet for which the quality of life has deteriorated. It takes courage to assume this last duty and it is our last responsibility to a pet which has given us love and companionship.

What should I do?

Your relationship with your pet is special, and you are responsible for your pet’s care and welfare. Eventually, many owners are faced with making life-or-death decisions for their pets.

Your vet is an invaluable source of advice when you feel the time for euthanasia may be approaching. He or she cannot make the decision for you, but he can help you to decide when it is time to let go. Consider not only what is best for your pet, but also what is best for you and your family. Quality of life is important for pets and people alike.

Why is there a need for euthanasia?

There are numerous reasons for opting to euthanase a pet.

These include:

  • Old age and debility;
  • A terminal illness;
  • Inability to treat a pet due to medical or other reasons;
  • Translocating and an inability to re-home a pet.

Whatever the reason, it is important that the decision is made in the best interests of your pet.

 “I know in time that you will see the kindness that you did for me. Although my tail its last has waved, from pain and suffering I’ve been saved.”

(excerpt from “If it should be” – Anonymous)

What happens when an animal is euthanased?

Some veterinarians prefer to give a sedative tranquilizer prior to the euthanasia drug, which is given in the vein. The tranquilizer is either given as a tablet by mouth or a painless injection under the skin, like a vaccination. The animal is then restful and the owner may elect to spend some quiet time saying good-bye. The euthanasia drug itself is an overdose of a barbiturate.

This is administered through an IV catheter or with a needle and syringe.

Unconsciousness then follows rapidly, usually within 30 seconds. Observers generally describe it as a quick and peaceful death.

Things to be aware of as death occurs:

  • The eyes may remain open.
  • There may be a last gasping breath, called an agonal breath.
  • There may be vocalisation.
  • There may be muscle twitching.
  • The heart may continue beating for a short period after breathing has stopped.
  • The bladder and possibly, bowel contents will be released.
  • In most circumstances, you will notice nothing except a peaceful release of tension, as in ‘going to sleep’

Due to each animal’s individual health situation, things may be different from animal to animal.

How can I make the process less stressful?

  • Book an appointment during a quiet time of the vet’s day.
  • If possible sit with your pet in the car until the vet is able to see you — ask the receptionist to call you when the vet is ready to take you through.
  • If possible, settle the bill upfront – try and avoid having to pay a bill in a distressed state after having put your beloved companion to sleep.

What happens to your pet’s body after the euthanasia procedure?

  • After temporary cooled storage, your pet may be cremated by a pet cremation company.
  • You may choose to have the ashes returned to you. If this is the case it is important that you tell the vet prior to the euthanasia procedure.
  • Occasionally pet owners request to keep their pet’s body for their own burial arrangements.

Your veterinarian understands the relationship you have lost.

Reference: Bayer HealthCare Animal Health