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The Process of Pet Euthanasia

What to Expect When Your Dog is Put to Sleep


The euthanasia of a beloved pet is a solemn time for everyone involved, but it may be less of a strain if you are prepared for the euthanasia process.

Once you have made the difficult choice of euthanasia for your pet, it is essential to know what to expect before, during and after your dog is put to sleep.

Before the Euthanasia

First, decide if you would like to be present during the procedure. Also decide if you would like family members or friends to be present. Talk to your vet about your decision, and ask any questions that come to mind. Make sure you know what will happen during the euthanasia. Also, depending on hospital policy, there may be a consent form for you to sign before your vet will proceed.

Next, make a decision about aftercare and notify your vet. Many veterinary hospitals work with companies that can arrange for individual cremation (and, in some cases, burial). Some owners will opt for community cremation (sometimes called group or mass cremation). In both the above cases, the company will pick up your dog's remains directly from the hospital. Alternatively, you may wish to bring your dog's remains home so you can handle aftercare on their own.

Your vet may prefer to have an intravenous catheter placed in your dog. This will allow easier access to the vein and make the injection process quick and painless for your dog.

If there will be charges, try to settle up at the front desk first. The last thing you will want is a tearful wait in the lobby to pay your bill after you pet is gone.

Take time to say goodbye. Talk to your dog, hug him, express your love for him. Allow friends and family members to do the same.

During the Euthanasia

In dogs and cats, euthanasia typically involves the intravenous injection of a solution of pharmaceutical agents that will quickly stop the heart. In most cases, this solution is predominantly made up of pentobarbital, though some euthanasia solutions also contain phenytoin. The solution is usually a pink or purple tint and may be slightly thick. The most effective way to administer the solution is through a vein. Injection into a body cavity will often work, but not as quickly.

Your vet might prefer to administer a sedative to your dog prior to administering the actual euthanasia solution. This will allow your pet to be extremely relaxed and sleepy before the next step.

The euthanasia solution is then injected into your pet's vein, where it rapidly travels throughout the body. Within just a few seconds, your dog will become unconscious, experiencing no pain or suffering. Breathing will slow down and then stop over the next several seconds. Cardiac arrest will soon follow, resulting in death. Typically, death occurs within 30 seconds of intravenous administration.

After the Euthanasia

Once the solution has been administered, your vet will listen to your dog's heart to confirm death. He or she will let you know that your dog has passed on. At this time, your vet will probably step out of the room to give you a few moments alone with your dog. This is an emotional time, and the veterinary staff will provide plenty tissues and privacy. You are in a safe environment where everyone understands what you are going through. Stay as short or as long as you are comfortable. If you have already made aftercare and payment arrangements, you can simply slip out when you are ready.

Grieving the Loss of Your Pet

Now the process of grieving will begin. Grief is a little different for everyone, and there is not right or wrong way to do it. Remember the good times you had with your dog, and know that he would thank you for relieving his suffering. Consider doing something special to memorialize your unique and much-loved companion. One idea is to make clay or ink paw print and frame it next to a photo of your dog. You may wish to plant a tree or other plant in memory of your dog. Another therapeutic exercise during grief is to write about it. A poem, story or written tribute can help you say goodbye to your beloved dog in words.
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