Sadly, there comes a time in a dog owner’s life where they have to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to their beloved pet. Euthanasia is never an easy topic, but it may bring some people comfort to know exactly what happens. This article will discuss the process of euthanasia, focussing on what to expect during a euthanasia appointment.

At what point should euthanasia be considered? 

Euthanasia will be offered when it is clear that a dog is suffering and there is a concern about your pet’s quality of life – for example, they may not be eating or drinking, or may be in a lot of pain. This may be something you have to think about over time, in the case of an animal with a chronic illness, or you may need to come to a decision more quickly in the case of an emergency. Work with your vet to decide when the time is right for both you and your pet. They cannot make a decision for you, but can certainly guide you and answer any questions you might have.

What will happen? 

You may have already made an appointment, or your pet’s health may have deteriorated quickly and an emergency appointment is required.

Your vet will explain the process to you and answer any questions you have. You will also need to sign a consent form. You may wish to discuss cremation options at this point.

Your vet will need to get access to your dog’s veins by placing a catheter, normally in their front leg. A small patch of fur is clipped and they may feel the small prick of a needle. If a dog is particularly stressed or anxious, your vet may opt to give some sedation prior to doing this. In some cases, a catheter cannot be placed, in which case the vet may opt to inject into the muscle.

An overdose of an anaesthetic drug will be given, and unconsciousness will follow shortly after. Eventually, the drug will stop the heart from beating. It is a very quick, gentle and painless process. 

After this has happened, there may be involuntary muscle contractions that make it look like a dog is taking a breath or moving, even though they have passed at this point. They may also keep their eyes open, and the bladder or bowels may empty. 

Where will it happen and can I be present? 

You may choose for euthanasia to be carried out at your practice where you’ll be given plenty of privacy. 

Some practices may offer home visits, so you and your dog can be in the comfort of home when it happens (although under Covid restrictions, please check with your practice what service they offer). There are also dedicated companies that carry out this service. 

It is a personal decision as to whether you’re present or not. Some owners prefer to stay with their pet but it is entirely understandable if you do not feel like you are able to do so. Whatever your decision, it should be respected by your vet.

What happens afterwards? 

You may wish to stay with your pet for some time afterwards, or leave straight away. Again, this choice is entirely personal. It is normal to be emotional, and veterinary staff will be entirely sympathetic.

You may also want to consider what you would like to do with your pet’s body afterwards, be that taking them home for burial or cremation. Speak with your vet about which option is best for you.

Putting your pet to sleep is one of the hardest, but kindest decisions you can make for your petIt is never an easy decision for an owner to say goodbye to their pet. Remember that support is out there if you need it, from your practice, family and friends and pet bereavement services.

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