What to expect with pet euthanasia

Turning Points 4 min read

One of the saddest truths of sharing our lives with animals is that their life spans are shorter than ours. This means that often we find ourselves grappling with the grief of losing a beloved pet. In addition, it is both a blessing and a curse that we may be in the position to help them ease into death by considering euthanasia at their end of life. This may leave us grieving their loss while also feeling guilty over the part we played in it.

Making a difficult decision

Before making any end-of-life decisions for your furry friend, speak with your veterinarian. They will be able to offer guidance on the reality of your pet’s situation while also speaking familiarly of the bond you share. There are many reasons why you might want to consider putting down your pet, some of which are listed below:

  • Terminal illnesses
  • Chronic pain which can’t be relieved by medication
  • Catastrophic injury
  • Increased lack of mobility
  • A decline in quality of life, including a lack of interest in favorite activities, food, etc.

Ultimately, it’s important to ask yourself, does my pet have more good days than bad? Are they able to enjoy life more often than not? Then, speak honestly and openly with other members of your family (including children) about your concerns. Once you’ve answered the above questions and had the conversation with your family, and taking into consideration your conversation with your veterinarian, you’ll be better equipped to decide.

What to expect

Once you’ve made the decision to euthanize your pet, allow your family to say goodbye in whatever way feels most appropriate to them. Explain clearly and in simple terms to any children in the family what will happen (there are many good books on the topic that can help). And allow everyone to make their individual decision about how involved they want to be in the actual procedure.

Costs will vary from state to state, as well as veterinarian to veterinarian, but will probably fall between $100 and $300. Most likely, your two options will be to have your pet euthanized at the veterinarian’s office or at your own home. (If your veterinarian doesn’t offer in-home services, there are many companies who do.) In either situation, the veterinarian will explain each step of the procedure so that you’ll know what to expect.

  • First, a sedative may be administered (this will depend on each individual animal).
  • Then, an overdose of an anesthetic medication is given, either via shot or IV.
  • After a short period of time (sometimes only a few minutes), they’ll lose consciousness and no longer feel anything, and then finally their organs will stop functioning and they’ll pass away.
  • The veterinarian will then confirm that they’ve died.

Please be forewarned that even in death, your animal’s eyes may not completely close. It’s possible that their bladder and/or bowels may release. They may also twitch or release a final breath, which can be unnerving. All of this is normal and is no reason for alarm.

After your four-legged companion has passed, you can decide to have them cremated or buried. If you choose to have your animal cremated, you can either keep their ashes in an urn or scatter them (after checking on any rules for scattering ashes wherever you choose to do so). If you choose to have your pet buried, you may choose to have them interred in a pet cemetery or at your home (after confirming what the local guidelines are).

Guilt and grief

Guilt is a normal emotion, often the result of having to make a difficult decision. When choosing to end your pet’s life, the ensuing doubt over whether it was the right decision or if there was more you could have done to prolong their life can consume you. Try to take comfort in knowing that they are no longer in pain, that they had your love throughout their life, and that you were with them in their final moments. We cannot predict the future, so it serves no purpose to wonder “what if…?”

Remember, this was not a decision you made lightly, and you based it on the information you had at the time. It may help to think of the unconditional love and forgiveness your animal offered you during their lifetime and try to treat yourself with the same kindness.

However, grieving looks and feels different for everyone, so you may want to find a support group or grief counselor who can help you through this difficult time. Don’t compare your loss to anyone else’s and try to ignore the potentially unkind words of people who can’t understand. It takes time to accept that you’ve lost someone you love and to adjust to their absence in your life. Be honest with how you’re feeling but don’t focus on the loss. Focus on all your happy memories of your life together and the joy and love they brought to your life.

In Memoriam

It may help you to work through your grief by holding a funeral or memorial. Sharing memories with other family members and friends who loved your pet can be comforting. You also may want to consider having a paw print made before they pass, so you can have that as a memento after their death. Find a few favorite photographs from during their lifetime and display them in your house. You’ll never forget the time you shared with them and having visual reminders of happier times can be a balm to your grief.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual medical providers with respect to any information presented. Pets Best and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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