Pet Euthanasia: The Most Difficult Decision in the World

Even though choosing euthanasia is a personal decision, you don't have to go through it on your own. Your veterinarian, family, and close friends can help you make the right decision. They can also offer you the emotional support you need to assimilate the loss of your pet.
Pet Euthanasia: The Most Difficult Decision in the World
Luz Eduviges Thomas-Romero

Written and verified by biochemistry Luz Eduviges Thomas-Romero.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Nobody ever thinks of pet euthanasia when we first welcome one as a member of our family. We deeply bond with them almost involuntarily, or at least, without a conscious effort on our part. From that day on, it becomes difficult to imagine our life without them.

Nobody ever wants to think about pet euthanasia. But it’s a decision that will inevitably knock at your door someday and you’ll have to prepare for it. You must have an idea of what to do when that sad moment comes.

It won’t just be a hard decision for you, but the most difficult one you’ll make for your pet. As a pet owner, you need to know when it’s the most appropriate time to end the life of your best friend. Not only that, but to do so as painlessly as possible. So, it’ll be useful to understand when euthanasia is necessary and how the process works.

Pet euthanasia: What to do

A dog being euthanized.
Quality of life is equally important for pets and people. So, the decision to put your pet down may be necessary for their own welfare. And for yours, of course.

Sometimes, your pet’s quality of life can worsen due to an injury or an incurable illness. In this case then pet euthanasia might be the right decision.

Then, after you make the decision to put your furry friend down, you must decide what you want to do with their body. It may seem strange, even callous, to even think of such arrangements before they’re dead.

However, it’ll give you some peace of mind to know that you have it all covered. Mainly, because you won’t have to think of such things and make any decisions when in such an emotionally-stressful state. You’ll most likely be distraught about the recent loss of your beloved pet.

Your veterinarian can provide you with any information you may need about burials, cremation, and any other alternatives.

How to know that pet euthanasia is the right choice

You may need to consider euthanasia when your pet can no longer derive pleasure from things they used to enjoy. Also, if they don’t respond in the usual way, or if they seem to be in a lot of pain.

Euthanasia is a valid option if your pet has a terminal illness or is seriously injured. It can also be valid if the economic or emotional cost of the treatment exceeds your resources. Ask yourself: “Does my pet have more bad days than good days?” Doing so will help you make the right decision.

The importance of understanding your pet’s health status

A dog looking from top of a mountain.
Your veterinarian definitely understands the bond you have with your pet. They can also examine and assess their physical condition. By talking to them you’ll be able to estimate the chances of recovery. In addition, you can discuss possible disabilities, special needs, and any long-term problems.

So, the vet can explain all the medical and surgical options, as well as risks and possible outcomes. You must understand that the vet isn’t trying to make the euthanasia decision for you. Nor should they. It’s for this reason that it’s very important to fully understand your pet’s state of health.

Even though there are times when such decisions should be immediate, you’ll generally have some time to review the facts. It’ll allow you to discuss it with your family and friends before making any decision.

What to expect of a euthanasia procedure

Commonly, the pet euthanasia procedure involves injecting a drug that causes death. Some veterinarians do a two-stage process:

  • An initial injection that simply renders the pet unconscious
  • A second shot that causes death.

The veterinarian may also administer a tranquilizer to relax the pet beforehand.

Saying goodbye to a pet

Once the vet administers the injections, the pet will immediately become irreversibly unconscious, as the drug stops their brain function.

This kind of death is quick and painless. Your pet may shake their legs or head or breathe deeply several times after receiving the medication. Don’t worry, because such movements are just nervous reflexes and they don’t mean the animal is in pain or suffering in any way.

How can I say goodbye?

The act of saying goodbye is an important step in managing the natural feelings of pain and sadness after the loss of a close friend. For sure, you and the rest of the family members will want to say goodbye to your pet once you decide to put it down.

The most appropriate thing is to have your furry friend spend their last night at home with you. Or, if that’s not possible, then visit them at the vet’s clinic. Any family member who wants to be alone with the pet should be allowed to do so.

Some pet owners choose to be present during the euthanasia of their pet. But others choose to say goodbye in advance and not to be present during euthanasia. This is a very personal decision and you must do whatever you think you can handle.

Even though opting for pet euthanasia is a personal decision, you don’t have to face it alone. Your veterinarian, your family, and close friends can help you make the right choice and support you while assimilating the loss of your beloved pet.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.