Euthanasia for Your Dog.
Help with painful
decisions you have to make and what to expect
Euthanasia for your dog. Guidelines.
The decision to euthanize a beloved pet is never easy. In
this article we will discuss what to ask your veterinarian
to determine if treatment is an option for your pet, how to
assess your petís ability to fulfill basic needs, and how to
assess your petís general quality of life. After that we
will discuss what to expect when it is time to euthanize
your pet, and your options to care for your petís remains.
These guidelines will help you know when to make the
difficult decision to kindly and gently let your dog go.
Discuss your dog's health with
health conditions does your pet have? Your veterinarian may
need to do some basic testing such as bloodwork and x-rays
to assess your petís health.
Are further diagnostics and treatment worthwhile? Veterinary
medicine has come a long way. We have things like MRIs,
radiation therapy, and chemotherapy available for our pets.
Just because these things are available does not necessarily
mean they will change your petís prognosis. Discuss with
your veterinarian what you will gain if you go forward with
more diagnostic tests and treatments. If the results will
not significantly alter your petís situation, it may not be
wise to pursue further testing or treatment. Discuss the
risks and benefits of tests and treatment with your
Get a referral for a second opinion. Your veterinarian can
refer you to a board-certified specialist. It never hurts to
have a second expert opinion on your petís health.
Be reasonable. Just because we have a diagnostic tool or
treatment available does not necessarily mean it is a good
option, especially when talking about an elderly pet. Do not
hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about what is
reasonable in your petís case and for your finances.
Unfortunately, we do have to consider finances when caring
for our pets.
Focus on the expected outcome of the plan you develop with
your veterinarian. Be clear if your plan will solve a health
problem or if it is meant to increase quality of life but
not cure a problem.
The Basics Ė Food, water,
Food: Is your pet physically able to eat? Does your pet have
a medical condition causing them not to eat as much as their
body requires to maintain a healthy weight? Have you
discussed with your veterinarian if a special diet may help
your pet? If your pet is supposed to eat a special diet and
refuses, discuss with your veterinarian feeding your pet
something else to get them enough calories.
Water intake: Is your pet drinking? Is your pet drinking
much more than they normally would? Are they seeking water
from unusual places? Do you suddenly not need to fill the
water bowl? Be sure to tell your veterinarian about your
petís drinking habits. This can be important information.
Never restrict your petís water intake unless your
veterinarian provides you with specific instruction for
doing so. Restricting water can cause dehydration and be
dangerous to your pet.
Bathroom Habits: It is important that you are able to tell
your veterinarian about your petís bathroom habits. If your
pet goes to the bathroom outside without you, check the yard
daily. Look for any changes in amount or consistency of the
stool. Note any straining when your pet urinates or
defecates. Watch your dog or check your cat or small petís
litter box or cage for urine. Note any changes in amount,
frequency, or color of the urine. Report any changes to your
Evaluating and monitoring your
dog's quality of life
Quality of life refers to your petís ability to enjoy
themselves as they usually have. This may include going for
walks, playing fetch, rough housing with pals, enjoying
favorite treats, and generally being comfortable. Here are 2
methods to help evaluate and monitor your petís quality of
The List: Make a list of all of the things and activities
your pet enjoys. As your pet is unable to do these, cross
them off your list. When you have more items crossed off
than are left, go back to your veterinarian to discuss
whether or not it may be time to let your pet go.
Distress: If your pet is distressed by their inability to
participate in favored activities, go back to your
veterinarian to discuss your petís quality of life. For
example, if your other dogs wrestle and your dog whines and
tries to get up but is unable to participate, they are
likely distressed by the situation.
What to expect when it is time
to euthanize your dog
Here are some factors you may not have considered as well
as a description of what to expect when the time comes.
Veterinarianís office vs. Home
Typically your veterinarian performs the euthanasia in
their office. Depending on your locality, your vet may offer
house calls or may be able to refer you to a vet that does
Do you want to be with your dog when he/she is
Many people do want to be present for the euthanasia, but
some do not. It is okay if you do not want to be there. Your
veterinarian and their staff will stay with your pet and
comfort them. You can even opt to have your pet sedated,
stay with them, and leave once they are sleepy. Do not
hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about what you will be
Your vet will discuss with you whether or not a sedative
is appropriate for your pet. Some pets that are very upset
at coming to the clinic can be prescribed a sedative to give
at home prior to leaving for the vetís office. Your
veterinarian may give your pet a sedative in the office
prior to administering the euthanasia solution. Your
veterinarian may or may not recommend this depending on your
petís state when they come in.
What happens when your dog is
Your veterinarian will administer an overdose of an
anesthetic agent (typically a bright color such as pink) in
your petís vein (location of administration may vary by type
of pet). They may use a butterfly catheter or place an IV
catheter which is taped into place.
Following the injection your pet will fall asleep and
their heart will stop. It is not uncommon for the pet to
take breaths or let out a sigh shortly after the agent is
administered. Your pet may also release their bladder and
bowels. If your pet it on a special blanket, you may want to
move it to the front end of your pet to prevent it from
Your veterinarian will carefully monitor
your pet to assure that they have passed on. Euthanasia is
typically a very gentle and peaceful process. Your
veterinarian can answer any questions you may have prior to
and during the process.
What do we do next? What are your options for caring for
your petís body after it is euthanized? What should you
Your veterinarian typically offers the service through a
pet cemetery/crematorium. With this option your pet is
cremated or buried with other pets. Remains are typically
buried in a pet cemetery. Cremated remains are often
deposited somewhere such as an orchard. Your veterinarian
can tell you what the company they use does with the group
remains. This is typically the least expensive option your
veterinarian will offer.
A pet crematorium will cremate your pet individually. The
ashes are placed in an urn and returned to the owner. Your
veterinarian may take care of transporting your petís body
for cremation or they will have information for you to do
so. The standard urn is typically a wooden box. The remains
are sealed in a bag and the box is usually screwed shut. If
you want to move the remains to a different urn, do not be
afraid to open the box. You may also be able to purchase a
special urn from the crematorium. Ask your veterinarian
about availability of special urns through their service.
Burial at Home
You may wish to bury your pet at home. Be aware of your
local regulations regarding burying bodies on your property.
It is not permitted in all areas. Be sure your petís body is
well sealed in a bag prior to burial. You will want to bury
your pet deep enough to deter scavengers from digging up the