Euthanasia for Pets

Euthanasia for Pets: One of the Hardest Decisions You'll Have to Make

If you are caring for an ill pet or your pet is getting older and becoming less interested in the things they once enjoyed, you may need to begin considering euthanasia for pets. This is one of the hardest decisions you'll have to make and probably the worst part of being a pet parent, but it is also one of the kindest things you can do for your pet when they are very ill or old.

Making the Difficult Decision to Say Goodbye to Your Pet

Deciding to euthanize your beloved pet will likely be one of the hardest decisions you'll ever have to make. As you prepare to make this decision, don't forget to be kind to yourself. People in your life may not understand how important this decision is or how difficult this time is for you.

It is perfectly reasonable for you to tell these people that you just need some time and to separate yourself from them for a while. The decision to euthanize a pet is deeply personal. It is normal for you to feel deep sadness, guilt, confusion, and indecision.

Talk to friends who understand, especially those who have also had to put a pet down. Talking to your veterinarian can also be an invaluable resource, not just regarding the health of your pet but also to prepare you to make this challenging choice.

Your veterinarian has seen many euthanasias in the past, but they have also seen what happens when pet parents delay euthanasia and pets suffer as a result. Your veterinarian can be very helpful in helping you to come to terms with your decision and give you confidence that you are making the right choice.

When is it Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep?

Deciding when euthanasia for pets is appropriate can be very difficult. You want to have as much time with your pet as possible, but you also don't want them to suffer unnecessarily. Here are a few key things to look for to help you know when it is time. No single one of these cues will necessarily be the one to indicate to you that it is time, but if your pet is suffering from several of these key indicators or if any of them are very severe, they can help you to realize that it is time to let go:

  • Chronic pain. Your veterinarian can help you to understand when your pet's pain is uncontrollable. If medications have been tried but your pet is still very uncomfortable or if the only way to alleviate pain is to prescribe enough medication to completely sedate your pet, it may be time to consider euthanasia.
  • Gastrointestinal distress and weight loss. It's no fun to feel nauseous all the time. The body being unable to process food is an indication that the end is near. Very frequent vomiting and diarrhea resulting in dehydration and weight loss despite medication may be causing your pet unreasonable discomfort.
    Refusal to eat. A pet that refuses to eat may be preparing for the end of their life. If you can only get your pet to eat if you force-feed them, you may be artificially prolonging their life when they would rather move on.
  • Incontinence. Incontinence by itself may not be a reason for euthanasia for pets, but if your pet is urinating or defecating on themselves very frequently, along with other signs, this may be an indication that the body is quitting.
  • Loss of interest. This is often the most important marker that it is time to say goodbye to your pet. If your pet has lost interest in the things they used to enjoy, like playing, eating treats, getting attention, etc, it may be that they have lost the will to live or are so uncomfortable that they can no longer enjoy life's pleasures.
  • Inability to stand or walk. It can be very difficult for a pet to enjoy life when they can no longer stand up or walk around on their own. Like incontinence, this indication by itself may not be a reason for euthanasia. It depends on the pet and whether they are suffering from other indications.
  • Chronic difficulty breathing. Feeling like they can't catch their breath can be very frightening for your pet. If you have tried medications and nothing is relieving chronic difficulty in breathing, your pet may be suffering from a lot of stress and anxiety unnecessarily.

What to Expect from the Euthanasia Process

Once you decide that it is time to say goodbye, it is important that you understand every step of the euthanasia process and make decisions ahead of time about how you would like it to go. You can discuss with your veterinarian exactly what euthanasia for pets entails and discuss with them some of your options and the pros and cons of different decisions. Here are a few of the things that you should consider:

Prepare Children

For many children, the loss of the family pet is one of their first experiences with death. While you are surely overwhelmed with your own emotions during this time, it is a valuable learning experience for kids.

Explain why you are making the difficult decision to euthanize your pet and that it is for your pet’s own good to relieve their pain. A book that deals with this time may be a very good teaching aid for young children.

Time to Say Goodbye

Give everyone in your family private time to say goodbye. A few moments alone to have a last interaction with a pet is extremely valuable. Even if young children don't understand exactly what's going on, they may remember this time later as their opportunity to have said goodbye.

To be Present or Not

The decision of whether to be present during your pet’s euthanasia can be a very difficult one. Your veterinarian can help you decide whether you should be present or not. Your veterinarian may recommend that you be present at least until your pet is sedated.

Pets often become anxious when their family isn't with them. You don't want anxiety to be the last thing that they experience. By only being present until your pet is sedated, you don't have to actually watch them pass away, but they won't be aware that you've left.

You can also stay throughout the entire process if you would rather. Many people find that this brings closure. It may not be appropriate for young children to be present during the euthanasia itself since they may struggle to understand what is going on and remain quiet and respectful, or they may find the experience traumatizing.

Preparation for Euthanasia

Pets are usually wrapped in a blanket prior to euthanasia. Your veterinarian will probably wrap a waterproof pad around your pet first and then a blanket. You can hold your pet in your arms while they are euthanized, lie next to them on the floor, or take any other position that is comfortable.

The technician will assist in holding your pet while they are sedated, so make sure that you provide room for them. The technician knows just how to hold your pet so that they will be comfortable and drugs will be administered appropriately.


Your veterinarian will usually give your pet an injection of anesthesia or sedative in order to sedate them before euthanasia is performed. After this injection, your pet will become unconscious or extremely drowsy. If you would rather not be present for the euthanasia itself, this is the time when you would quietly leave the room.


A drug known as sodium pentobarbital is used for euthanasia. It will make your pet unconscious and then gently stop their heart from beating. This drug may be administered directly as a shot or an IV catheter may be placed in your pet’s vein before the injection is administered.

Once the drug is administered, your pet will become completely unconscious in a few seconds and will pass away within several minutes. It is completely normal for there to be involuntary muscle twitching, intermittent breathing, and for your pet to release their bladder and or bowels. These events do not mean that your pet is aware of what is going on or that they are suffering in any way. They are simply natural reactions to the process of death.


Using a stethoscope, your veterinarian will confirm that your pet’s heart has stopped completely. If there are indications that the drug has not worked to stop their heart, your veterinarian may administer another dose. Don't worry that your pet will experience any pain in this circumstance. They will be completely unconscious.

Time Alone

Your veterinarian will ask you if you would like time alone with the body after your pet has passed away. Some people like to spend some time saying final goodbyes with the body, while others would rather not. It is completely up to you.


You can choose to have your pet’s body returned to you for a private burial, have a burial service performed, or have your pet cremated. Your veterinarian will discuss with you what options are available.

Euthanasia for Pets - OKC Vet Campus Can Help

Euthanizing your pet is an extremely hard time, but it is the final act of love and caring for your pet. If you think that it may be close to time to consider euthanizing your pet, don't hesitate to contact OKC Vet Campus to begin preparations so that you'll be ready when the time comes.