Dog Euthanasia: Making the Difficult Decision

Euthanasia for a sick, injured dog or old dog is intended to end prolonged and intractable suffering with no hope of recovery. Dog euthanasia is a medical procedure whereby a dog is "put to sleep" using anesthesia. It is simple and painless, but the decision to euthanize a dog is never easy. Some say they would never even consider euthanasia; others come to believe it is a selfless gift. The reality is that most owners will face the decision whether to euthanize their dog. For this reason, finding out exactly what dog euthanasia involves will help you (feel assured that you can) make an informed decision.

Your Dog's Health Status

In making the decision whether or not to euthanize your dog, some or all of these questions may prove helpful:

  • Is your dog having more bad days than good days?
  • Is medical treatment burdening your dog with a difficult convalescence that may mean survival for just a short time?
  • Can you adequately take care of your and your family's needs as your dog undergoes extensive, expensive treatment?
  • Is keeping your dog alive in his best interest, or yours?

Euthanasia at the Vet

If you decide to put your dog to sleep, here is what will happen at the vet:

  • Your dog is taken to a room reserved for euthanasia. You may hold a special memorial there. Some owners burn candles and hold services.
  • The vet places your dog on a blanket of your choosing, to facilitate transporting the body for burial or cremation.
  • The vet injects your dog with a tranquilizer to induce drowsiness.
  • The vet injects your dog with an overdose of anesthesia. Unconscious, your dog feels no pain nor fear. Death occurs shortly.
  • You may be overcome with emotion as your dog is dying, but do not fear judgment by the vet. He or she understands how difficult the decision to euthanize a dog can be.

Effects of Euthanasia on Your Dog

During euthanasia, your dog does indeed pass away in a deep, painless sleep. However, your dog's body may register automatic effects of the procedure, including:

  • spasms
  • twitches
  • tremors
  • protruding tongue
  • rolled back eyes
  • exhalation of the air left in the lungs (sounding like a final gasp)
  • evacuation of bowels and bladder
  • abdominal gurgling
  • blood dripping from the nose or mouth.

Remember: Despite these disconcerting effects, your dog feels no distress whatsoever in the last moments of life.

Effects of euthanasia on you

Grieving over a deceased dog is normal. Making the decision to euthanize a dog may compound that grief with guilt. Vets are prepared to provide contact information for grief support groups. Ask about them if you think you can use the help. Many owners also decide to make contributions to animal organizations or veterinary schools, in memory of their dog.