The Euthanasia Process

What is euthanasia?

Euthanasia literally means 'a good death' and is the term used to describe the 'putting to sleep' or humane killing of an animal. For pets, this process can only be performed by a veterinarian.

What happens during euthanasia?

One common method involves injecting an overdose of anaesthetic through a vein in the dog's front leg. The dog quickly falls into a deep sleep, then passes away.

Most veterinarians have a veterinary nurse present to hold the dog still.

Sometimes, a vet will fit a catheter into the vein in the front leg. This tube gives the owner more room to cuddle and comfort the dog while the vet is doing the injection.

A vet might also suggest sedating a dog before euthanasia is performed. This will make an anxious or 'vet-phobic' dog much calmer, and the process smoother and less traumatic.

How long does it take?

Once the overdose of anaesthetic has been injected, the dog passes away in a matter of seconds. They will go limp in your arms and feel totally relaxed. Often they may lose bowel and bladder control at the same time.

The whole process can be over in as little as 5 to 10 minutes. However, to ensure owners have sufficient time to say goodbye to their pet, most vets usually plan for things to take much longer.

Is it painful?

Most times, it is a completely painless process. Very occasionally, injecting the anaesthetic may sting, causing a dog to move and vocalise. And some dogs simply do not like being held by the nurse and will struggle against this.

Should I stay with my dog while he or she is being euthanised?

This is a very difficult question to answer because it's such an individual choice. Some owners feel they should be there for their dog right to the very end. Others believe it will be too traumatic. Talk to your veterinarian to work out which option is right for you.

How will I know that my dog has died?

After the injection has been given to your dog, the veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat. Usually, the veterinarian will then confirm that your dog has passed away. In some instances, an extra dose of anaesthetic is needed. If this is the case, the dog will be in a deep sleep and won't feel a thing.

Some dogs, usually older ones, will have a few reflex breaths after they've passed away. These are called agonal breaths, and they can give you quite a fright if you're not expecting them.

It's important to know that dogs don't close their eyes when they die. Additionally, some large muscles may twitch after a dog has passed away, giving the impression that the dog is still alive.

What happens to my dog's body afterwards?

There are several options. Which one you choose is very much a personal choice and depends on your individual circumstances and beliefs. Some owners will take their dog home to bury in the backyard or at their farm. Others choose to have their dog cremated, then have the ashes scattered in a Garden of Remembrance. Ashes can also be kept in an urn, then displayed in a special place at home, or scattered in a favourite garden, park or landmark.