What is dog euthanasia?

The word itself comes from the Greek “eu” – “good” and the word “than Atos” – “death.” Therefore, euthanasia means “good death”.
The dog euthanasia is the act of allowing your veterinarian to cause the painless death or to stop providing life- support measures to your pet. Ending your pet’s life can be done only by the certified veterinarian, after taking all the measures to try to help your dog and only with your consent.

dog lying on sofa with blanket

What are the advantages of putting my dog to sleep at my home?

Going to a euthanasia procedure at the vet clinic after everything that your dog and you have been through can be devastating. That is why many owners choose to say goodbye to their pets at home. Some of the benefits of such arrangement include:
• You will avoid a public place in moments when all you need is privacy.
• If your dog is in a lot of pain, that last ride to the vet office can be a horrible experience for you and your pet.
• Your family and your other pets will have a chance to say their goodbyes.
• If your dog is generally scared of vet clinics, home euthanasia helps to spend their last moment in a safe and comfortable place.

How do I know if it is the right time to put my dog to sleep?

Unfortunately, our dogs can’t use words to share with us how they are feeling mentally and physically. Therefore, many pet owners turn to vets asking them to decide on euthanasia for them. Unless the dog is visibly in pain, the vet will not know what to make of the situation.
Eventually, it’s up to you to observe your dog and understand his quality of life. Here are some guidelines that might help you in making the right decision.

• Does your dog still have an appetite?
• Is it able to walk?
• Does it show a sign of pain, such as yelping?
• Are the medications you are giving it working?
• Does your vet think there is anything else that can be done for your dog?
• Do you have a feeling your dog is giving up?
• Is the dog avoiding its bed, and prefers to sleep on cold surfaces?
• Is your desire to have your dog by your side overshadowing its suffering?

Talk to your vet about these answers. He will help you in the decision making- process, having your dog’s best interest at heart.The death of a dog doesn’t affect only your family members, the other furry companions in your house will also notice its absence. There are a lot of dog owners who tell stories and claim that their other cat or dog knew that their friend was going to be put to sleep. While vets can’t confirm this, we do know that pets notice the absence of their friends and they miss them. It’s also worth mentioning that different pets may have different reactions to your dog’s euthanasia depending on their relationship. Siblings, for instance, get more upset than unrelated dogs.

How can I prepare for my dog's euthanasia?

As euthanasia is a planned procedure, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself and your pet for it. Here is a list of things you could do before putting your dog down:

1. Make sure you are well familiar with the process (and hopefully this article will help with that).

2. Ask your vet any questions you have so that there are no surprises.
3. Decide on whether or not you want to be present during the euthanasia, and discuss with your vet how you can be involved in the procedure to make it as compassionate as possible.
4. Talk to your children about euthanasia and explain the procedure.
5. Celebrate your dog’s last days. Whether it’s a trip to its favorite park or one last photoshoot, surround your dog with love, care and joy one last time.
6. Plan the post-euthanasia process whether it’s burying or cremation.
7. Create a support mechanism for you and your family. If you need, ask a friend to accompany you or make a plan for the day of euthanasia. Perhaps go out to dinner and make a toast for your beloved dog or hold a wake with family and friends.

Should I be present during my dog's euthanasia?

It is extremely painful even to think about the death of your loving pet, let alone witness it firsthand. The decision about leaving or staying is deeply personal, and whatever you decide it should come from a place of love and compassion you have for your dog.

woman holding dog's paw

Choosing to stay you will receive:

• A level of comfort, closure and acceptance of your dog’s passing. This will provide you with a healthy ground for the grieving process.
• The knowledge that your dog had a peaceful and painless departure surrounded by people it loved the most.
• The most important thing you will avoid is feeling regret for not being there for your pooch.

Some owners prefer to say goodbye before the euthanasia procedure takes place. Reasons include:

• The fear that being present will upset the animal.
• The fear of death itself.
• They don’t want the euthanasia process to become their last memory together.

Whatever you decide it is important to know that during your lifetime you will have multiple dogs – but for your dog, you are the most important figure in its life. So being there will mean a lot to it, and in the end, it will give you comfort knowing you have done everything possible to make your dog feel loved and special.

Should my children be present for my dog's euthanasia?

While veterinarians agree on the fact that children should not be present during euthanasia, it is entirely your decision. With the right approach, you can educate your child on what will happen before, during and after the process.
However, you need to consider:
• Is your child old enough to comprehend the concept of dog euthanasia?
• Did your child express a desire to attend the dog euthanasia?
• Will you be able to support your child in the right way during dog euthanasia?
If you answered with “Yes” to all three questions, your child is ready for an important lesson about the circle of life.

How do I explain to my children that my dog will be put to sleep?

The passing of a family dog is an unforgettable experience for children. As a parent, you need to make sure to turn that experience into one in which they learn about the acceptance of life and death and how to deal with grief effectively.

young girl kissing head of dog

Before you bring your child to say the last goodbye and witness the euthanasia procedure you need to consider their age, and ability to understand what is going on

• Children of 4 years and under cannot understand much about the concept of death; they should stay home so parents can be fully present for the pet’s passing.
• 5-year-olds can understand that their pet is sick, that it will not get better, and that the pet is not here anymore. Luckily, they can be easily distracted by other activities and toys. Once they see other family members crying, they can feel confused and sad, but as soon as they get back to their routine they will forget all about it.
• 6- and 7-year-olds may be able to understand almost everything that is going on, but they will not be able to come up with the right questions. Nevertheless, you need to provide them with the answers. At this point, you need to make sure your child knows what “dying” means. If you are religious, you can introduce the concept of the soul to your children. No matter how you decide to explain the idea of death, the child needs to know that the pet has died and that it will not be coming back.
• Children 8 and over are mature enough to grasp the fact that the pet is in pain, although they may not understand the disease process. They will want to know what happens next. Try to avoid saying things like “the dog will be put to sleep”, because some children are very literal. The best way to make them understand the situation is an honest explanation of euthanasia. Tell them that your loving dog is sick and can’t get better. Explain to them that because you all love it so much, you will not let it suffer, and that you are going to help it die with comfort and dignity.

Will my dog know it is being put to sleep?

Many pet owners say that their dogs “knew” exactly when they are going to be euthanized. They claim their pets acted differently that day, that they were more attentive to the owner, some pet owners go far as to say that their pets almost got better.

Veterinarians, however, disagree – claiming that these occurrences happen due to subjective views the owners might have, and due to endless rethinking about the euthanasia decision.

The day before the euthanasia procedure, owners pay much more attention to their dog as a way to say goodbye. As a result, the dog may feel the owner’s grief and reflect it.

On the other hand, dogs that are suffering have come to the terms that their end is approaching. They may appear much calmer. Even aggressive dogs willingly give their paw to the vet to insert a catheter. This change in behavior happens because of the condition of the dog, not because it knows it is being euthanized.

Is dog euthanasia painful?

Dog euthanasia can be an uncomfortable experience for the pet owner. However, it should not be painful for your dog. Vets call this procedure ‘’putting to sleep”. And while these words sound very comforting to the owners, there is a good reason why this term is used.
There is hardly any difference between a dog that is anesthetized and a dog that is sedated. A combination of drugs used during euthanasia is the same ones that are used during sedation. Once they are injected into the vein, within seconds awareness is gone and the animal falls into a state of unconsciousness. The only difference is that in the case of euthanasia, these medications are given in overdose amounts and your dog is not going to wake up afterward.
Your dog is clinically deceased within a couple of minutes of the the anesthesia solution being given. During this time there may be nerve and muscle twitching, vocalizations, urination, defecation, and open eyelids. It may be traumatic for a dog owner to see last breaths. As scary as that sounds, you need to know that your dog is unconscious and unaware of all of these actions. What is most important for you is to know is that the dog does not feel any pain.
Although the vast majority of dogs euthanasia procedures are calm and pain-free, there are certain situations where your pet’s last moments might not be perfectly peaceful. The following situations are very rare, but you should know about them and understand clearly why they happen.

  • Your dog is stressed before the injection

Many pets are agitated when they visit their vet. Even dogs that are heavily wounded or in terminal stages of diseases seem to pick up the smell when entering the vet clinic and make associations with previously uncomfortable situations. These animals suddenly start moving, howling and make it difficult for the vet to find a vein and give the solution. Once the veterinarian manages to give a shot, these pets fall into sleep peacefully. This behavior has nothing to do with the dog feeling pain during the procedure but rather what they associated with the vet clinic, like a person associates discomfort with their dentist. From that perspective, having a home visit vet may be a perfect solution to ensuring your dog has a calm and peaceful end.

  • Your pet is already in a lot of pain.

If your dog is suffering from a broken spine, heavy internal bleeding, osteosarcoma (malignant bone tumor) or multiple fractures, every movement can be very painful. So if your dog is vocalizing until the moment he gets the solution, it’s due to its condition, not the procedure.

What drugs are used for dog euthanasia in New Zealand?

Euthanasia is a procedure carried by licensed veterinarians with the use of a chemical substance known as a barbiturate solution. In New Zealand, this solution is known with the trade name Lethabarb® (Virbac).

How is the euthanasia drug administered?

The euthanasia solution is given intravenously, using the vein in the front or hind leg. The dog will feel the needle or catheter being inserted, but not the administration of the drug.
If your dog is in severe shock and veins are not accessible, the solution may be given into a jugular vein or directly into the heart. The solution in this case can irritate the tissues, and this can be painful. This is why vets in such situations need to sedate animal before giving a barbiturate solution. Sedation is also used in anxious dogs to make this experience less stressful.

How will my dog's euthanasia affect my other pets?

dog and cat snuggling on grass

The death of a dog doesn’t affect only your family members, the other furry companions in your house will also notice its absence. There are a lot of dog owners who tell stories and claim that their other cat or dog knew that their friend was going to be put to sleep. While vets can’t confirm this, we do know that pets notice the absence of their friends and they miss them. It’s also worth mentioning that different pets may have different

reactions to your dog’s euthanasia depending on their relationship. Siblings, for instance, get more upset than unrelated dogs.

You have the choice of having your other pets with you during the euthanasia or have them come over and say goodbye to the dog after the procedure. If you end up burying your dog, you can take your pets there and have them sniff around. Their sense of smell is strong and they may understand that their friend is there.

Your other pets may miss their friend and here are some signs to look out for:

● Lack of appetite
● Change in energy, with the other pets being passive and quiet
● Constantly roaming in the house as if they are looking for someone
● Keeping themselves away from people.

If you notice any of these in your pet’s behavior after recently having euthanized a dog, it means your pets are grieving too and you can help them. Here are some recommendations:

● Spend more time with them and organize new activities
● Play the games they love or give them their favorite treats
● Try to maintain a low level of stress when you’re around them. Pets can easily pick up on negative emotions
● If you don’t see any progress, contact your vet.

What happens during my dog's euthanasia?

The appointment for euthanasia is the most emotional appointment dog owners will have to make for their dogs. If it is a home visit vet, let your vet know in advance that a euthanasia is needed or may be needed. This will allow your vet to be prepared and organized and talk you through the process.
These are the steps your veterinarian is going to take during the euthanasia procedure:
1. Your veterinarian will want to insert an intravenous catheter in your dog’s leg, because this is the most effective way of administration the medication. Your dog will feel a very slight needle prick.
2. Once the needle (or a catheter) is inside the vein, your vet will start giving the pentobarbital solution that will cause the euthanasia. This solution can be thick and brightly colored (blue or pink) and will not cause any discomfort to your dog.
3. The euthanasia solution will rapidly travel throughout the dog’s body, causing unconsciousness within seconds. You will notice the dog’s breathing slowing down until it stops. A cardiac arrest (heart failure) will soon follow, which leads to clinical death. You might notice your dog has muscle twitching, urinating or last gasps after the administration of the euthanasia solution. It is important to note that your dog is completely unaware of these movements, and it does not feel any pain. Such movement are normal.
4. In some cases, it might be hard to find a vein due to low blood pressure, so your vet will consider injecting into your dog’s body or heart. If that happens, your vet will administer a sedative to your dog before injecting the actual euthanasia solution. This will make your dog relaxed and sleepy before the actual euthanasia takes place.
5. The vet will check the heartbeat of your dog. Once no heartbeat can be heard, the vet will confirm death and leave you alone with your dog .This is an emotional time and you are allowed to stay as long as you need.

What happens after my dog is put to sleep?

The are several options available after your dog’s euthanasia. You need to accept the option that you and your family will be at peace with.
• If you want your back yard to be a burial place for your dog, you need to check the rules in your local area. In New Zealand, many local councils have restrictions on burying animals on residential properties. If you choose to bury your dog in the nearby woods, it is best to use a closed container so that other animals cannot get to it.

metal in memoriam dog paw heart sitting on rocks

Burial should be considered after consultation with your vet because the euthanasia solution used is a concentrated anesthetic that can remain in your dog’s tissue for some time. That means that if wild animals or other pets dig around the burial site, they may get in contact with the solution, which can have a life threatening impact.

• The cremation of beloved pets is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. Many cities have a crematorium for beloved pets. At the end of the process, you can have ashes back if you wish.

• Your dog can be contributed to veterinary medicines. For some owners, it might be comforting to know that their dog is helping a new generation of veterinarians to expand their knowledge.

What emotional support should I have when my dog is being put to sleep?

After the passing of your beloved companion, you can feel a good deal of sadness and emptiness. While you grieve for your canine companion, have in mind the following.
• Grieving for your pet can last much longer than you initially anticipated. Once the initial denial phase is over, true grieving starts and it can last for months. This is normal as losing companionship is not easy, and it will take time to create a new daily routine that doesn’t include your furry friend.
• You are not alone in this. Many dog owners have a difficult time, and they unite on online forums to share their experience and their grief. Feel free to engage yourself in a group chat and share your pain.
• If you do not feel comfortable sharing your emotions with strangers, you can always reach out to your family and friends for support.
• Consider making an appointment with a therapist. A therapist can support and help you understand the grieving process better.
• Try to fill the void left by your pet with new and meaningful activities. You can start volunteering at a local animal shelter. Spending time with animals will make you feel happy and will prepare you for the moment when you will be ready for a new companion.

Should I get another dog after the euthanasia?

The decision to get a new dog is very personal, and it needs to be taken once you are truly ready for a new companion. Although there is no right answer to this question, there are some guidelines that can help you understand the right move for you.
• Take as much time as you need to grief over your dog. Getting a new dog just to fill the void can make you have unreasonable expectations or even negative feelings toward your new pet.
• Maybe you are ready for the new pet, but the rest of the family is not. The decision when to get a new pooch should be a group decision.
• Think about how a new addition can affect your remaining pets. Your remaining pets can be sad about losing their friend for quite some time, and bringing a new dog can cause disruption. Once your other pets’ appetite and mood are back to normal, you may consider bringing a new dog to your household.
• You need to be sure you are ready for all the responsibilities regarding having a new dog around the house. A new dog will need time to get to know to rules of the house, and to make a stable pack order with other pets.

Knowing of what to expect once you have decided to let your beloved companion go, will help deal with the fear and sadness that you might feel. Remember, the loving bond between you and your pet is not gone with his departure but lives on – thanks to the beautiful and cherished memories you had together.

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