What is the euthanasia procedure for dogs and cats?

Health care questions and answers about puppies and dogs

Learn About Pet Euthanasia 
All about euthanasia for pet dogs and cats

Have you ever missed someone or something so badly that you felt like there was a big empty space in your heart? And did it feel like there was a hot poker in your stomach all day long no matter what you were doing?  Did you ever think you heard the missing one you loved and even looked that way just in case?  Have you discovered that the only moment of relief occurs in the fleeting first three seconds after you awake in the morning? 
That's how it feels to someone who's lost a cherished pet.  
It is a very lonely anguish; it is a private and personal ordeal.

Health care questions and answers about cats and kittens

View all topics

If your pet is sick, call your local veterinarian immediately!

View all topics
OK... I've never had to go through this before and I am not real comfortable asking the vet about all the silly or emotional parts of it.  
     I have to put my little Corky to sleep because he has bone cancer and has started to withdraw from me.  I know it is time.  I just don't know what I am supposed to do or how the doctor actually does the euthanasia in pets.
     Do I, or should I, just drop Corky off and drive away?  I don't know if I can do that.  Can you just give me a few ideas about what goes on during the euthanasia visit and what I am supposed to do?
     Corky and I thank you for any help you can give us.


Improving human health through service and therapy animals
 is the motto of
 The Delta Society.  
They have a great organization 
and a long history of compassion
 for humans and animals.

And from their site you can access
 these support links...

American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org
Look under Care for Pets.

Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine (www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu)

Cornell University
Pet Loss Support Line



Grief Healing


Pet Grief Support and
Post a Tribute To Your Dog


Visit the
International Association Of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories. 
There may be one located near you. 

Answer:    pet euthanasia...  about...  what is...
As loving pet owners we face few more traumatic events in our lives than having to say our last Good-by to a beautiful pet, one that has truly shared its unique life with us.  No less is the grief and separation frustration felt by owners of all sorts of pets from reptiles to birds to bunnies.  Animals in our care innocently ask no more from us than loyalty, safety and companionship.  In return we experience a connection with our pet that is personal, unique and often critical to our own sense of wholeness.
     And then one day they are gone forever.

     There are times when we must intervene on their behalf so that they do not suffer from worldly pain, debility or cognitive confusion.  This intervention might entail medical or surgical care; it might involve sacrificing our finances and time; and in the end, it might dictate we gently and lovingly end their broken physical lives so that they do not suffer simply because we struggle with accepting their mortality.

     To help you envision the usual sequence of events of that final day the following information should prepare you as well as you can be for the euthanasia protocol.  The descriptions are general in that each veterinarian or clinic may not have exactly the same approach, but at least you'll have some comfort in understanding the process.


What to do before the appointment...
Pet euthanasia procedures 
Make provisions to have someone drive you to and from the clinic.

Pet euthanasia procedures  If your dog or cat becomes nervous or agitated by a car ride or when at the clinic, ask the doctor about giving your pet a tranquilizer at home prior to the appointment time.

Pet euthanasia procedures  If possible, set the appointment for a time when you have the remainder of the day off.  It will seem like a long day.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Well ahead of the appointment discuss with the clinic whether or not you wish to be with your pet at the time of the euthanasia injection.  This is an entirely personal decision and no one should tell you what you should do. 
     Be aware, though, that after a number of months go by some people regret they didn't stand by their pet in those last moments and are haunted by guilt by their choice.  Others simply do not want to experience the pet leaving this life.  It is your decision and should be respected by everyone.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Make the decision about what will be the final disposition of your pet after the euthanasia. You may wish to take the pet home for burial or have cremation or burial done at a pet cemetery.  Some pet cremation services will pick up the pet, take it to the veterinarian's office for euthanasia, and bring it back to you or bring it to the pet cemetery facility.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Schedule the appointment at a time when the veterinarian's office will not be busy.  It is not comfortable having to spend time in a waiting room full of activity when you have such an important matter awaiting.

Pet euthanasia procedures  If your pet predictably becomes anxious or fearful while at the veterinarian's office, ask about getting a tranquilizer for your pet.  A small tablet given in your home in a treat a few hours prior to the appointment help make the event easier for everyone.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Pay your bill, get your receipt and sign any papers even before the day of your appointment.  At least take care of the office work before the euthanasia procedure because you may not care to linger for long once your pet has passed from this life.

The euthanasia procedure...

Pet euthanasia procedures  Your pet should be calm and comfortable.  If the pet is anxious or afraid and does not want to be gently held, be sure to ask the doctor to administer a tranquilizer. 

Pet euthanasia procedures  The pet is gently held by the veterinary assistant, and you can be right there, too.  The doctor needs to place the needle into a vein to properly administer the euthanasia solution. 

Pet euthanasia procedures  In most cases as the solution is administered it takes about five to ten seconds for the pet to appear to fall asleep.  The breathing stops because the euthanasia solution inhibits nerve transmission thereby ending sensation, thought, and voluntary muscle contractions. 

Pet euthanasia procedures  Many people want to spend some private time alone in the room after the procedure.  Take this time if you need to.  Be aware, though, that sometimes even after the pet has passed away there may be involuntary or independent muscle contractions.  If you see this kind of movement it can be unsettling if you aren't prepared for it.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Many people want to keep the pet's collar or harness and even a lock of fur.  Be sure to do that now if you haven't done so already.

There are numerous facilities
 offering various services to help
 you and your pet get through this
 very difficult time.

pets we love and protect

Perhaps we love them too much


the bond between pets and people is very strong

Pets and children... 
like peas in a pod



A stop at Starbucks on 5th Ave, Naples, FL

Just being themselves 
gives us such joy!


...and it goes by too fast
When is the right time
 to consider euthanasia?  
That answer is below

Center For The Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University has an excellent resource regarding how we humans and animals interact in a sense of caring and companionship.

Click on an image to view a larger version in a new window

Growing old isn't easy Trust Sometimes we can fix problems and sometimes we can't Injuries can change the quality of life for pets
True friends just want
to be near us
Thousands of homeless pets reach out to us for a safe place to live and be loved. Sometimes we discover disorders we cannot cure or correct.  Accidents and injuries can create
 life long problems.
This cat is recovering from surgery Pet health care priorities will play a role in this kitten's lifespan Unfortunately some pets can be a danger to humans and other pets Pets can become disoriented and wander aimlessly
A sick cat simply wants
 peace and solitude.
Life expectancy, indoors, is
 about 16 to 22 years.
It is sad but true... 
some dogs and cats can be a source of danger for other pets and people.
Cognitive dysfunction, similar to human senility, can afflict older pets, and they often wander aimlessly about the house.
A little pup is just beginning its life journey! ...and some are near the end. An intravenous injection in a dog euthanasia of a pet (staged)
Life expectancy with good care...
about 16 to 18 years.
Quality of life... that is a main concern for most pet owners.  This is usually where the needle is inserted in a vein... similar to how  the techs are  taking a blood sample. This dog is getting a routine
intravenous injection of anesthesia
prior to surgery.

How will I know when it is the right time to put my 19 year old "Allie Cat" to sleep?  She's been such a faithful friend all these years and I don't want to cheat her out of a single day.


another stray cat
Tens of thousands of stray and
 abandoned cats and dogs are
euthanized every year because
 we humans somehow have let
them slip through our care.

veterinary stethescope
Your veterinarian will listen to your
concerns and make recommendations
about the euthanasia topic.


This is not time to think of pet euthanasia
Creating a bond that
 lasts a lifetime

This little rascal should live nearly 20 years
Sometimes we need them 
more than they need us.

Answer:  pet euthanasia... know when... how to...
This decision is always highly personal.  Family and friends may have different views when to assist a pet friend in passing away.  There are several good objective hints that can help you decide. Under special circumstances there is no doubt we need to intercede on the pet's behalf such in cases of severe or irreparable injury, incurable disease, or chronic and worsening pain.  
     The points mentioned below can be considered in relation to their degree of severity...
Pet euthanasia procedures  Forget about "age"; it doesn't matter.  What matters is the quality of life of the pet.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Is your pet having more good days than bad days?  Keep track... at the end of each day ask yourself if she had a reasonably good day. 

Pet euthanasia procedures  Is your pet slipping mentally?  Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is common in older pets and is revealed by the pet's confusion about its surroundings, loss of bowel and bladder control, and disinterest in or awareness of nearby surroundings and activities.  

Pet euthanasia procedures  Assessing the pet's self dignity and hygiene are important factors.

Pet euthanasia procedures  This parameter is seldom discussed but it is very important and reasonable for you to consider... How is the pet's quality of life impacting your quality of life?  Do you have to clean up waste deposited randomly around the house?  Are your sleep and daily routines continually disrupted so you can make your pet more comfortable?  Is your interaction with friends and family or work suffering because of your attention to your pet?  You have a right, and should consider, your needs in the decision making process.

As you ponder these guidelines the proper 
time to accept euthanasia will be more clear.  


After the final day...
Pet euthanasia procedures 
For several days to weeks after your pet has gone it is common to think you hear or even catch a fleeting glimpse of your pet.  Everyone develops their own way of getting accustomed to the big changes in your life now that the pet has departed.

Pet euthanasia procedures  Do talk to people about what has occurred and expect to feel that lonely emptiness for a while. 

Pet euthanasia procedures  Well meaning friends may seem uncaring when you hear advice such as "Well, just go get another one and you'll feel better", or "Don't run out and get another one right away". 

Pet euthanasia procedures  Only you will know when the time is right to get another pet.  And sometimes that pet will find a way to find you.  (While getting around the loss of two of my own dogs I drew relief in my commitment to  a "no more dogs" philosophy.  It just hurt too much to miss them when their short lives were through.  One day, totally unexpectedly, a tiny brown puppy found me.  She's curled up under my elbow as I type this message to you.  She makes me laugh every day!)

Pet euthanasia procedures  Your private grief can't really be felt by anyone other than you.  Don't fight it and don't despair that it is taking "too long to get over this".  In fact, we never do get over it so don't even try.  But we can get around it!  We can numb the pain as we continue our daily patterns and still reflect on our good fortune to have had an unforgettable pet brighten our lives.

Pet euthanasia procedures  If the loss and grief seem too much, you owe it to your deceased pet to get yourself some help just as your actions helped ease your pet's pain.  There are many grief counselors skilled in managing the process of healing.  Make the call... if not for yourself, at least to honor your pet.

View all topics

Animal Hospital Scenes

Pet care workers become attached to their patients

The clinic staff develops a strong connection to many of the pets
they care for at work.


Euthanasia solution is government regulated and licensed for veterinary use only
The euthanasia solution is specially prepared chemicals that shut off nerve transmission.  Therefore, the pet feels no sensation of pain or discomfort.  Brain function ceases and the pet
appears to simply fall asleep.


I love you...
Sonny B. Bunzafur, Jr. 
with his "mom".  He brightened
our days... and nights... with his
boundless enthusiasm for
every second of life. 


orphaned kittens and puppies need lots of volunteer care
For many pet owners volunteering at
a local animal shelter or rescue
service plays a huge roll in
 recovering from the loss of a pet

From training sessions to bird feed to dog and cat supplies to pocket pets...

ID tags and thousands of other pet supplies including pet foods!
Amazing Amazon
1-800-PetMeds Pet Supplies Free Shipping $49
Huge selection of prescription and non-prescription medications for your pets

Tell your friends about this site!

This site including all images are copyright of T J Dunn, DVM.
You may copy only the text of questions and answers for your own non-commercial use. 
Images can be requested or purchased through VeterinaryMedicalImages.com.

View all topics


Thank you, Annie

     Many people who have had to put a cherished  pet to sleep, even after thorough soul-searching and careful consideration of the reasons and timing, have had second thoughts about having their pet euthanized.  It is very common to be plagued by remorse, doubt, and guilt about the decision to go ahead with the euthanasia process.  Please remember no amount of preparation will be enough to prevent those yearnings to have your special friend back with you again.  You may wish you could undo what you have so carefully considered to be the correct course of action.  In some cases, the self-doubt can become overwhelming... and even advance to obsession.

Annie... during her healthy years.

     If you get to feeling this way, read Annie's letter to her human family.  It was written by a thoughtful and caring husband and father who witnessed family members suffering from self doubt... suffering from the "Did we do the right thing" syndrome even after long and sincere consideration of Annie's difficulties, discomfort and loss of dignity.  The decision to terminate a loved pet's suffering and discomfort is never easy, but Annie speaks to all of us who have wrestled with self-doubt about our human responsibility to ease a gentle friend's discomfort and disabilities.  Annie really has some happy words for all of us; we should thank her for freeing us from our chains of self-doubt and guilt.   Thanks, Annie.

by E. Paul Dunn

Read a husband's letter to his wife on behalf of their dog Annie.

Dear Susan,

    I just want you to know how happy I am to be in doggy heaven. It is great up here! My legs work fine, and I Dear Susan...only go to the bathroom outdoors, just like I used to, before I got real old.  Also, I can hear again! The other barking dogs here are all very friendly, and once in a while I even bark back at them. It feels real good to bark again.

     The views are spectacular. I can see all of Winnetka, Deephaven, Tonka Bay, Bloomington, and all points in between. I can see the work going on in our back yard... it is shaping up and will stay beautiful now. At the end of my time there, I could not see the yard or anything very clearly.  My mind is inquisitive again, too. I am sticking my nose in to all the new nooks and crannies here. Exploring used to be a big part of my life.  Remember me tugging you in all directions on our walks, except for the last year or so.  And I like being real mobile, nimble on all four feet, again.  I want to thank the whole family for taking care of me for 15 great years (well, really, 14 great years---my last year of real advanced age was not so great, for me at least).        

    You may think you rescued me years ago after I was abandoned, but that is not quite right. You see, I selected you guys, not the other way around, because I knew you were a great family that would take really good care of me!  And did you ever take really good care of me!!   Really, really good as you would say. Especially you, Susan. You were the one who usually put my food in my bowl, took care of my water, too. That is all I ever really needed. And you kept the bowls clean, because you knew that was important to me. You were my very best special friend. Thanks.

    You took me to the vet for my check ups, and had me fixed when my spleen went bad on me. Remember when my ear filled up?  You nursed me through that too. Even though you laughed at me, you knew how stupid I felt walking around with that lamp shade device on my head and you were able to comfort me through that difficult time. By the way, would you please throw out all the photos of me bumping into walls and chairs with that stupid thing on my head... it just is not in keeping with my lady-like personality!

    The affection shown to me by Maggie and Katie was awesome. I felt like their sister, except I liked them so much I could never fight with them like some sisters do sometimes. I just tried to return their affection to thank them for cuddling with me on the floor and petting me so gently and stuff like that. I know they loved me so much, even when I got old and even though I could not show them the attention the way I did when I was younger and full of it, like I am again now.

    But you, Susan, meant the most to me because you did the most for me and we spent the most time together. You really favored me with so much care and love for 15 years. I know I was helpful to you when it was just the two of us at the end of our time in Minnesota, and how glad I am for that---just to be able to repay you a little bit for all that you did for me. How many piles of my poop did you pick up? How many thousands of times did you open or close a door to let me in or out?  How many bazillion  hairs did you sweep up? How many hours did you spend vacuuming?  Thank you so, so, so much. (Regarding the poop, I apologize for my little problem in cars---and boats---but I just got so excited that, well... you know.)

     All the comforts a dog could dream of...There is NO way I could possibly thank you enough for the help and joy you gave to me during our 15 years together. I was sorry I had to go when I did, but I was so old. I did not want to be boarded any more. I had zero energy for that, or any other activity either! It was definitely time. Like Uncle T. said, I was having way more bad days than good,  many more bad hours than good hours. I really was not happy at the end, and now I am happy again.  Remember me with a smile on your face because that is the way I remember you and Maggie and Katie and Paul. I have a big smile on my face now. My ears are sometimes floppy and sometimes (as you would always say) "precious".  I get hamburgers any time I want. My head is way out the window when I go riding around with my furry pals. There are no fences or leashes here. I go for walks often.  Life is great again! It really was time for me to go, and I thank you for your help in making it dignified and easy.

     I love you, Susan, and Maggie and Katie and Paul, and always will.


    P. S. I really liked being a girl, in a house with three other girls. It was especially fun when we ganged up on  Paul. Ha!