Cover Image for What to Expect From Pet Euthanasia
Pet Euthanasia

What to Expect From Pet Euthanasia

Knowing not only if the pet euthanasia procedure may be necessary but what to expect when putting your dog down can help you make this difficult decision and understand how to handle the process.

Dr. Bethany Hsia

October 14, 2023

At some point or another, there will come a time when your pet reaches the end of its life. Hopefully, it is a good life, one full of joy and happiness. As a pet owner, the topic of pet euthanasia is never an easy one. 

Knowing not only if the procedure may be necessary but what to expect from pet euthanasia can help you make this difficult decision and understand how to handle the process.

What Is Pet Euthanasia?

The term euthanasia means "good death." That is precisely what trained professionals aim to provide – a means to prevent suffering and unnecessary pain at the time of death. Vets perform the procedure for several reasons. The most common are constant pain, terminal medical conditions, or poor quality of life.

Though the natural thought process may be to do whatever is necessary to extend the pet's life, it may not result in a good quality of life. It can become unbearable for the pet to live with illness or pain. That pain is felt not only by them but by their owners as well.

Pet euthanasia is a tool that can be used to bring a peaceful end to suffering or poor quality of life. It is considered an act of love, compassion, and even mercy.

How to Know When End of Life is Near

It is never an easy choice to put your pet down. No one wants to say their goodbyes too soon or too late, and there is never a "perfect" time to let go. That said, many factors impact your pet's quality of life. Ask yourself a few important questions:

● Is recovery possible?

● If so, is it financially feasible?

● What is their quality of life like?

● Are they able to move around, go to the bathroom, eat and drink?

● Do they have mostly good or bad days?

You can also take our pet quality of life assessment to make a more objective assessment of your pet's quality of life. 

How to Know When End of Life is Near

What to Expect From the Pet Euthanasia Process

In the lead-up to the actual event, emotions can run high. Knowing what to expect from the process of pet euthanasia can help you deal with difficult emotions.

For a long time, the term more commonly used was "putting a pet to sleep." That is because it is a very apt description of the process of pet euthanasia.

Working with an experienced and compassionate vet means that your pet will be given the gentle care it needs in its final hours.

The vet will start by administering a sedative, ensuring that your pet remains relaxed and calm. It is akin to getting a vaccine shot, so there is a chance that they may feel a prick. Within 5 to 15 minutes, they will be in a deep sleep. All suffering will stop.

When the sedative has taken effect, the vet will ensure that your pet has been fully sedated. It is after sedation that euthanasia takes place. Typically, it is a shot of anesthesia meant to slow the respiratory system. Eventually, it will stop completely, and the heart will stop beating. Generally speaking, the process takes no more than a minute.

You and your family can be present during the procedure if you wish.

Consider At-Home Pet Euthanasia

Most people don't know that in-home pet euthanasia is an option available for them and one of the most peaceful ways to ease the passing of beloved pets. There are many reasons why this makes sense, most of all the comfort of your pet.

If your pet gets nervous or scared when they go to the vet, the last thing you want to do is to leave them fearful in their final hours. In-home pet euthanasia ensures they remain calm and peaceful in their final moments.

For larger pets, like big dogs, getting them into the car and to the vet can be challenging. In cases when the pet has mobility issues, struggling to get them into a vehicle can cause them pain and put more stress on an already stressful situation.

In-home pet euthanasia is less stressful and allows your pet to spend its final moments in a familiar setting where it feels the most comfortable. 

Related content: How to Decide What's right for your pet?

When You Decide to Put Your Pet Down

Knowing that goodbye is coming is never easy. Many pet parents feel like they need to plan something special for their pet's final days.

Though you may be tempted to spoil them with treats, be careful of what you feed them and check with your vet if there are any dietary restrictions. Even if you mean well, you could make your pet sick.

Something like a park visit may not be physically possible in some cases. Enjoying a quiet day by the lake, a favorite chew toy, or spending time cuddling up can make the day special.

Most importantly, spend time with your pet. Make them feel loved and show how important they are to you. Pets love us unconditionally. The most special gift to them is time spent with their family.

What Comes After Pet Euthanasia

Where state and local regulations permit, pets may be buried. A pet cemetery is a great option for those wishing to have a gravesite to visit while entrusting the process and compliance to another party. Many others choose cremation, which will be done by a private cremation service.

There are two cremation options: communal and individual.

Communal cremation. In a communal cremation, your pet's body is cremated alongside the bodies of other pets. After the cremation process, ashes are generally scattered in a communal garden. 

Individual cremation. Individual cremation allows for the possibility of having those ashes returned to you. Many pet owners choose to spread them in a favorite spot, while others have small pieces of jewelry made with a bit of ash. There are caskets, scatter boxes, urns, and other tokens of remembrance in which the ashes can be stored. 

Final Thoughts on Pet Euthanasia

Pets have become extensions of our families. Saying goodbye to them is never easy. Take your time to process this decision and know that you are not alone. Many resources and professionals are available to help you through this challenging journey.

You can contact us here for a phone consult if you need help with your decision or schedule an in-home appointment with a CodaPet vet when you're ready.


Dr. Bethany graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After graduation, she moved west. Dr. Bethany spent a year at a small animal exclusive practice in Washington state, where she was first introduced to in-home euthanasia.  Read More

Take Our Quality-Of-Life Questionnaire