Can Dogs Feel Euthanasia?

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Introduction

Once a pup becomes a member of the family, it becomes hard to imagine a life that is dog-less. We all dread the day that we will have to lose our pup. Unfortunately, that day inevitably does come. Understanding that us pet owners will ultimately face our pet's mortality isn't an easy task. As we all wish our dogs will leave planet earth in a painless fashion, it is helpful to understand how the euthanasia process works. 

Signs Your Dog Can't Feel Euthanasia

It is important to understand that throughout the process, it is normal for some natural reflexes to occur. Most veterinarians will explain this. Ultimately remember, a reflex is not a sign of pain. To the untrained eye, a reflex may appear as proof that the pet is suffering. 

In actuality, these reflexes are unconscious, involuntary responses. As loving pet owners, we often humanize things rather than interpreting experiences in a scientific manner. Veterinarians are trained to make these experiences as painless and peaceful as possible.

Realize that your dog may react to the sedative that is given before the euthanasia. Their eyes may start to jitter as they become very dizzy. Generally, they need to lay down or they will lose their balance.

After that final needle is given, you may notice your dog's breathing changes. They may begin to slow down, until finally, they draw their last breath. This is because it takes some time for the injection to work its way through your dog's circulatory system - especially if your dog is large.

After the fact, your dog may release anything that was in their digestive tract. This is natural, as the muscles no longer hold these functions inside.


Body Language

Some body language seen during and after euthanasia may include:
  • Weakness
  • Raspy panting
  • Twitching whiskers
  • Sleepiness

Other Signs

Other signs may include:
  • Slowed breathing
  • Eyes closing
  • Other normal body reflexes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Release of bodily waste

The History Behind Euthanasia

Veterinarian Paige Garnett has explained that the term "euthanasia" derives from the Greek terms "eu" meaning "good" and "thanatos" meaning "death." The goal is to ultimately cause a death that is without pain or distress.

Dogs will always remain an important part of our lives. Even in ancient Egypt, dogs and cats were the favorites. Researchers have seen that dogs were regularly buried with their masters as a sign of deep love and gratitude for man's best friend. To ancient Egyptians, the love between a dog and its master extended far beyond the human, mortal life. 

Nowadays, owners sometimes face a difficult dilemma when a pet has a terminal disease or injury. The decision, made with the help of a veterinarian, is made from a medical standpoint to be in the best interest of the animal. This is done by looking at the animal’s quality of life and ability to avoid suffering.

The Science Behind Euthanasia

The euthanasia solutions are only available to licensed veterinarians. Veterinarians must own a special certificate in order to purchase the solution.Most euthanasia solutions include a combination of chemicals intending to quickly, peacefully, and painlessly put a dog to sleep. 

The veterinarian should explain the whole process prior to the drug administration. Most veterinarians will give a sedative before administering the euthanasia drug. The sedative will relax the pet and sometimes cause unconsciousness before the euthanasia solution is administered. 

The euthanasia solution most veterinarians use is called pentobarbital. Once injected into the vein, the drug slows the central nervous system, removing awareness and creating a state of unconsciousness similar to that of anesthesia. In this state of deep anesthesia, heart and brain functions usually cease within one or two minutes. 

Generally, the appointment will last 10-20 seconds. The Humane Society of the United States has explained that "after 5 seconds, the pet is unconscious, within 10 seconds the pet is in deep anesthesia, within 20 seconds the pet stops breathing, within 40 seconds the heart has stopped circulating blood" and lastly, within 2 minutes the pet has passed on.

Making the Experience More Comfortable

There are ways us owners can make this experience more bearable:

  • Administer the Experience at Home

Some dogs get distressed just knowing that they are headed to the kennel or the vet's office. Dogs may have unpleasant memories being left while their owners are away or simply having been handled by strangers. Administering euthanasia at home may be a better option for pets who dislike the vet's office. 

  • Ask the Veterinarian for an IV Catheter

An IV catheter can have two main advantages: 1) it keeps the dog from having to be repeatedly stuck with needles, 2) it ensures all of the euthanasia solution goes into the vein.

It is possible that some dogs hate having IV catheters placed. If this is the case, veterinarians will compromise by first giving the sedative and then placing the IV catheter.

  • Ask the Veterinarian for Anesthetics

Anesthetics can be preferred to sedatives because they make the pet completely unconscious and may reduce the chances of involuntary reflexes that scare owners. 

  • Be as Prepared as Possible

Veterinarians should take the time to explain the euthanasia process. Even so, acknowledging what happens and understanding that things may go wrong is helpful. The passing of our pets is never easy, but it's far better to avoid prolonged suffering. Our dogs will be eternally thankful for this last gift of unconditional love.

Reacting to the Inevitable:

  • Remember that it is your personal choice whether to be present when the vet administers euthanasia.
  • There are no "euthanasia guidelines" to follow, so when this hard time comes, just act like you.
  • Make time to say goodbye.