What is Euthanasia?

The decision every pet owner dreads having to make is when to euthanize a beloved pet. 

The word 'euthanasia' literally means a 'pleasant death', and reflects that euthanasia is a quick and painless method of putting an end to life. 

Euthanasia should be carried out by a qualified veterinarian, after careful debate and discussion with the owner to obtain consent. The physical process of euthanasia is not difficult or complex, and can be undertaken in the home or at the vet's office, depending on an owner's preference. 

However, this is an emotionally demanding decision and is not something that is ever done lightly. Euthanasia is a means to stop suffering and your veterinarian will take time to assess the patient and discuss whether it is appropriate or not. 

After euthanasia the dog may either be buried at home (local bylaws permitting), buried in a pet cemetery, or cremated by an animal crematorium. The latter usually have provision for individual cremations, so that the owner can have their pet's remains back to cherish at home. 

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Euthanasia Procedure in Dogs

It is helpful to separate decisions over whether or not to euthanize, from the actual event itself. This gives the owner time for reflection and a chance to ask questions that they might later regret not raising. It is also a chance to discuss what to do with the body after euthanasia, such as home burial, group cremation or individual cremation. 

Most clinics aim to book euthanasia appointments at a quiet time in the day, such as at the end of surgery. This enables the owner to take their time to say goodbye to a much loved companion.

For dogs that are agitated or anxious, the vet may first inject a mild sedative into the dog's rear end. This calms and relaxes the dog, making it possible to place an intravenous catheter in the front leg. 

A member of staff may cradle the dog and raise the vein for the vet, or the owner may hold the dog. The drug that stops the heart is a strong solution of sodium pentobarbitone. This is injected direct into the dog's circulation via a fine needle or an intravenous catheter. 

It takes seconds for the drug to take effect and the heart to stop. (It can take longer when the dog has poor circulation). After the dog has passed, it is not unusual for some reflex muscle twitching to make it seem as if the dog is breathing or trying to run. This is normal and happens after death, so should not be mistaken as the dog still being alive. 

Efficacy of Euthanasia in Dogs

Euthanasia is permanent and irreversible. 

Euthanasia Recovery in Dogs

It is important an owner understands that grief and feelings of desolation are entirely normally after a pet's passing. It is strongly advisable that you have a friend or family member accompany you, so that you don't drive home whilst upset. 

There is an added burden associated with euthanasia, because an owner can feel responsible for their pet's death and feel guilty. Hopefully, the decision was made with care and under the guidance of a veterinarian who explained all aspects of the dog's condition so that an informed decision was made. This goes a long way to assuaging feelings of guilt after the event. 

Cost of Euthanasia in Dogs

The cost of euthanasia varies depending on the weight and size of the dog. Other factors such as a home visit or individual cremation also have a part to play. 

Normal euthanasia at the clinic, followed by home burial can range in cost from $70 to $300. Euthanasia plus the price of a mass cremation at a pet crematorium puts these figures up to around $130 to $500. 

The cost of individual cremations depends on the individual cremation and the type of casket offered and is usually hundreds of dollars. 

Dog Euthanasia Considerations

Most owners are only too painfully aware of the irreversible nature of euthanasia. It is therefore essential that the decision to say goodbye is made for the right reasons, in possession of all the facts and options pertaining to the dog's health. 

By putting the dog's welfare squarely to the front of the decision making, hard as it is to say goodbye, this at least ensures the dog does not suffer unnecessarily out of a reluctance to part. 

Euthanasia Prevention in Dogs

In some cases, the decision to euthanize is made because an owner cannot afford expensive treatment or ongoing medical costs. This situation can be avoided if the owner has put the provision of pet health insurance in place. 

If you don't have pet insurance, another option for meeting unexpected medical costs is a loan from a company such as Vetary. This allows you to meet the costs upfront and spread the repayment costs into an achievable monthly amount.