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How Does Pet Euthanasia Work?

How does pet euthanasia work? What to expect? How do I prepare? How long does it take?

Pet euthanasia is a massive overdose of anesthesia. A tired, relaxing, falling asleep feeling is what your pet experiences. First, a calming sedative is given carefully under the skin with a tiny needle (it can be helpful to distract your pet with food during the sedation injection). Peaceful relaxation and full unconsciousness sets in over 5-15 minutes. Next, a vein injection is given. As the anesthesia overwhelms the brain and shuts it down, the breathing quickens and stops within 30 seconds, followed by the heart slowing and stopping over 1-3 minutes. Faster breathing is the primary change to expect. You may also see that the eyes remain slightly open, the skin may twitch, and the tongue may relax out a little. Occasionally, one to three sudden deep breaths occur. Home visits typically last 30-60 minutes.

Things to do ahead of time:

  • Set aside a large dry towel and a blanket or bed sheet that we can keep.
  • If your pet is still eating, set aside some extra-tasty food like lunchmeat (or even milk/tuna for cats) for hand-feeding during sedation. There are no food restrictions before or during our visit.
  • Consider lighting candles, playing relaxing music, laying out blankets and pillows, reading a poem or prayer.
  • Would a special location be appropriate: in the yard, at a park or meaningful beach?
  • Who wants to be there?
  • Do you want fur clippings or clay paw print?
  • Is there a special toy or blanket or drawing or letter or photo or flowers that can be sent with to be included in the cremation?