While many dogs die of old age and can do so peacefully in the comfort of your own home without any medical intervention, others sadly become ill or injured in a way that means their quality of life is significantly impaired, without any hope of recovery.
In these instances, owners may have to make the stressful and upsetting decision to have their pet euthanised. If your dog is in pain and is suffering and your vet is unable to prescribe medication or perform surgery that would help make them better, euthanasia may be the best and kindest option for your pet.
When to put your dog to sleep
Knowing when it is the right time to put your dog to sleep can be difficult. The most sensible route is to take your dog to the vet to discuss your options. They will be best qualified to help you decide whether putting your dog down is the kindest thing you can do for them.
If you have noticed a change in your pet’s behaviour, if they are having trouble breathing, difficulty walking, seem unusually drowsy or are exhibiting any other signs of being in pain or ill, you should book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
Other signs to look out for include:
- Significant weight loss
- A loss of interest in food or drink
- A lack of interest in usual activities such as playing and going for a walk or treats and affection
- Falling and the inability to stand without help
The above indications could suggest that your dog may no longer be enjoying a good quality of life. If the vet cannot offer medical treatment to alleviate their symptoms, putting them down might be the best course of action with their welfare in mind.
What to expect when putting your dog down
When you have made the tough decision to have your dog put down, you should make sure that family members have time to say goodbye before your scheduled appointment. This can be a very upsetting time for all, particularly young children, so make sure they can have last cuddles and words with your dog and explain to them that this will end the animal’s pain and suffering.
You can choose whether to be there at the time that the euthanasia injection is given. This is a personal decision, and while some owners want to be there for their pets, others feel it would be too traumatic and overwhelming.
Your veterinarian should explain the procedure to you and make sure that you have time to ask any questions before starting the process. Small to medium dogs are usually placed on the table in the consultation room, while larger dogs may be more comfortable and easily handled if they remain on the floor.
Your vet will usually leave the room to obtain the correct medication, allowing you time to say your final goodbyes. When they re-enter, it is essential to give them enough space to enable them to handle your pet correctly. With their training and skill they can do this in a way that should prevent the animal becoming distressed, but they must have space to work. This may mean you are not able to hold your pet during the procedure itself, but will be able to stand somewhere your pet can see and hear you. After the injection is administered you will usually be able to hold your pet.
The way dogs are put to sleep is through the injection of an overdose of an anesthetic drug called sodium pentobarbital. It works by causing the animal to become unconscious and then the heart to stop. The veterinarian will inject the correct dose into a vein, usually in the front leg. This should not cause the animal any pain.
Dogs may be given an anaesthetic or sedative before the procedure in case they become stressed and unable to hold still. If a sedative is provided, this takes around 5-10 minutes to take effect, and your dog will become very drowsy or even unconscious. This will allow the vet to work quickly and efficiently to administer the euthanasia injection so that it will not cause distress.
How long does it take to put your dog to sleep?
Once the injection of sodium pentobarbital is given, it works extremely quickly, and the dog should become unconscious in just a few seconds. The heart usually stops beating a few minutes after this, sometimes more rapidly. The vet will confirm once your dog’s heart has stopped beating that they have passed away..
It is possible that your dog may continue to twitch, take intermittent breaths, and even release their bowels or pass urine after death has occurred. This is not unusual and is nothing to be alarmed by. After the process has taken place, your vet will usually ask if you would like a few minutes alone with your dog.
Options for your pet’s final send off
There are several options you can choose from when deciding what the final resting place for your dog should be. You may wish to consider these in advance with your family or your vet can talk through the options with you. Cremation is a popular choice, and you can choose whether you would like this to be handled by your veterinary practice or if you would like to arrange it yourself with a pet crematorium. You can find a map to help you locate local pet crematoria on our website here. You can choose to keep the ashes of your pet or you can have them scattered in a garden of remembrance at the pet crematorium. Another option is to have your dog buried at a pet cemetery, or you may prefer to have a grave for your pet at home, though it is wise to check first if there are any restrictions on this, depending on where you live.
At Petributes, we know what a difficult decision it can be to have your dog put down, but knowing that their suffering is at an end and that they are at peace should help to bring you some comfort. You know that you have done the very best you can for your beloved dog throughout their time with you and that is also true at the end of their life.
To help ensure your dog gets the send-off they deserve so you and your family can treasure their memory, we offer a range of options for scattering ashes, or stunning urns to hold the ashes of your pet close by. We also provide beautiful pet caskets for your dog’s final resting place and a range of memorials and keepsakes to remember them by. If you’d like more information or have any questions about our products, call our friendly, sympathetic team today.