The bond between a pet and its owner is like no other; often, this relationship is closely compared to that of a parent and a child. No matter how the relationship is described, it is common for a pet to feel like part of your family, and losing a family member is never easy.
Pet loss can be even more difficult when you as the owner have to play a part in its death. Deciding whether or not to euthanize a pet is a difficult decision and requires a lot of thinking and planning beforehand; this is not a choice you want to make in haste because it will change your life and the lives of those around you.
We understand how hard this time is, and so we have included everything there is to know about how to make the right decision for your pet. This article will help you learn and understand pet euthanasia.
Similar to humans, pet euthanasia is the process of intentionally ending the life of an animal to alleviate its pain and suffering. It is often known as “putting down” an animal or “putting them to sleep” and the Greek origin of the word “euthanasia” translates to “good death” (Arin Greenwood). The process is a humane way to stop extreme suffering for the animal.
Euthanizing a pet typically consists of two intravenous injections. Since we love our pets so much and see them in a similar light to the people in our lives that we care for, we do not want our pets to feel pain; because of this, the vet usually gives the pet a sedative as the first injection.
The second shot is most commonly an anesthetic called pentobarbital that causes the slowing and eventually stopping of the animal’s heart (Arin Greenwood). The process mimics the act of a pet falling asleep; it is painless and quite peaceful for the pet and sometimes the owner as well.
The cost of euthanizing a pet has different price ranges based on the resources, efforts, and time that comes with the option you choose. The two options you have as a pet owner are to bring your pet into your vet clinic or to request that members of the vet clinic come to your house and do the procedure there.
If you decide to bring your pet to the vet clinic to be euthanized, your procedure will be less expensive than if you ask them to come to you. You may decide to do this option then due to financial reasons. You also may believe that it will be too difficult to lose your pet at home, and perhaps it will be harder to let go of the painful memory.
Whatever the reason is that you decide to bring your pet to the vet, the cost of euthanizing it will often be between $50 and $100, depending on your clinic. After your pet has been euthanized, there may be extra charges regarding cremation or memorial requests that you have.
To have the vet and staff come to your home to euthanize your pet will be more expensive. The exact price will depend on how far you live from the clinic. The cost typically ranges from $150 to $300 but is subject to change depending on the specific request.
Although the home is usually where the animal is most comfortable, which is why families tend to choose this as a place to live out its final days, it is also possible to arrange the procedure at a special place like a park or beach if that is where you believe your pet will be happiest. Sometimes if the animal is in pain or in weak conditions, it can be difficult to move them or travel with them, so the home may be the best option.
After your pet has been euthanized, the vet will give you and other family members a moment to be alone with your pet. You can take as much or as little time as you need. Once you have finished saying your goodbyes, the vet will often go through the options with you as to how to move forward with your pet. After everything is arranged, your vet will usually send you a letter of condolences for your loss.
If you and your family have decided that you wish to bury your pet, the vet will place your pet in a blanket or box relative to the size of your pet. They can also sometimes arrange for burial through their clinic if they have a pet cemetery.
You can usually purchase grave markers from your vet clinic. If you choose to bury the pet on your own, make sure you are familiar with local laws and policies so that your pet can be laid to rest peacefully.
The vet can arrange with a pet crematorium to come and pick up your pet if you wish for your pet to be cremated. When the cremation has taken place, the vet will contact you and arrange for you to go pick up the ashes; these will typically be in some sort of box or container for you. You can request for the vet to take a nose or paw print of your pet or save a piece of hair for you to take with you. You then receive a letter of death and cremation of your pet.
We have many beautiful options for pet cremation urns on our website that can store and protect your lost pet. You want something special and something that can be personalized to cherish your pet forever.
Read our helpful guide on choosing a small pet urn for ashes.
Now that your pet is at peace and is either ready to be buried or placed somewhere special in your home, it is time to settle on its new forever home. If there was a particular place in your yard that your pet loved, consider burying them there. Maybe your pet did not like the heat, so find a shaded area where you can bury them.
If your pet is in a cremation urn, consider keeping them in a gathering place in your home so you can still feel the pet’s presence when you are all together. A favorite room or area of your home is another great place to put your pet, or a memorial area if you have other keepsakes to arrange as well. Whatever you decide, make sure it speaks to what you and your pet would want and that it is somewhere you can be reminded of your love for them.
If you are unsure as to what to do with your pet's ashes, consider reading our article that provides great ways to cherish your pet.
As difficult and confusing a time as this is for you, it is just as emotional for your children. Children and pets often create an inseparable bond with each other and the idea of this being severed is devastating. It can also be increasingly hard for children when they do not understand what is happening with their pets. It is important that you try your best to minimize your child’s suffering and maximize their knowledge about the situation so that they do not feel lost or overwhelmed.
Although sugar-coating the circumstances or omitting undesirable aspects of animal euthanasian seems like the easier way forward or the method that will safeguard your child from sadness, the best way to help your child through this process is by being open and honest.
Ensure that they know that their pet is not going to be returning to them so that they do not have false hope. You can explain to them that the vet and other workers help to make sure that the pet is happy up to its last moments.
Explain to them that their pet is somewhere else now and that they will not see each other anymore. When a child is older, they can better understand certain medical procedures or vocabulary and they may have a deeper notion of death.
Do not overwhelm your young child with information they do not understand, but also avoid keeping valuable knowledge or an accurate explanation from an older child who can comprehend the gravity of the situation.
Depending on the age of your child, the way you handle this situation will vary. Make sure that your explanation of their pet loss is age-appropriate. If your child is younger, consider reading a story about losing a pet or watching a cartoon that deals with death.
No matter the child’s age, dealing with a pet loss is hard, and trying to understand something as complex as death can be tricky. Be gentle and compassionate when dealing with them; it can be difficult when you are undergoing your own pain from losing a pet but try your best to be understanding and tolerant of their emotions and questions.
Right now, your child wants comfort and kindness to get through this sad time.
You may not want to think about it, but there comes a time when pet owners must evaluate their pet and the life it leads and determine what is best, and it is not always easy knowing when to euthanize a pet. It is natural for the quality of life to diminish slightly with age; however, if your pet’s quality of life becomes significantly low, it may be time to consider euthanasia. Sometimes owners will keep track of the good days and bad days their pet has over a certain period of time, usually a week, and if the bad days exceed the good ones, putting them down may be the best decision.
If you have decided that euthanasia is the right choice for your pet, make sure you understand what it entails and also be prepared to help others through this difficult time.
When a pet becomes terminally ill or has an injury that is detrimental and has little to no hope of recovering, euthanasia can be the right choice. The pet ends up undergoing more suffering with low odds of becoming better or improving its quality of life. As helpless and conflicted as you may feel as an owner, sometimes the most humane thing for your pet is for you to say goodbye.
In some cases, a pet may be old and sick, but their pain can be managed with medication; if this is not the case for your animal, consider putting it down. You love your animal, and you do not want to see it in pain for the remainder of its days. With euthanasia, you can relieve its suffering and offer it a pain-free and peaceful death with its family by its side.
In old age, mobility decreases naturally, and if you find yourself having t help your pet stand or jump sometimes, that can be completely normal. That being said, if your pet lacks most of its mobility and cannot stand or walk on its own, this may be a sign that its quality of life has diminished greatly.
Your pet wants to follow you around and play and hop into bed with you at the end of the night, and when it can no longer do those things, or it hurts itself trying to do what it once could, this could be the time to consider putting it down.
Similar to lack of mobility, if your pet is having abnormal eating and drinking habits, pay close attention to how they are doing. If your pet no longer eats or drinks, or cannot digest properly, this could be a sign that they are nearing the end of their days.
They could be in pain or their body may not be functioning appropriately. Take your pet to the vet and determine if there is a problem that can be fixed, but if it is just a symptom of growing old, consider your options for ending their suffering.
We examine some alternatives to pet euthanasia later, and one way to see if euthanasia is the right choice for you and your pet is if it seems like the only suitable option. Euthanasia has been the preferred method of eliminating an animal companion’s pain when its life has become limited (Dickinson and Hoffmann).
As we mentioned earlier, if there is no hope of your pet’s pain easing or disappearing in their lifetime, or if their quality of life has decreased so intensely, the most compassionate thing to do is give them a peaceful way to say goodbye.
Euthanasia is not the only option for you when your pet becomes old or sick. It is the most commonly known and the most frequently chosen method, however, there are different types of care that can lead a pet up to its final days and try to make them as pleasant as possible. When speaking to a vet about options for your pet, it is important that alternatives are discussed such as mobile veterinary visits, hospice, and in-home treatment; these should be thoroughly explained, and clients' expectations should be managed (Heuberger et al.).
Palliative and hospice care are other routes that owners may take when their pet is approaching the end of their life. It typically entails medication as well as nonmedical remedies or procedures. There are also usually accommodations that must be made for mobility in the home such as making food and water bowls higher, making sure floors prevent skidding, and blocking off stairs.
Overall, these types of care are meant to allow the animal to live as comfortably and as dignified in their final days as they can; the animal does not have to be ill to receive palliative or hospice care, but if it does have an illness it should be treated so as to relieve their pain and provide comfort (Dickinson and Hoffmann). 10 Things You Should Know About Hospice Care - Check our complete guide.
Pain control cannot truly be separated as an alternative option to euthanasia because pain control or relief is the ultimate goal for any of these methods. Any type of end-of-life care is typically geared toward pain management in an attempt to improve the quality of life of an aging pet (Heuberger et al.). Pain management could include medication, massages, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and so on. Whatever way an owner or vet can ease the pain of a sick or aging animal will increase their quality of life and hopefully improve their time as they approach the end of their life.
Unfortunately, many owners who are interested in pain management techniques are not aware of how costly long-term treatment can become (Heuberger et al.). We all want to have our pet around as long as we can, but we need to ensure that the care is feasible and that it is effective in helping the pet.
When you know it is time to say goodbye, it is important for both your sake and your pet, that you try to make their last days special. You want to remember an end of life that was full of love and memories, and your pet will appreciate you pampering them in their suffering and showing how much you care. They are struggling, so having time with you and feeling your love to its fullest extent can make their last days some of their happiest.
One of the best and easiest ways you can make the most of your pet’s final days is to do the things that they loved most. Their abilities may be limited, but try to accommodate them or do something that they can fully participate in. Maybe take them to their favorite park or take them around your own yard.
If they had a particular toy or game they loved, try to get them engaged with it. Give them extra belly rubs or scratches. Take them for a car ride. Whatever it was that your pet loved when they were young or healthy, give them a last chance to enjoy it.
If your pet is still able to eat and joy their food, consider making them a special meal—maybe one that they were not allowed to have before. You could give them a few extra treats, or you could even go out and buy a special treat made at a pet store or pet bakery. This could be something special to show your love for your pet.
At this point in your pet’s life, sometimes all they want is your affection. Spend more time cuddling and petting them. They may also be in physical pain and your touch may soothe them or help them sleep.
Through your warmth, your pet can feel the love you have for them, and this emotional connection can ease some of their sufferings as well; their snuggles may also help you feel a bit better, too, in a time of loss and sorrow.
Whether or not your pet can hear your voice, talking to them is a great way to stay connected and help them feel normal during some difficult days. Your voice may be relaxing for them and saying everything out loud to your pet may help you already begin to heal. They want and need to be comforted, so speaking to them can help them feel cherished and like they are surrounded by people who care for them.
Taking special photos while you still can of your pet or you with your pet will enable you to have memories forever. Your pet will love being the center of attention and it gives you more opportunities to cuddle and touch your animal.
The photos may be more for you and help you deal with losing a friend, but the act of cherishing your time with them will radiate to them good energy. These special photos may be a perfect fit in some personalized pet photo jewelry. We have wonderful options on our website that will hold your special picture forever so that you can remember your pet and its love for you forever.
The overall objective during your pet’s final days is to make them as comfortable as possible. Let them sleep in their favorite spot, keep them warm, and give them a lot of affection. Try to allow them to finish their life in peace and relaxation without commotion. They will be able to feel your grief, so try to remain positive and loving and keep them close.
The pain of losing a pet can be immense and it is not easy to deal with because you have to learn to live without their constant presence. You may feel lonely or unused to the extra time you now have since you no longer have the responsibilities associated with caring for your pet; this may leave a void that fills with unpleasant emotions. Letting go of your pet is both a hard decision and adjustment to make, but with time, you can learn to move on from this loss.
Taking part in or witnessing your beloved pet’s death causes strong emotions and they often do not go away quickly. Understand your grief and others' grief to help you get through this difficult time Everyone’s grieving process is different, so keep that in mind as you read about some advice we have for you or people you love. It is important during this time that you manage your grief, reach out for help when needed and take action to move forward.
It can be nearly impossible to deal with the negative and confusing emotions of losing a close pet. You can often become overwhelmed and these emotions will appear in many different ways. After pet euthanasia, try your best to manage your emotions to make this process as bearable as you can.
Try Not to Feel Guilty. It is common for owners to feel an intense sense of guilt when deciding or when healing from animal euthanasia (Patricia Morris). No one wants to choose to say goodbye to their beloved pet, but it is usually the best case for the animal; it ends the suffering of the animal rather than prolonging it. If anything, making this decision is the most selfless an owner can be because they put aside their own desire to have as much time with their pet as they can so that the animal can finally be free and at peace. Do not feel guilty; it is a tough decision, but it is the right one. You should feel confident that your pet understands and loves you forever.
Take Time. Take time to help yourself heal. This may mean spending some time alone, engaging in some of your hobbies, or simply trying to work through your feelings. You may also need to take some time off of work; although sometimes pet loss is not taken seriously, it is just as valid as losing any other member of the family, so do not feel uncomfortable or guilty for needing some time away from work.
Accept It and Prepare Yourself. After pet euthanasia, you have to accept your loss and you also have to prepare yourself for the feeling of coming home without your pet; you will likely feel empty and lost. This is something will have to learn to work through. It is difficult to adjust to a new daily routine and it takes time, but this will eventually help you move on.
During a heartbreaking time like this, when emotions are heightened and you can feel negative more often than you feel positive, it is crucial to seek help, guidance, or listening from others. There are many people that are willing to be by your side at this difficult time.
Other Family Members. Other family members likely had a close bond with the pet, too. You can all come together to grieve, but also to cheer each other up with stories and memories of your beloved pet. These people will understand your hurt the most because they are experiencing it with you.
Friends. Sometimes you need some distance from others who were also close to your pet because it makes things sadder. Finding a friend who is a good listener and who is kind can be helpful in your grieving process. They may not completely relate to your suffering, but they know you well and they probably had a connection with your pet as well.
Therapist. When times are hard and your emotions overwhelm you, it is valuable to go to a professional. They can help you deal with your feelings and can make sense of any internal conflict you may be having. A therapist or counselor will not judge your emotional state and will provide solid advice for moving forward.
Your Vet. Your vet deals with pet euthanasia almost every day, and because of this, they are very in tune with owners and pet loss. Research shows that vets have increasingly focused on recognizing strong feelings of grief and sorrow due to the death of a pet (Morris). If you are having difficulties dealing with your pain, consider discussing it with your vet as they have the most first-hand experience with these situations than anyone and they also played a significant role in your pet’s life.
Once you have worked through your feelings regarding euthanasia, it may be nice for you to take some action in moving on or doing things in the world that help you feel better.
Take Care of Yourself. Death can take a toll on a person, so make sure you are taking proper care of yourself. If the last few days with your pet were very busy or you neglected certain things to prioritize your pet, it could be time for you to begin these things again. Try to fuel yourself properly and replenish your body as well as get some movement into your day which can also improve your mood. You may have lost sleep during this difficult time, so get a lot of good quality sleep.
Treat Yourself to Pet Jewelry. It is hard to say goodbye to your beloved pet but investing in something that will last and can always remind you of your past friend could be a nice way to cheer you up and find some good in a difficult time. We have a wide variety of options from pet cremation jewelry, pet ash jewelry, and other pet memorial jewelry. You may find something here on Everlasting Memories that speaks to you and represents your pet in your heart.
Spend Time with Your Other Pets. Sometimes spending time with other pets can help you forget about your pain for a bit, or it can help you feel more connected to your lost pet. It gets you moving and engaging. Your other animals are probably also grieving the absence of their friend and they may need some attention to help ease their suffering.
Go See Other Animals. If you do not have any other pets of your own, as a friend if you can visit or go to a shelter. Animals have a therapeutic effect, and you may be surprised by how much better you feel after playing with some other animals.
Get a Keepsake of Your Pet. A keepsake piece like a coin, keychain, bookmark, or portrait may be just what you need to honor your pet and begin finding closure at your loss Custom Memorial Gifts: When You Don’t Wear Jewelry. You can always have it with you or keep it somewhere safe and special. Take a look at our collections and you may see something that suits you and your pet perfectly.
Create a Memorial. Creating a memorial space and decorating it with your pet’s cremation urn, other memorial gifts, toys, and photos can be a great way to express your emotions and also cultivate a long-lasting space for healing and reminiscing. Make it personal and meaningful, and you can revisit it whenever you need to.
Have a Memorial Service. Once you have a memorial space ready, consider having a family gathering or inviting outside friends to have a memorial service for your pet. This can provide great closure and can help you accept the loss so you can begin to move on. It demonstrates your love for your pet and you can surround yourself with people who love and support you during this time.
We evidently cannot know exactly what goes through a pet’s mind during this process. It is likely that they feel an intense urge to fall asleep and that they believe that is what is happening. Based on the emotions they read from others in the room, they could perhaps sense that something is wrong, but they are put to rest before they can worry too much.
The choice between going to a clinic or euthanizing a pet at home is dependent on many factors like finances and time. Your pet may be more at ease in its own home and you can avoid any movement of the animal if it is in pain. This option is not feasible for every owner, and getting the procedure done at a clinic is just as effective.
If the standard price to euthanize your pet is too expensive for you, your best option is to reach out to local shelters, humane societies, or even the vet clinics and see if any of them can give you some sort of discount. Explain to them your difficult financial situation, and most likely some will accommodate you to give your pet a peaceful end.
Euthanasia consists of two injections, the first of which is a sedative; this means that the animal does not feel pain. They may feel the prick of the initial needle, but that is all. Sometimes the animal will twitch or have abnormal breathing, but that is a side effect of the anesthetic and they are still pain-free.
You are the only one who can accurately make the decision as to what is best for your pet. It may be difficult, but weigh your options, educate yourself, and evaluate your pet. Historically, owners are in favor of euthanasia when there is uncontrollable pain involved for their pets (Heuberger et al.).
The decision is yours, but your animal will most likely appreciate the company and the familiar faces. Although the vets are kind and gentle, it may help your pet be more at ease if you are there by their side until the very end.
Deciding to euthanize your pet is incredibly hard and no one wants to do it. After becoming educated, discussing it with other members of the family, and weighing other options, sometimes putting your pet down is the right choice.
You will never feel happy making this decision, but make sure you feel confident in what you are choosing to do. Once you decide, the next and final step is simply to be there for your pet, provide them with endless love and support, and cherish the memories you will have with them forever.
July 27, 2022 by Frances Kay
Dickinson, George E. and Hoffmann, Heath C.. “Animal Hospice and Palliative Care: Veterinarians’ Experiences and Preferred Practices.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, vol. 32, August 2019, pp. 57-61, https://www-sciencedirect com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/science/article/pii/S1558787819300334?via%3Dihub.
Greenwood, Arin. “What Veterinarians Wish You Knew Before Euthanizing Your Pet.” Today, 27 June 2017, https://www.today.com/series/things-i-wish-i-knew/pet-euthanasia veterinarians-what-know-when-it-s-time-more-t113053.
Heuberger, Roschelle et al.. “Companion Animal Owner Perceptions, Knowledge, and Beliefs Regarding Pain Management in End-of-Life Care.” Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, vol. 31, no. 4, December 2016, pp. 152-159, https://www-sciencedirect com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/science/article/pii/S1938973617300065.
Morris, Patricia. “Managing Pet Owners’ Guilt and Grief in Veterinary Euthanasia Encounters.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 41, no. 3, 3 April 2012, pp. 337-365, https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0891241611435099.