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Home > Pets And Animals > Dogs > Having to Euthanize the Family Pet

Having to Euthanize the Family Pet

Submitted by: Nancy L. Young-Houser


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"Like all vets, I hated doing this, painless though it was, but to me there has always been a comfort in the knowledge that the last thing these helpless animals knew was the sound of a friendly voice, and the touch of a gentle hand." James Herriot All Things Wise and Wonderful    

Because of medical advances and healthy nutrition, dogs and pets are living longer lives now than even before. Yet when it is time to have them put to sleep due to old age, illness or injury, it is always a difficult personal decision. Some wish for their dogs not to suffer and have them put to sleep before they suffer too much. Others cannot make that decision and allow them to die naturally.  

Signs that an elderly dog is ready to pass over naturally involves many things: losing interest in normal activities they usually enjoy doing; refusal to eat or drink; depression; discomfort; or severe pain. Having a close relationship with not only the dog but the family veterinarian will make this transition much easier to make, with professional assistance and advice helping making some major decisions.  

Once the decision is made that it is time to hallow the family pet to pass over by being euthanized, many feel it is the kindest manner to have it done at home where they have spent most of their life. More options are available today than ever before, with many veterinarians either visiting the home or making this acts their entire service. Allowing the pet to pass over while in the security of their home is considered one of the kindest gifts for them.  



Having a pet put down by euthanasia involves some basic steps. Things like payment, body transportation, and the final disposition of the body should be handled in advance to avoid a stressful time when it occurs.  

A caring vet who does the procedure in his office will do it first thing in the morning or late during the day to avoid crowded waiting rooms. Many will allow the owner to remain in a special exam room for privacy. The option of being with the pet during the procedure is always offered to the owner, remaing with them as they slip away after the lethal injection is given. Those who have decided this recognize that the dog is not harmed and gently slips away to sleep peacefully, as compared to those who are left wondering by not making this decision.  

If the decision is made to have the pet euthanized at home, the pet may wonder why the vet is home and become slightly agitated.  Let them calm down and find a place to lie down, whether on the couch on their blanket or in their bed as they naturally do. The object is to allow the pet to be as comfortable as possible.  

Before the lethal shot is given, most veterinarians will administer a sedative to relax the pet, causing them to become very sleepy as if they were excessively tired. The vet should have the dog's weight already to administer the correct amount but if not, have it ready. Once the animal is relaxed and breathing deeply, this is the time to say goodbye while petting or holding them.

Many owners find themselves unable to do this, with the total grieving process following the procedure, and there is not a right or wrong way to do this. The owner can also hold the animal while the lethal injection is given, or allow the pet to remain in his preferred location.  This will happen very quickly and no suffering occurs to the animal as it loses consciousness. It will appear as if the animal goes to sleep naturally.  

Many owners wish to remain with their pet alone while others will wait to grieve after the vet leaves. This is a personal choice depending on the owner, with the vet honoring each decision. Nearly 60% of the pet owners will keep their pets at home to have them put to sleep, choosing to bury them on their own property. Approximately 25% of pet owners will have their pets cremated, which most vets provide services for in larger cities.  


Grieving for a family pet is the same as for a deceased family member. The sense of loss of a loved one is the same emotional distress, except society does not provide as much support of animal grief as for people. Support usually comes from family members, a therapist, or a clergyman. More and more online animal websites provide online community grieving support, so if nothing is available within the community you live in, check online to see if one is listed there or use one that is online.

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Nancy L. Young-Houser is a professional writer and illustrator, in addition to providing a home for dogs on all levels of need with her best friend, Sandra Marquiss. Her writings include controversial subjects as part of the soapbox she has carried around since childhood, never leaving home without it. Part of this soapbox is her website filled with lots of four-legged information!

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