Your animal will not know what is going to happen. They may feel slight discomfort when the needle tip passes through the skin, but this is no greater than for any other injection. The euthanasia solution takes only a few seconds to induce a total loss of consciousness. Soon after, the animals breathing stops and their heart stops beating.
If you are holding your pet, you will feel them exhale, relax and become heavier in your arms. Urine may trickle from their bladder as the muscles relax. The Vet will check for a pulse or eyelid-flick reflex and if there is any chance at all that the pet is only deeply unconscious, they will give a second injection. Your pet will not be aware of this second injection if it is needed.
Your Vet will place the pet into a natural looking sleeping position as if they have fallen asleep but their eyes may remain open. Because all the muscles of the face have relaxed, their lips may pull back into what looks like a grimace. This is simply due to relaxation of the muscles and to gravity and is not a sign of pain, but it can cause concern if you didn’t expect it.
Should I stay to the end?
This is a personal decision. Some owners feel that it’s their last duty to be there. Others prefer not to be present. Many take a friend or family member with them for emotional support. Do what feels right for you.
Most Vets will allow you to remain with your pet during euthanasia if you wish. If they don’t want you present, it is because you are so distressed and will upset your pet thus making it harder to handle and impossible for your Vet to perform the euthanasia – which is traumatic for all, concerned. Your Vet understands that this is a difficult time for you. If you remain calm this will reassure your pet and make the end very peaceful.
Not all owners wish to be present and there is no shame in this. Some people simply cannot stand the sight of injections. Your Vet will allow you to say goodbye to your pet and leave the consulting room. If you are taking your pet’s body away with you, they will call you back in afterwards. Your Vet will treat your pet with as much respect and dignity whether or not you are present.
Use something dignified to put your pet’s body in – a pet bag, towel or blanket.
Your Vet will normally wrap or cover your pet’s body, or otherwise, place it in a black or blue bag. This is not a sign of disrespect, it is for hygiene and your own privacy. Some veterinary practices have a place where you can sit for a few minutes afterwards and regain your composure. If you do need a few moments before you are able to leave the surgery, tell the veterinary assistant.
Alternatively, they may be able to help you back to your car but bear in mind that they are unlikely to have the time to sit with you.
Remember there is no shame in showing your emotions at this sad time – it is a natural reaction. Your Vet and assistant won’t think any less of you if you lose control. They understand and probably feel the same for their own pets.