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?


Pet Loss At Home is committed to helping pet owners and their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please click the link for more information about our updated policies and procedures.

~Rob Twyning, Co-Founder of Pet Loss At Home

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