What is used to put a pet down? What should I expect? How do I prepare?

Pet euthanasia is a massive overdose of highly concentrated anesthesia that is specially made for euthanasia. 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. Peaceful relaxation and full unconsciousness sets in over 5-15 minutes. Next, the final vein injection is given. As the euthanasia solution overwhelms the brain and shuts it off, the breathing quickens in response to no brain activity and breathing then stops within 30 seconds, followed by the heart slowing and stopping over 1-3 minutes. Faster breathing (due to no brain activity) 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 two large dry towels and a blanket or bed sheet that the veterinarian 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 the home 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? Which room, floor, couch, bed?
  • Who wants to be there? Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers? College student Skype in?
  • Do you want fur clippings or a clay paw print impression?
  • 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?
  • Think about body care afterwards: burial or cremation. Consider home burial, pet cemetery burial, transport to vet clinic or cremation facility yourself or via the veterinarian who is equipped for transport.

What do I do with the body?

Consider home burial, pet cemetery burial, transport to a pet cremation facility (or your vet clinic) yourself or the mobile veterinarian’s vehicle is equipped for transport. Choose either private cremation with ashes returned or group cremation with nothing saved. Everyone is different. Some people feel strongly that they want to save the ashes and others feel it is not necessary to have anything back. Some families are most reassured by bringing their pet’s body to a pet cremation facility themselves. You have the option to view the cremation or not. If you’re undecided about getting the ashes back, the mobile veterinarian can take the body as undecided and you can wait to see how you feel. After a few days pass, you may be more clear if you’d like ashes back or not.

How is my pet transported for cremation?

Please set aside two large towels (bath size) for urine leakage and a blanket or bed sheet that the veterinarian can keep. Think about sending a special toy or blanket or drawing or note or flowers. The veterinarian will gently wrap your pet’s body and will use a stretcher or basket for transport. The veterinarian works alone and does need your help lifting the stretcher to their vehicle. Small pets nestle in the front passenger seat and larger pets rest on a padded dog bed in the back cargo area of an SUV or minivan. Time is often limited and service areas are huge, so the veterinarians have a freezer in their home garage for preservation until crematorium can pick up, the same as is done with a veterinary clinic. (You do have the option to transport your pet’s body to the crematorium yourself.) Make arrangements with the veterinarian for shipping or delivery of ashes. The veterinarian can deliver ashes personally. Shipping from the crematorium is an option. Pick up from your vet clinic or emergency clinic can work. Or delivery to a friend or neighbor or workplace can be arranged.

How do I know that I am really getting only my pet’s ashes back?

You may be best reassured by taking your pet’s body to the crematorium yourself. Google pet cremation + your city and tour the facilities in your area. Or ask your veterinarian for a list of local pet cremation facilities. You can attend your pet’s cremation and follow the entire process through yourself. Some families would rather not be involved in the cremation process. It’s your choice.

More Details About Body Care Arrangements: Burial or Cremation

Thinking about aftercare ahead of time will give you and your family the opportunity to discuss how you would like to memorialize your beloved pet.

Burial options:

  • Home
  • Family cabin or farm or property
  • Pet cemetery

Factors to consider:

  • Will the city/county/development allow pet burials? Check local ordinances.
  • Is it winter? Is the ground is frozen? Could you bury ashes in the spring?
  • Will you always live in the area or have access to the burial ground?
  • What will you surround the body with: special blankets or a handmade wood box or a cardboard box or a biodegradable casket? Include a special toy or item or flower? Keep collar with you or on the pet’s body?

Body transport options:

Think about which option gives you the best peace of mind for your body care concerns. Think about how much time you may need with your pet’s body to process the shock of the loss. Minutes, hours, days? It’s up to you. There are no right or wrong answers. Everyone is different.

  • Do you wish to take your pet’s body to the cremation facility or vet clinic yourself? (line your vehicle or box with plastic, then towels and blankets to contain leaking urine) Do you want to go there the same day or the next day? Do you need help lifting? Do you wish to be present for the cremation? View the cremation?
  • Less involvement in the cremation process may be desirable: (1) The crematory can pick up your pet’s body from your home the same day or the next day. Are you OK with meeting another service at your home during your private time of grief? (2) Your mobile vet can transport your pet’s body for you after giving you time with the body following the home euthanasia. Most home visits last 30-60 minutes. Mobile vets use a home freezer system similar to a vet clinic for temporary cold storage while awaiting cremation pick up. Are you OK with this system? Set aside two large towels and a blanket or bed sheet that the vet can keep for gently wrapping the body.

Keepsake options:

  • Do you want a fur clipping? Consider what areas you would like fur from. Set aside a plastic or cellophane bag or ribbon to tie longer locks of fur.
  • Do you want a clay paw print impression?
  • You may not need any ashes returned. This is called group or communal cremation. Your pet will be cremated close together with other pets and their mixed ashes will be scattered in a designated area or landfill if the crematory does not have enough property for spreading. Does your crematory have a public walking area and allow visiting the scatter area or is the scatter area private/not designed for public access?
  • Yes, I do want ashes returned. Do you need ashes back ASAP or in a week or two? Are you comfortable with ashes being shipped to your home from the crematory? Do you prefer hand delivery from the mobile vet? Where is the best place for shipping or delivery: home, work, friend, family, pick up at regular vet clinic or emergency clinic?

Memorial Service Options: 

Some families may want to have time with their pet after death. You may want the support of friends, family members, and other pets in the household. Consider where you wish to gather: at home, at a special location, at the cremation facility? When will you all be together? Meet at the home euthanasia visit or at a later time? You may want to plan a gathering that does not involve the body of the pet. Think about incorporating important family or religious rituals:

  • Read a special poem, remembrance, or scripture
  • Display memorial items (a drawing, children’s memorial artwork, note to the pet, handmade box, collar, fur clipping, photos, toys, blankets, clay paw print)
  • Plant a tree/flower/bush (PetTree.com or MyEternalFamilyTree.com)
  • Light candles as a tribute
  • Share stories and videos of the pet and your family

Memorialization Options:

  • Rock, garden stone, burial marker
  • Various wood, metal, or photo urn options (BestFriendServices.com)
  • Bury ashes in a special location
  • A piece of art done to depict your pet’s personality (Pet Portraits By Bethany or The Pet Sketcher)
  • A box to hold your pet’s paw print or a ribbon tied around a fur clipping
  • Locket jewelry to hold a bit of the pet’s ashes or fur (EternallyWithMe.com orJJGlassDesigns.com)
  • Inscription ideas: Nicknames? A saying: “Our Beautiful Beau” “Forever In Our Hearts” “Our Beloved Maggie” “Until We Meet Again At The Rainbow Bridge” Dates: birth date/adoption date to death date