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Euthanasia: The Process and the Particulars

Posted December 20, 2014 in End-of-Life Support & Grieving Dogs

Part I of Dr. Jeff Werber's three-part series on end-of-life issues for pets focused on when to say goodbye. Now, Dr. Werber focuses on the difficult subject of euthanasia. For more from Dr. Werber, find him on Facebook or on his website at

In Part I of this series on pet euthanasia we discussed when the right time might be to say goodbye to our beloved four-legged friends.  In this segment I want to share with you some of the specifics about the process.

How Things Were When I Started Practicing
When I first started practicing 29 years ago, euthanasia was, at least in our practice, always done at the hospital—and often in the back without the pet parents.  The tears were shed and the goodbyes were said in the examination room, and the pet was then taken to the back and put to sleep.  Sure, on occasion, an owner requested to stay with their pet, but it wasn’t commonplace.  

Common Euthanasia Practices These Days
Our attitudes have changed quite a bit since, and now, I believe, most pet parents choose to stay with their pets until they pass on. However, this is a highly personal decision.

What Your Veterinarian Might Do
While each veterinarian's office has a slightly different procedure, your veterinarian will do all he or she can to reduce stress on your ailing pet. Often, we will take the pet, place a catheter, administer a sedative (if necessary) to calm any fear or anxiety, bring your pet back into our “grieving room,” place your pet on your lap lap or onto a bed, and then, when all are ready, administer that final injection. Many veterinarians will also make a little clay mold of your pet’s paw print and snip a small tuft of hair to give to you client as a memorial.

What About In-Home Euthanasia?
I clearly recall an incident that happened very early in my career where a client of ours, an elderly woman who lived alone, called us about her very old German Shepherd dog who was no longer able to get up, was in pain, and she felt it was time.  The problem wasOld dog laying down that she had no one to help her get her dog into the car to bring him in.  Understanding how difficult this decision must have been for her, and hearing her own distress over her

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Jeff has more than 30 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a licensed veterinarian as well as a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.