Euthanasia for pets is a topic that almost everyone wants to avoid. It’s like walking on eggshells. As a pet owner, you wish you could spend forever with your pet right beside you. However, most pets have a far shorter lifespan than most humans do. A dog, for example, can live for up to fifteen years while a cat can live up to sixteen years maximum.

Due to old age, some pets may sleep one day never to wake up again. They die peacefully without warning. Most pets, on the other hand, develop health complications that are difficult to treat and diagnose all because they have become seniors. So what happens when your beloved pet is too old and sickly to perform normal activities?

This is where the Euthanasia discussion begins.

When Euthanasia Becomes a Valid Option for your Pet
No one can tell you how to or how not to say goodbye to your pet. It’s an intense and personal matter that only you have to decide on.

Feelings of guilt, stress, and the inability to let go often overwhelm and cloud your better judgment, especially if yours was a special bond. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone you consider a friend, partner, and confidant even when that someone is a four-legged, furry/fluffy and loving animal.

So to avoid prolonging your pet’s suffering for unnecessarily long, here are some appropriate circumstances that allow you to sign off on euthanizing your pet.

Terminal Illness
If your pet has an advanced case of cancer, rabies, or other terminal illness, there’s little you can do to turn the situation around. Such diseases have such severe symptoms that keep your pet from eating correctly or staying active. Most pets experience organ failure, lethargy and are in too much pain constantly.

Even more, it is far more costly to pursue treatment for a dog or cat with advanced cancer. Many owners can barely afford cancer treatment for their pets, even with assistance from pet health insurance.

To avoid running yourself broke or bankrupt over a situation that’s pretty much unsalvageable, the appropriate thing to do is to save you and your pet all the trouble by euthanizing him/her.

Severe Injury
It could be a car accident where the pet was involved in a head-on collision. It could have been a nasty fall or a ferocious fight with other animals. There’s a near endless list of how your pet may end up with a severe injury. Most injuries are treatable given that your pet feeds well, takes their medication, and takes time to rest and heal.

Other injuries, however, are too serious, and little can be done to help the pet regain normal health and functions. Head injuries, pelvic dislocation, spine injuries, Cruciate Ligament Ruptures, and neck injuries are only a few of the hardest injuries to treat in pets.

The best decision would be to euthanize the animal to cease their suffering.

Behavioral Problems
Cats attacking their owner at night during sleep or dogs mauling or harming children and adults is likely to make news every once in a while. And while most cases don’t end up with the victim incurring severe injury, there are isolated instances when the victim dies, is left crippled or paralyzed after a pet attack.

Rescue pets tend to attack people owing to years of abuse or lack of trust. After some time, however, the animals soften up and can easily be trained. Other pets are unable to heed to commands and are hence difficult to train. This means that their behavioral problems persist, something that could lead to more problems, especially if you have a family or if you let them loose.
In this case, you may be forced to put down the animal – but this should always be a last option, and if possible consider re-training the animal by using a professional trainer.

Old Age
According to a hint earlier, old age ranks high among the leading reasons most pets end up being euthanized. A cat or a dog that is too old may suffer low quality of life, develop multiple health issues, and even fail to maintain normal bodily function.

You should consider euthanasia for your pet if they seem withdrawn, they aren’t playful anymore, can’t walk or stand properly, experience difficulty eating or drinking, are in pain, or if they appear weak and incontinent.

Other less serious but equally valid reason to have your pet Euthanized include,

Let’s say your pet develops a new disease or a rare type of condition/malformation that has never been seen before. Scientists and researchers may want to delve deeper to learn more about the condition and to try and develop treatment or a cure for it.

The pet may have to undergo numerous surgeries, take a variety of medicines and jabs to help them recover and to facilitate research. The process can be very stressful for the animal. The humane thing for you would be to euthanize the pet and surrender them to the researchers.

No Caregiver
In cases where pet owners will be away for long, they are unable to financially cater for food and all other needs of a pet, or they get sick, they prefer to euthanize their pet. Instead of abandoning their pet and leaving them to stray or starve, it makes more sense to euthanize the pet. It saves them unnecessary suffering, trying to fend for themselves.

Note that this option only applies to pets that, for some reason, cannot be taken in by the animal/ rescue shelters or when you have no friends and relatives to adopt your pet.

What you can expect Right Before Saying Goodbye
It may be the first time you have caught yourself in such a position where you have to decide to put down your pet. It’s normal to feel anxious and to want to postpone the process to another date. But when you know what to expect, you will feel more in control and understand that euthanasia is not a punishment but rather designed to help your pet.

So what should you expect once you give the vet permission to euthanize? You will be briefed on what the entire procedure entails. At this point, you can ask as many questions as you need to understand better what’s about to happen.

The pet will be placed on the table or the floor on a comfortable blanket. If they are too aggressive or unsettled, the pet may be sedated first.

A vet nurse, technician, or assistant will gently hold the animal as the veterinarian begins the process. You may be asked to stand at a distance to avoid any surprise jumps or attacks from the pet in case they sense your fear.

The vet will inject sodium pentobarbital in the animal’s system. Usually, the pet receives an overdose of this anesthetic drug. The drug works by making the pet unconscious and later stopping their heart from beating. The process is entirely painless.

After about ten minutes, the vet will use a stethoscope to confirm that the pet’s heart no longer beats. Thereafter, you are allowed to have a moment with your pet and can either leave with the vet clinic for a burial or leave it for the vet to dispose of.

Euthanasia for small and average-sized pets is usually done at the veterinary clinic, the animal shelter, or at the hospital. Larger pets like Llamas and horses may be euthanized at home or an agreed site. It’s advisable to know all the details and to weigh your options wisely. Involve your family in making the decision and in the whole goodbye process. Understand that euthanasia doesn’t induce suffering but instead helps offer a permanent yet effective solution to ceasing your pet’s suffering.


  • Cori lives and breathes everything animals. Given her cumulative 25 years of owning cats, dogs and guinea pigs, she's considered a breed expert by many. Cori's dog, Skipper, has been her best hiking and camping buddy for the last 5 years. She started blogging in 2010 to share what she knows. She's since won several industry awards and become one of the premier blogging experts in the pet industry.

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