In-Home Pet Euthanasia (Part 2) – The Procedure

Posted on September 28, 2013 by Lynn Henderson

What Can I expect when I book an at-home euthanasia for my pet?

Making the decision to euthanize your pet is emotional and frightening for many people.  We approach every case with the intention of explaining what we are going to do, while learning which aspects of end-of-life care are most important to the individual family involved. 

We will bring a kit of medical supplies and medications to your location, along with a computer, consent form, and blankets. We set up at the location chosen by the family -commonly this is in the living room or bedroom of the pet’s home, in the yard, or in the          pet’s own bed. We need very little equipment in order to perform the euthanasia, and            pride ourselves on adapting to each home environment. If there is a location that is          important to you or your pet, we will do our best to allow your pet to remain there during            our visit. 

An end-of-life visit begins in consultation with the family members present, discussing the animal and the health concerns noted over the past few months. After assessing the pet, if we agree that humane euthanasia is an appropriate and kind decision, we proceed with the procedure. Owners are asked to sign a ‘euthanasia-consent form’ that is kept on file at our office, the invoice is normally presented at this time, after which time we put the computer and all paperwork away and direct our full attention to caring for the animal. 

While the drug used to perform veterinary euthanasia and the route at which it is          administered is fairly standard amongst veterinary practices, there are certain aspects of           the procedure that are ‘optional’. It is my hope that pet parents understand why we use              our particular protocol. 

The Steps of our Euthanasia Procedure:

  • History taking, consent form and paperwork
  • Assessment of pet
  • Explanation of Procedure and Answering any family questions
  • Sedation via Intra-muscular Injection
  • Intravenous catheter placement
  • Euthanasia solution administration
  • Preparation for aftercare

We will now explain the steps in some detail.


Why Sedate Pre-Euthanasia?

Some veterinarians may choose to perform euthanasia without sedating the animal               ahead of time, this is an individual right and preference. We ALWAYS sedate prior to this procedure as sedation serves to:

  1. Decrease an animal’s anxiety and awareness of what is occurring. (A pet may be           anxious due to new people around, discomfort from their condition, or because family members are upset around them).
  2. Facilitate placement of the intravenous catheter needed for administration of the       euthanasia solution. (We find catheter placement easier and less stressful, in a pet              that is relaxed and unafraid). 
  3. Allow family members the opportunity to see their pet comfortable and at peace         (especially after prolonged illness or pain) prior to the animal passing on. 

What do we use to sedate pre-euthanasia?

We use a combination of a sedative (to relax pet), an analgesic (to control any pain) and               a dissociative (to decrease the pet’s conscious presence). All of the medications we use       are still used commonly in human medicine. 

Why do we place an intravenous catheter Pre-euthanasia?

The euthanasia solution, Pentobarbital, is meant to be administered intravenously                (directly into a vein). While this drug can be injected from a syringe directly into a vein         (without the use of a stationary intravenous catheter), if it is not completely within the vein it burns and stings the tissue. It is quick and easy to place an IV catheter, and once in place, ensures the drug goes where it needs to go without causing any unnecessary pain. 

The Euthanasia Solution

Predominantly in small animal medicine, Pentobarbital is the drug of choice for humane euthanasia. Pentobarbital acts on the nervous system and brain to slow, and eventually            stop its functioning. When administered correctly, owners can expect to see very little from their animal during administration. A pet may stop breathing, or sigh – but should not move, or vocalize in any way. A pre-measured volume of the euthanasia solution is      administered in its entirety, followed by the veterinarian listening to the pet’s chest for a              number of minutes to ensure that the heart has stopped and that they have passed on. 


We understand that this is a terribly difficult topic to think about, not to mention reading          about in detail. We have put this article together to educate those who are interested in understanding the euthanasia procedure, and to to know what to expect from their           veterinary team during this sensitive time. 

Next Blog: Aftercare and Cremation Options


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