Dog Euthanasia: Did My Dog Know He Was Being Put To Sleep?

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The end of life and euthanasia of the dog are complex subjects to discuss and raise many questions for owners wishing to best support their animals in these painful moments. At this stage, a sad question comes to all dog owners' minds: Did my dog ​​know he was being put to sleep? The carelessness of the young years gives way to the apprehension of difficult decisions when time has passed, and our dog is approaching his last days.

Marking the end of an accomplice story, it is not easy to remain lucid in the face of a flood of emotions, and we do not always know how it will unfold.

Our veterinarian will try to answer all questions about the end of your animal's life.  How is euthanasia performed? Is it better to perform the procedure at home or at the clinic? How to manage the body of his dog after his death?


When Should You Decide To Euthanize Your Dog? Did My Dog Know He Was Being Put To Sleep? 

In an ideal world, and as one might wish for oneself, the dog at the end of its life falls asleep peacefully and comfortably in its basket or on its cushion and does not wake up.

Unfortunately, in reality, the cases in which this happens are few.

More often, our dogs get old or sick. We do what is necessary to treat them, which is not enough. 

The Dog's Comfort Is A Priority In The Euthanasia Decision

We will not talk here about the euthanasia of so-called dangerous dogs, which is a tough decision and for which the role of the veto is essential. This is a subject in its own right, the course of the act of which is undoubtedly similar, but it deserves special treatment since it is exceptional.

The end of life of sick or seriously injured dogs or puppies remains, moreover, very prevalent in the daily life of our clinics.

Moreover, the fact that this dog or puppy is seriously ill or handicapped will never justify the decision to put it to sleep permanently.

The medical assessment and the proposal of therapeutic solutions is the primary role of the veterinary team.

However, when we are at a therapeutic impasse or when the animal's suffering goes beyond understanding and can no longer be relieved, the discussion is established with the owner.

Whether it is the vet in the clinic or, sometimes, a veterinarian at home, the follow-up process leading to the final decision is the same:

Assessment of the clinical condition of the dog or puppy. Pain or overall collapse (the dog that no longer gets up with the formation of bedsores, blood constants at their lowest without hope of improvement, etc.) are often a source of evolution towards euthanasia.

Lack of viable solution. The term "viable solution" means the implementation of medical or surgical support capable of curing or improving the comfort of the animal's life and, sometimes, of a solution that can, secondarily, support the owner(s) financially.

Discussion Support at the end of an animal's life is measured in the light of complete, transparent, and objective information only the veterinarian can provide to the family.

Decision making. This must be formulated by the owner and is his responsibility. The vet will not decide for him or her.

Explanation of the course of the act. Each master can then attend or not act according to his sensitivity when the conditions allow it.


Dog Euthanasia: Veterinary Support Is Essential!

Beyond any philosophical or religious consideration on euthanasia, it is, when there is nothing more to hope for, the most difficult but also the most loving decision to take for the animal's comfort. 

However, "putting your dog down," as it is generally said, is neither an easy choice when you do not want to take responsibility for your animal nor a trivial act that is carried out like buying bread at the bakery. 

This is why end-of-life support for a dog must be done based on an in-depth discussion with the veterinarian and personal or family reflection.

In a moment of deep emotion and, sometimes, unconsidered hopes, the veterinarian will be able to tell you objectively if your dog or puppy is in pain. He will be able to explain to you, with the necessary hindsight and experience, the reasons why your animal is out of breath and why you have come to a therapeutic impasse. 

It is ESSENTIAL to discuss the decision with your veterinarian during this heavy and challenging stage. Do not leave unanswered questions. Ask them! The veterinarian is attentive and empathetic but knows how to keep an emotional distance to enlighten you objectively.


As you will have understood, this is an act decided after consultation and for which you are and must be accompanied. No canine euthanasia can be done on a whim!


Can The Veterinarian Refuse To Euthanize A Dog?

A veterinarian can completely, in coherence with his convictions and in respect of the code of ethics, refuse an act of euthanasia on a dog or a puppy if he considers it inappropriate and that other viable and accessible solutions are applicable. 

Fortunately, this professional free will also exist because it has become so easy and common to accuse your dog or puppy of all the evils to find a reason to get rid of it. 

These behaviors that no animal health professional can condone are unacceptable and shameful! 


How Is Dog Euthanasia Performed?

Did my dog know he was being put to sleep? Once the decision is made, the veterinarian proceeds to the act. 

The owner can attend all or part of the animal accompaniment procedure or refrain from staying. Nothing obliges him to do so, and everyone acts concerning his sensitivity, his emotions, and what he can support. No judgment is allowed here because it is a very personal approach! 

The conditions should be optimal as much as possible. This is why euthanasia in a veterinary clinic is to be preferred. However, it also happens that it is done at home. The veterinarian will then give you the instructions so that everything goes as well as possible. 

We will not mention here the products used to euthanize a dog because this is and will remain a veterinary act you cannot do yourself at home. It is also prohibited to highlight this medicinal product for reserved use.

The act of canine euthanasia can take place in 1 or 2 stages depending on the animal's clinical condition. Injectable anesthetics. This can be performed directly intravenously or via the placement of a catheter.

The goal is to “disconnect” your dog from painful and conscious feelings. This sleep is more profound than that practiced for surgery and ensures the comfort of your dog's departure.

The second injection (when the act is performed in 2 stages) aims to stop cardiac and respiratory function. These are, again, powerful anesthetics that cannot be used in surgery because of their cardio-pulmonary effect. It can be performed intravenously or in the cardiac area, depending on the situation and the procedure specific to the veterinarian.

In short, when the veterinarian finally puts your animal to sleep, the process is based on increasingly deep anesthesia leading to the cessation of vital functions. Your dog or puppy feels nothing because he is plunged into a much deeper sleep. Then that is necessary for any surgical operation. 

Possible Reactions During Dog Euthanasia

Some signs may raise the question: Did my dog ​​know he was being put to sleep? In addition, certain bodily reactions specific to the animal are usual for the veterinarian but may concern you during end-of-life support.

We will try to explain the most common ones to you so that you can interpret them and best mourn if you are going through this ordeal when you read these lines.

My Dog ​​Is Dead, But He Keeps His Eyes Open

Unlike humans, dogs keep their eyes open during sleep or after death.

This is why veterinarians apply protective eye gels during surgery, thus helping to protect the cornea from drying out.

This is counter-intuitive for a human who does not know it because we have always seen the eyes being closed or closed on their own, whether in movies or when visiting a deceased loved one.

This opposite reflex is completely normal in dogs, and if it concerns you, do not worry! Your beloved animal keeps its eyes open but does not see or feel anything once anesthetized. His departure is, therefore, comfortable. 

My Dog ​​Huffed Or Gave A Big Exhale After Passing Away

Again, this is normal, even if it may surprise you!

During death, the relaxation of the body and the lungs can lead to a sudden expulsion of air still present in the rib cage. You will also see that the respiratory movements have stopped, and your companion has left. 

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My Dog's Muscles Are Still Moving After Euthanasia

As in humans, small surface muscle movements may persist for a few minutes after death.

This is due to the depletion of the energy reserve still present in the muscle cells. Small reflex movements (fasciculations) then appear and consume this reserve before immobilization.

This is not systematic, but it is not rare. Rest assured, nevertheless, before pronouncing the death of your dog, the veterinarian takes care to control the reflexes and to auscultate the heart to determine its stop and validate, thus, the clinical end of the animal.


My Dog ​​Moaned During The Anesthesia

Again, this is a rare but possible phenomenon, as it sometimes happens during routine surgery. This can go hand in hand with a seizure.

During the anesthetic phase, some dogs with neurological fragilities may emit a temporary moan or even develop an epileptiform seizure during the first phase of falling asleep.

It is generally attributed to the action of anesthetics on the central nervous system. When this happens, the animal is already asleep and no longer conscious. So it's not related to any pain.

It is important to mention these "reactions" because they are relatively unknown and can mark the owner who asks himself many questions afterward during his phase of mourning.

Note that apart from the normal and systematic ocular reflex, the other reactions are rare. That being said, reading it here or discussing it with your veterinarian is in its interest to prevent you from producing false images or remaining on an inappropriate and painful feeling that is not related to reality.

Once your dog has passed away, there are several options for caring for his body.

I Want To Bury My Dog's Body In The Garden

This choice is less and less common for reasons related to people's way of life mainly (small land, rental, city life, etc.).

The regulations on the burial of animal remain also play a preponderant role. It also seems that the legislation has been greatly tightened in recent years.

Whether it is the Rural Code, the Departmental Health Regulations, or the Municipal Decrees, the trend is no longer to authorize this practice, even if it is not prohibited everywhere.

In Paris, for example, it is forbidden. Elsewhere, depending on the municipalities, it still seems tolerated to bury your dog if:

Its weight is less than 40Kg.

If we are on our ground.

Suppose the burial is carried out more than 30 meters from dwellings and water sources. This is not the easiest of conditions to respect, but it is the one that will cost you the most if it is not respected.

Suppose the hole is deep enough. Count a good meter.

If you have to bury your dog, we even recommend that you pour 10 cm of quicklime over his body before putting the soil back to limit health concerns and digging up by other animals.

Note that, with European regulations taking over today, only cremation or delivery of the remains to an animal cemetery is recommended.

Leave Your Dog's Remains At The Clinic For Cremation

Formerly intended for rendering, the remains of our pets have for more than 20 years the possibility of being incinerated as a human body would.

This service, created by veterinarians to provide a more decent post-mortem outcome, allows the family to choose an end of life that is more consistent with the bond created with their dog. Additionally, this service allows dignified and personalized treatment to owners who feel the need.

After discussion with their veterinarian, family members can opt for either:

A so-called “collective” incineration. The body of your animal is kept by the veterinarian, who hands it over to the veterinary cremation service. Your dog is then cremated with other dogs, and his ashes are buried in a specialized and dedicated site on which it will be impossible for you to gather them. The procedure is traced and regulated. It is both the simplest in terms of management and the least expensive of the two formulas. 


Euthanizing A Puppy Litter: An Avoidable Act!

Whether in a shelter or a clinic, and although it is still moderate, euthanizing a litter of puppies is both an extremely difficult decision to manage and heartbreaking for the veterinarian. 

The professional can refuse the act, and the first intention is the discussion to find a viable solution for these hairballs.

Nevertheless, this act is reluctantly practiced because the veterinarian analyzes the situation concretely and understands perfectly that if the act is not practiced "with dignity," the puppies will be killed in a more odious way.

For those who come here to get rid of an unwanted litter of puppies, I invite you to contact a veterinarian or an animal protection association to try to find a viable solution.

If that's not possible, try to stay a little bit human! Throwing puppies in a trash can, drowning them, gassing them with ether, and abandoning them in the wild will make you a Big Sea. Infamous!

Manage it with more dignity with a veterinarian, even if it costs you a little money.

And above all: STERILIZE YOUR female dog!

Sterilization, in this case, is a much more suitable solution that also benefits the health of the female dog.

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