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End of Life Care for Pets FAQ

What Is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia provides a painless, peaceful end for a pet who would otherwise continue to suffer. Your veterinarian has special training to provide your pet with a humane and gentle death. During the procedure, your vet will inject your pet with a sedative followed by a special medication. The animal experiences no awareness of the end of life-the process is akin to undergoing general anesthesia for a surgical procedure and takes about 10 to 20 seconds.

How Do I Know When Is the Right Time to Euthanize My Pet?

Your veterinarian is really the best person to advise you on when the time is right to euthanize-information from medical tests is often more accurate than what a pet owner can observe, and pet owners often delay the moment of euthanasia in anticipation of grief.

Observing and keeping an accurate record of your pet in his daily activities can help you to decide. If you observe that moments of discomfort outweigh his capacity to enjoy life, it is time to euthanize, even if your pet still experiences pleasure in eating or socializing. If your pet is in pain, your main goal should be to minimize his suffering.

Will my Other Pets Grieve a Pet Who Has Passed Away?

After the loss of a companion animal, many people observe a change in their surviving pet’s behavior. Sometimes the pet appears depressed and shows diminished interest in play or food, and it often helps to simply give your surviving pet some extra attention and love. If your animal companion appears upset, check with a veterinarian to make sure there is no underlying medical problem causing his behavior.

It is also well-documented that pets can recognize death in a companion animal. Cats, dogs and horses who see the deceased body of an animal they knew can adjust very well and spend less time searching and grieving than pets who have not seen their companion’s remains.

Where Can I Get Advice or Counseling About the Loss of My Pet?

It is as natural and necessary to grieve for the loss of an animal friend as it is for any loved one who dies. The grieving process often begins before your pet has passed away, so it’s important to take care of yourself and seek help if you need it.

There are several grief support services available. Check with your veterinarian for a recommended service in your area. The ASPCA Pet Loss Support program is here to help if your pet has died or if he is ill, injured or elderly. By calling the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at (877) 474-3310, you will receive support in the following areas:

  • Assistance with the decision to euthanize
  • Comfort and support at the time of euthanasia
  • Help with grieving the loss
  • Advice on dealing with children, the elderly or disabled individuals who are facing a death of a companion animal
  • Helping the surviving animals in the household to cope
  • Assistance in establishing a relationship with a new pet

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA


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