Saying goodbye – putting your pet to sleep

Saying goodbye:

The MSPCA does not have a vet clinic or a pet euthanasia (put-to-sleep) service. If your pet has sadly reached the end of his or her days, you need to contact any regular vet clinic.

What happens during euthanasia?

Pet euthanasia is carried out by injecting an overdose of anaesthetic (in a very concentrated form) into the vein of an animal. For this to happen, the dog or cat needs to be very still in order that the vet can inject the vein directly. Sometimes the vet will ask their nurse or assistant to hold the animal for you – do not be offended, this is so that the euthanasia can happen as smoothly and stress-free as possible. The nurse will be experienced at holding animals.

Once the injection has taken place, the dog or cat first loses consciousness, and then death happens very quickly, in under 30 seconds in many cases, although in older animals or those who are very sick, it may take a minute or two. It will look to the owner just as if their dog or cat is going to sleep.
After the animal has passed, it sometimes happens that muscles which may have been tensed before death, start to relax. This means that sometimes your pet may give a gasp or a stretch (or go to the toilet). Please be reassured that death has already happened, but these are just reflexes.

Sedating the animal

Sometimes, if the animal is very scared or doesn’t like being held still, the vet may decide to give a sedative a while before the euthanasia injection. This normally needs about 15 minutes to work. Once it has worked, although your pet will be very sleepy, they will still be aware of you being around so it is important to comfort them.

Sedation has the advantage of the animal being very still so the vet can access the vein really easily. However sometimes it can also cause a drop in blood pressure, meaning that it will be harder to find a vein. The vet will decide whether or not to use sedation based on these principles.

Home or clinic?

Many pet owners ask for their pet to be put to sleep at home.

– The dog or cat is on familiar territory and doesn’t feel scared
– The owner is in a comfortable familiar environment too
– There is no need to worry about a taxi or a lift to the clinic
– There are few strangers around
– The vet doesn’t have access to the full range of drugs they might need
– The visit may cost more as the vet has to account for their travelling time.
– The available light may not be as good as at a clinic, making it harder to see a vein
– If the animal isn’t scared, they may also have “bravado” on home territory and may struggle
– If you live in an upper apartment and your pet is big, you need to consider how he is or she is transported downstairs afterwards.


Please see our list of vets for vet phone numbers: emergency vets, pet taxi and house calls

Vets – please email us via the website if our information is incorrect.