Should I Be Present for My Pet’s Euthanasia?


My cat was diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago. We have been treating her with fluids and a special diet, but her condition is starting to get worse and I know that soon I will have to make the difficult decision to end her suffering. Should I be present with my cat when the vet puts her to sleep?

Tucson, AZ

I am sorry to learn of your cat’s illness.

The decision to euthanize a pet is the hardest choice any pet owner has to make. Although euthanasia may be the best thing for a suffering animal, it is never easy to decide to put a long-time friend to sleep.

Although liability concerns are starting to take a small bite out of owner choice on the matter, the majority of vets I know offer the choice to stay with your pet during euthanasia. In my experience, about half of owners wish to be present for their pets’ final moments. The other half prefers to remember their pets as they were in life.

If you decide to be present, you should be aware of what will happen. The euthanasia solution is usually injected intravenously (directly into a vein). Some vets have staff members place IV catheters in pets beforehand so that it’s not necessary to stick the pets with any needles. Because it is a type of sedative, the procedure is rapid and generally very peaceful. Some vets administer additional sedatives before the euthanasia solution.

Animals’ eyes usually remain open, and some may lose bowel or bladder control. A small number of pets seem to take a few short breaths after the procedure, but these are reflexive motions of the chest muscles and diaphragm.

Ultimately, only you can decide whether it’s appropriate to be present during the procedure. Look inside your heart to see what’s best for you and for your pet.

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