Do Dogs Feel Pain When They Are Put to Sleep?

by Tom Ryan
    Your vet can explain his specific euthanasia procedures.

    Your vet can explain his specific euthanasia procedures.

    Dean Golja/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Watching your beloved companion struggle through the physical agony of old age or disease is hard. Making the decision to euthanize is just as hard or harder. As you consider saying goodbye and giving your dog everlasting peace, you should know how the procedure itself works, and how your dog experiences it. Neither the procedure nor the chemicals administered will cause your pooch any pain in your final moments together.

    The Euthanasia Appointment

    The euthanasia procedure is designed to be as stress-free as possible, for both you and your dog. The two of you will be isolated from other animals and people. The veterinarian, or the vet and an assistant, will come into the room for the procedure. Talk to your vet beforehand to see if you can bring a cherished toy or favorite blanket for your dog to make the procedure less stressful. In some cases, the procedure can be performed in the home, so your dog experiences the least amount of anxiety possible.

    Administering the Solution

    The actual euthanasia process is simple and virtually pain-free. Your vet may administer a mild sedative to help calm the dog, but this isn't always the case. Sedation is given intravenously, so your dog may feel the negligible pain of a needle prick. The medication used to euthanize your dog is an aesthetic called sodium pentobarbital. It is also administered intravenously. The fleeting sting of the needle prick is the only pain your pet will feel. Your vet administers a simple overdose of this anesthetic, which is painless and fast-acting -- the injection does its work in about a minute or less.

    Being "Put to Sleep"

    The fact that euthanasia is commonly called "being put to sleep" is testament to the procedure's painlessness, simplicity and speed. The overdose of medication causes your dog to quickly slip into unconsciousness; his brain function completely shuts down. This stops his heart and lungs and prevents him from feeling any pain whatsoever. For your pet, the process is as effortless and familiar as dozing off. When his body shuts down, he doesn't feel a thing.

    Considering Euthanasia

    While euthanizing your pet doesn't cause him any pain, it may cause you considerable heartache to lose him. If you're considering putting your dog to sleep, you should talk to your veterinarian about the conditions your dog's dealing with and what your options may be. In some cases, euthanizing a pet can spare him years of daily stress and physical pain, but only you can make that decision for him. Whatever you choose, know that if he must be put to sleep, the procedure is as simple and painless for him as settling down for a nap.

    Photo Credits

    • Dean Golja/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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