Pet Euthanasia

Seeing your pet dying every day because of irreversible illness or age can be emotionally (and financially) draining. The amount of time and commitment required to take care of the pet could be challenging at times and not everyone can cope up with that. Hence, in conditions like these, it may be better to opt for euthanasia. Pet Euthanasia, a gentle and easy death as it may be called, might not be as easy for pet owners. It is one of the toughest decisions that pet owners take about their pets. But since it is a medium for a pain-free and peaceful death for their suffering beloved, pet owners dwell beforehand for taking this responsibility. 

In India, Euthanasia of mortally wounded, injured animals, incurably sick or terminally ill animals is allowed by a registered veterinary practitioner under the Veterinary Council of India or the State Veterinary Council in a manner and through a method approved by the Veterinary Council of India. All the records including post mortem report shall be maintained of all animals euthanized, and all carcasses including those that naturally died must be incinerated and shall not be sold. According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, it is unlawful to kill animals except under extreme cases and is a punishable offense under IPC.

Pet Euthanasia

Refer the sections below or skip to the section of your interest:

(A) What Pets can be Euthanized

All small and large pets can be euthanized including dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and rodents, etc.

(B) How to know it is time to get your Pet Euthanised

There are several factors that the owner and the veterinarian consider before putting a pet to sleep. These include- the animal’s current quality of life, behavioral traits, type of disease he/she may be suffering from, chances of recovery, and the owners’ preferences (like if they want to go for expensive or uncertain treatments or if they want to stall their pet’s suffering till a certain time). For dreadful and untreatable diseases like extreme aggression, rabies, cancer that may cause painful death, vets may advise to perform euthanasia sooner than later. One needs to consult their vet to understand the situation and make an informed decision.

(C) What is Passive and Active Euthanasia

Active euthanasia is taking an immediate action like using lethal injection to painlessly put a terminally-ill animal to death.

Passive euthanasia involves the omission of treatment or daily care which is required for survival. It involves both withdrawing the current treatment and withholding the future treatment (if required). This is usually not followed in India.

(D) What happens in Euthanasia

The veterinarian will give your pet two shots- one for sedation* and the other for putting to permanent sleep. The sedation period is usually 5 to 10 minutes in which the pet falls into a deep sleep that he/she becomes no longer aware. If the pet is already sick and quiet or he/she has trouble breathing, then this is not required. When the family is ready, the vet can administer the second injection. The most common drug used is ‘Pentobarbital (Barbiturates)’, that causes the pet’s heart and brain to slow and then stop. The injection can be given either intravenously, which will bring on death in seconds, or directly into the abdomen, which may take up to 15 minutes. The only discomfort that your pet will experience during the entire process is the pinch during the first injection. When your pet passes, the eyes may not fully close or he/she may urinate/defecate or show some reflex muscle movement. But it’s a normal part of the process. 

*As per the Animal Welfare Board of India, large animals are sedated using Xylazine, and small animals like dogs are sedated using a combination of Xylazine and Ketamine. Humane and compassionate handling without causing any stress to the pet could be the only substitute for sedation and a qualified veterinarian can take a decision based on the mental and physical assessment of the pet and the skills of the pet handler.

For more details on the process, refer to the guidelines shared on the Animal Welfare Board of India.

(E) Where can Euthanasia be done

It can be done at your nearest veterinary clinic at your convenience. Some vets also do allow for in-home euthanasia where they visit your home to get the entire process done.

(F) How much does Euthanasia cost

The cost of euthanasia depends on your region as well as the choice of your veterinary clinic. Some vets may not charge at all for euthanasia but only for the cremation services while others may charge a nominal fee for the procedure.

(G) What to do before Euthanasia

One needs to stay calm before and during the process and not let the stress pass on to their pets. Staying or not staying with your pet throughout the process is up to personal choice.

(H) What happens after Euthanasia

One can decide either to bury their pet or cremate their pet after they are euthanized. Your veterinarian can tell about the pet cemeteries or crematories in your area. Read more about burial and cremation here.

(I) How to deal with the loss of Pet

The entire process of dealing with the loss of someone beloved can be very stressful. Although everyone experiences grief differently and there could be several emotions like sadness, numbness, guilt, anger etc., gushing in but one needs to deal with them sooner than later. It is not uncommon to feel doubtful about the decision to euthanize your pet but keep in mind that it was done in the best interests of your beloved furry friend and after consulting with your veterinarian. 

One can choose to bring a new pet to their home to heal their grief over the loss. Although, it cannot replace the bond that you shared with your deceased pet, but it can help you to reduce your sorrow.