Putting Yourself to Sleep – a Stirring Topic

Sleeping is a difficult subject. But if you have an animal housemate, this topic usually comes up at some point. One should bear in mind that this decision is expected (e.g. in the case of very serious illnesses) but can sometimes also occur very suddenly and unexpectedly (e.g. in the case of serious accidents).

The Contingency Plan

Because the decision to put your cat to sleep is often quite unexpected, it makes sense to seek advice on this from your vet beforehand. In this way, important questions can be clarified beforehand and not only in a situation in which you are very upset and sad. The most important question is certainly how do I reach my veterinary practice outside of office hours and what if my veterinarian is not available? Is there a veterinary emergency number in my city or is there a clinic close by that is staffed 24 hours a day? Talk to your veterinarian so you have these phone numbers handy in case of an emergency! In this context, you can also discuss with your practice whether you would rather come to the practice with your animal or whether there is also the possibility of euthanizing your animal at home.

The Right Time

But when is the “right” time? There is no such thing as a “right” time. This is always an individual decision that you should make together with your veterinarian. The crucial question here is: Can we still do something to stabilize and improve the living situation and well-being of my animal or have we now reached a point where the animal will only get worse and no longer better? Then there is certainly the moment when the animal is allowed to go. Many animals have a very close bond between humans and animals. Therefore, many animals perceive the sadness of their owners very strongly and “hang on” even though they are feeling very bad. Then the time has come when we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our animal and let go of an animal that is no longer going to get better, only worse off. Consult with your veterinarian. He knows you and your housemates well and can assess the situation together with you.

But What Exactly is Happening Now?

Perhaps you have already discussed with your veterinarian that he/she will come to your home. Or you come to the practice with the animal. In many cases, it makes sense to let the practice know in advance that you are coming with the animal. Then the practice can prepare a quiet area or an extra room in which you can be something for yourself in your grief. Even if your vet comes to see you, it’s nice to have a quiet place where you and your pet feel comfortable. As a rule, the animal is then first given medication to make it a little tired. This can be done with an injection into the muscle or into the vein (e.g. through a previously placed venous access). When the animal is tired enough, the anesthesia is deepened by administering another drug. The heartbeat slows down, reflexes fade, the animal slides deeper and deeper into an anesthetic-like sleep until the heart stops beating. In many cases, you can really see how the animal relaxes more and more and is allowed to let go and go. This is a small consolation at this sad moment, especially for animals that have visibly suffered before.

Is the Animal in Pain?

The animal naturally notices the bite through the skin. However, this is comparable to the pain of a “normal” treatment or vaccination. In most cases, the animals fall asleep quickly and then no longer perceive their surroundings.

Who Can Accompany the Animal?

Whether the pet owner wants to accompany their pet throughout the euthanasia period is an individual decision. Discuss this with your vet beforehand. Saying goodbye is also important for the other housemates. So if you have other pets, then consult with your practice on how the farewell can be designed for these animals as well.

What Happens Then?

If you have your own property and do not live in a water protection area, you can in many cases bury the animal on your own property. If in doubt, check with your veterinary practice to see if this is allowed in your community. The grave should be about 40-50 cm deep. It’s nice if you have a towel or blanket to wrap the animal in after it dies. If you do not have the option of burying the animal at home or do not want to, then there is the option of having the animal cremated by an animal funeral home, for example. If you wish, you can get your pet’s ashes back in an urn. The staff at these pet funeral homes will collect the pets from your home or office.

A Final Tip

On the day the animal was put to sleep, take the necessary papers from your vet (certificates for insurance, taxes, and the like) with you. This way you don’t have to deal with the necessary bureaucracy again afterward and you won’t be thrown back in your grief work.

Veterinarian Sebastian Jonigkeit-Goßmann has summarized what you should know in advance about euthanasia in our Veterinarian Tacheles YouTube format.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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