Questions about euthanasia procedure

Does your veterinarian routinely sedate/anesthetize an animal before euthanasia, or does he or she inject the euthanasia drug into a fully conscious animal?

And for any veterinarians–do you routinely sedate or anesthetize an animal before euthanasia? Why or why not?

Over the last 15 years I’ve had nine animals euthanized by nine different veterinarians. Of these, three were sedated or anesthetized before the euthanasia (one because I requested sedation); five were given the euthanasia drug without prior sedation (one of these already had a catheter); and one was sedated after the vet first tried and failed to find a vein to administer the euthanasia drug.

In my experience, the animals that were first sedated or anesthetized had the least stressful euthanasia, and I just wonder why all vets don’t routinely sedate before anesthesia if at all possible. After witnessing it both ways, I will always insist on sedation or anesthesia for my animals.

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Numerous animals (both large & small) having been euthanized over the years, by various vets.
All of them were sedated first.
If a vet didn’t automatically provide this, I would insist on it.


Mine have always been sedated first, even the kitty who had a stroke and was clearly no longer ‘there.’

I would never let a vet euthanize w/o sedation first. I have heard that sometimes animals have a reaction to sedation, but after five horses, two dogs, and eight kitties over the last six years, not a one of them had a bad reaction to the sedation.

What I find interesting is that my vet now prefers to euthanize via the heart or liver (small animals only, of course). As long as my animals don’t feel it, and it works, I don’t mind - my vet thinks it provides for a quicker and less stressful process.

Mine have always been sedated first.

Any animal ( house pet or livestock) I have had euthanized is always sedated first as normal procedure by multiple vets I’ve used over the years…

Maybe it is because I am older than dirt, but I would say it is about 50/50 sedation first and not sedation first.
I have not seen any huge difference in how the animal reacts to no sedation first versus with sedation.

My vets always sedated animals before euthanasia, I also believe that in Italy it is compulsory by law to sedate animals

I’ve been present for 3 horses to be euthanized, 1 was mine, 2 were friends horses done by different vets. None were sedated before. I asked about sedating first and both vets said that when you sedate an animal before you inject the euthanasia liquid, the animal can take up to 4 or 5 times longer to actually die.

The traumatic part is watching the horse fall when just the euthanasia is injected, but both vets would try to guide the head so that when the horse went down, they wouldn’t let their head hit the ground hard. That was a kindness to the horse, but mostly for the human as it’s already traumatic to put your horse down to begin with.

This is the timeline that my vet told me, to the best of my memory.

• Once the horse has been injected with the 2nd vile, they’ll take a couple big breaths as the brain starts to go unconscious. They’ll lean backwards and fall to the side…hitting the ground about 4 seconds after the 2nd vile is injected and be totally unconscious.

• Once on the ground, the brain is unconscious, but will fire nerves to the limbs, sometimes they’ll kick or twitch a little (none of the 3 I watched did this, maybe one leg moved, but otherwise they were still)

• The brain stops sending signals to the lungs to breathe, and the heart will stop beating within about 2 to 3 minutes.

•Total brain death occurs 3 to 4 minutes after injection. You touch the eye to see if you get a blink response. If no blink response occurs (which is involuntary in all animals) the brain is dead.

All three horses were dead within about 5 minutes (as in no reflex when you touch the eye)

I suppose the only way to ensure instant lights out would be to shoot the horse in the brain. It’s more traumatic for the human, but for the horse, it’s an instant light switch.

My vet (who is sound of mind) told me that vets have the highest rate of suicide out of most professions, and if she were to go that route, doing the euthanasia you give horses would be the choice to make. On a human you’d be unconscious in seconds and dead in about a minute.

I would say the quicker the death, the more kind you are being. I wouldn’t want my horse to be laying, sedated on the ground for 30 minutes while the euthanasia takes longer because the heart rate and breathing is already slowed down.

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Of the five horses I’ve had to have euthanized in the last few years, one was an outlier (immune to Ket), but the other four were sedated, and all were gone within 1 - 5 minutes. The sedation did not slow down the drug at all. One, in fact, was already gone before we’d injected the second dose (but did it anyway, as per protocol). I’ve heard the story that it takes longer, but in my experience, it’s not true.


All of my small animals were sedated, for sure. I can’t remember with my last horse; it’s been a while and I have read so many threads about the pro/con of sedation on horses, that I am having a hard time remembering if my vet agreed with the no sedation first…or if it was the opposite.

I’m usually preoccupied and don’t really watch, but I’ve never had one go down badly, so whatever they did it was done right.

I do vaguely remember one horse being sedated because of a safety issue. There was no other way. We had to put her down in a stock trailer because she had to be hauled off the property. The vet planned it out perfectly and she went down without incident.

Dogs and cats I’m pretty sure are sedated. Probably just because it looks better, but I don’t really care. I stay with them long enough to ease them off into the next world.

I don’t think the pet rat the vet put down was sedated. She was very old for a rat. Close to 4 years. She had an inoperable tumor and went down fast.

We have a vet we use for such things and he’s never let us down. Whatever he does, it’s the right way, but he’s retiring soon. I feel bad for the younger vets. It seems like there’s a steep learning curve. If we need to put one down, we’ll call the younger vet. She’s good and I think she’s done enough to know how, but I won’t hold it against her if it isn’t as smooth as the old vet’s method. I think there’s a lot of finesse to do it right.

Definitely sedated. We lost our Corgi to DM in June and it was our first in home euthanasia. The vet was amazing (Peaceful Passage). She used a balanced sedative cocktail that included a bit of ketamine and benzo and I believe turbogesic as well. I was pretty upset and can’t remember exactly but seemed to be a best case for a terrible situation. He just relaxed and seemed to go to sleep over about 5 minutes, then the actually euth. Definitely peaceful.

My neurologic (recurrent EPM) older horse also got a sedative. Vet was wonderful and super thoughtful about how she pre planned laying him down to be safe for all of us.

My horse was sedated first. I said my last goodbye and covered my ears, turned and walked away. Just couldn’t have my last image of him going down.

My dogs were sedated as well. My first dog yelped a bit for the first shot. My last dog did not; I mentioned to the vet that I was dreading the first one. She said that it can sting but she has a combo of something added to it to reduce the sting. She left us for a bit after the first one while my dog was sedated, then came back and gave the final one. No matter what it’s a peaceful way to go.

Anyone know what the drug to reduce the sting might be?

From the replies so far, it seems that most vets routinely sedate an animal before administering the euthanasia drug. This is very different from what vets in my area do. Of the 9 vets I’ve dealt with locally over the years, only 2 routinely sedated the animal first. One was an equine vet, the other was an old country vet who has now retired. I don’t know why the small animal vets around here don’t sedate first. Do they think this is easier for the pet? Easier for the owner? Or is it just quicker and easier for them (the vets)? No vet has ever refused to sedate first if I request it, but it’s not their standard practice.

In my experience, most of the animals that were euthanized without prior sedation died as peacefully as could be expected. However, 2 of my dogs didn’t have such an easy death. In one case, the needle slipped out of the vein and caused brief but significant pain. But it was the euthanasia of my other dog that made me resolve to never again allow euthanasia without sedation. This dog was terrified. He was being held down by a stranger and the vet couldn’t find a vein to administer the drug. I intervened and the vet sedated the dog via intramuscular injection. The euthanasia went smoothly from then on, but I will never in my life forget the abject terror in that dog’s eyes as he looked to me to save him. All his long life he had trusted me, but in his last moments I had become Death. I could only hope that the anesthetic would give him peace as he lost consciousness. Never again.

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I would assume lidocaine.