Euthanasia means ‘gentle’ or ‘easy’ death. It is sometimes said the dog has been 'put to sleep'.
A dog is euthanased by an intravenous injection of a barbiturate in the foreleg; basically, it’s an overdose of anaesthetic. The only pain the dog should feel is the pin prick of the injection. Within a few seconds he’ll be completely unconscious and won’t feel anything more. His breathing will slow, cardiac arrest follows and then, finally, death.
Some owners prefer to stay with their dog, and should therefore prepare themselves for what it is and what they’re going to see.
After death, the body of the dog might experience muscle spasms, leading to trembling legs or sudden gasps; there might also be some loss of bowel and bladder control. This is perfectly normal, but it can be very distressing to see.
You can choose whether to stay with your dog at this time or not. Some owners feel that their sadness or distress would only make things worse for their pet; others opt to be there and comfort them. Either choice is equally valid.
Most pets are euthanased at a veterinary surgery because the procedure can be carried out easily with vet nurses available to assist. Some vets offer home visits if this is less traumatic for the dog. Be prepared for the vet to take your dog’s body away in a black plastic bag if you have arranged for a cremation. It may seem undignified, but it is essential for health and safety reasons.