Do Dogs Feel Pain When They Are Put to Sleep?

do dogs feel pain when put down

Every dog owner dreads the prospect of having to decide if they need to put their four-legged friend to sleep. While euthanasia is considered one of the most humane ways to end your ailing dog’s life, it’s doesn’t make the decision any easier to make.

One of the biggest concerns, and rightly so, will be whether your dog will feel any pain when they get put down. Whilst the decision to euthanize your dog will be due to existing pain levels and quality of life, the idea that you could put them through more pain is not a comfortable one.

Based on that, let me helpfully put your mind at rest about what science says about dogs feeling pain when they get put to sleep.

Do dogs feel pain when put to sleep? Dogs should not feel any pain when they get put down and euthanized. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University explain that sometimes a mild sedative or tranquilizer is first given if the dog appears anxious or painful.

I hope that helps you feel better in some way about putting your dog to sleep. If you are interested and have the time, you can read more below about how pain should not be an issue when dogs are euthanized.

Knowing and understanding the process has helped me feel more comfortable about euthanizing my own dogs. I hope to bring you some consolation knowing your dog is not in pain when put to sleep.

do dogs feel pain when put down
Dogs will not feel any pain when they get put to sleep (Image licensed via Storyblocks.com)

What do dogs feel when they are put down?

When dogs are injected to be put down, they will not feel anything as they will not be conscious at the point of death. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University say this about whether dogs feel pain during euthanasia.

“The euthanasia solution is usually a barbiturate – the same class of drugs used for general anesthesia. At a much higher dose, this solution provides not only the same effects as general anesthesia (loss of consciousness, loss of pain sensation), but suppresses the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.” (view source)

Why dogs don’t feel pain when they get put down

Veterinarians have been trained to make euthanasia as painless and comfortable as possible for dogs. The procedure entails ensuring the euthanasia solution is delivered as quickly as possible, so the dog loses consciousness almost immediately.

This means the dog will not feel anything and will go to sleep peacefully with no pain.

When is euthanasia used for dogs?

Putting a dog down is often the last resort and not a decision taken lightly, both by your vet and yourself. When a dog isn’t likely to recover from a major illness or injury, your vet may recommend euthanasia if your dog is suffering – putting them down will end their pain.

If your dog stops eating, becomes incontinence, no longer plays with his toys or takes part in his favorite game, you can assume he’s suffering in some way.

When a dog is in constant pain, he’ll also become depressed and may even stop asking for attention or enjoying petting from you and the family.

Euthanasia is often the kindest and gentlest way to end your dog’s life in his final stages of his life.

Handy Hint: I’ve previously researched how well dogs understand death, and even whether they will grieve the death of their owner.

Will my dog feel pain when put to sleep (more detail)?

According to the Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine your dog will not feel any pain when put to sleep.

Veterinarians are equipped to manage the euthanasia process in such a way that your dog experiences no pain or uneasiness. If your dog is in pain or anxious before the procedure, your vet may decide to give him a tranquilizer or mild sedative.

By sedating the dog first, it will help to calm them, and also help to make the process of being put down painless.

Depending on the vet’s preference, they may either insert an indwelling IV catheter or inject directly into one of the legs when applying the euthanasia solution. The type of medication used is a barbiturate which creates a similar sensation as a general anesthesia.

A study performed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals suggests this method is the most recommended for not causing any distress or pain to your dog during euthanasia – see their comments below.

do dogs feel pain when put to sleep
This is the recommended euthanasia route for dogs, which will be painless.

By applying the barbiturate quickly, your dog will lose consciousness almost immediately. He’ll also lose all pain sensation. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems are suppressed and your dog’s heart and lungs will stop functioning.

This process means your dog will not feel any pain when getting put down to sleep.

What will my dog do when put to sleep?

When the euthanasia solution is injected into your dog (either intravenously or directly with an injection), your dog will “fall asleep” almost immediately. His body will be relaxed completely, and he’ll lay his head down gently.

Sometimes, a dog’s eyes will remain open (here’s why), and your vet will gently close their eyes. You may also do it yourself if you feel comfortable enough to do it. Your vet will check your dog’s heartbeat to confirm it’s no longer beating.

Involuntary muscle actions may cause your dog to suddenly gasp but he is unaware of this happening and it’s not an indication that he’s in pain. Other muscle twitches may also occur throughout the body, but again, this is involuntary and a response to the chemicals being injected into the body.

Your dog’s body will be completely relaxed, and urination and defecation can happen. This is completely normal, and your vet will tell you to expect this if you choose to stay with your dog during and after the process.

Can a dog wake up after euthanasia?

Dogs cannot wake up after euthanasia. Once they have been given the procedure their heart will slow and then stop beating. The vet will check the heartbeat before pronouncing your dog gone.

Once that is confirmed, there is no chance of your dog waking up after a euthanasia procedure.

Where is the best place to put a dog to sleep?

If your dog is being put to sleep in the veterinarian’s consulting rooms, your vet may use a quiet room to put your dog at ease. This also gives you some privacy to spend time with your dog once he goes to sleep.

Some vets will gladly perform the procedure in your home, if this is your wish. It’s essential that wherever your dog is put to sleep, that they’re comfortable and at ease. You could make sure he’s lying on his favorite blanket during the process.

Do I need to be with my dog when he’s put to sleep?

Putting your best four-legged friend to sleep is an extremely distressing and emotional time. This is why it’s essential to fully understand the process so you can find some solace in the process.

Being with your dog when they’re put to sleep is a very personal choice.

For some dog owners, staying with their dog during the procedure may be too overwhelming. They may also feel they’ll cause their dog more distress by being with them. Instead, they choose to be with their dog once they’ve been put to sleep. This gives them the time to say goodbye.

dog put to sleep pain
The vet will make euthanasia pain free for your dog (Image licensed via Storyblocks.com).

Other dog owners will choose to be with their dog throughout the euthanasia. By sitting with your dog and offering reassurance with your voice and a gentle touch with your hand, you can have peace of mind your dog is at ease.

Whatever your choice is, remember your dog is being handled with love and respect by your vet. Your dog will be made comfortable and if you choose to only go to him after the procedure, it’s absolutely fine. Your dog knows you love him whether you’re with him or not.

How to prepare for your dog’s euthanasia

When you know your dog is suffering and is in pain, speak to your vet about euthanasia. Your vet is well-placed to give you the best advice and will take you through the procedure so you know what to expect.

However, sometimes the jargon may confuse you, so I always recommend reading up or talking to a friend who’s been through a similar situation. This will help you understand what to expect. Being prepared makes an emotional and sad time a little easier to handle.

Talking to other dog owners who have put their dog to sleep also gives you peace of mind your dog will not be in pain. Most dog owners will tell you how surprised they were by the process being quick and painless when putting they dog to rest.

Involve the whole family in the process. If you have children, remember they’ll be battling to let go of their favorite pet. Help them to process the situation. Explain to them that your dog will not feel any pain and that he’ll go to sleep peacefully.

Conclusion

Having grown up with dogs most of my life, I understand the emotional pain of putting down a pet. While it’s distressing to watch your dog being euthanized, spending those last moments with them gives them comfort.

When you do, you can be rest assured that your dog is not feeling any pain whilst being put to sleep.

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Image in header licensed via Storyblocks.com.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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