dog sitting beside bowl of kibble

Vet explains what pets do in their final moments just before they’re put down

Losing a pet is a heartbreaking experience and nothing could make it easier. Pets are familial companions with unconditional love. They leave a hole when they pass on. However, putting down pets brings its own brutal emotions. Knowing when the animal will pass on doesn’t make the grief easier. In fact, for veterinarians, who often enter the field because they adore animals, putting down a pet is the hardest part of their job. Many have opened up about this difficult task but one Tweet also mentioned what pets are doing just before they pass away and it’s just soul-crushing.


The Last Thing a Pets Does Before They Get Put Down

The hardest thing to do as a veterinarian is putting a dog or cat down,” Dr. Robert Zammit, a vet at the Vineyard Veterinary Hospital in Sydney. They trust you, they look in your eyes while you hold their leg and you put the needle in and you draw back. They trust you while you’re actually taking their life, it’s really hard. It’s the hardest thing you’ve got to do as a vet and it takes a bit of us out.” [1]

In a now private Tweet, Jessi Deitrich describes a conversation she had with her vet.


“[I] Asked my vet what the hardest part was about his job and he said, when he has to put down an animal, 90% of owners don’t actually want to be in the room when he injects them so the animal’s last moments are usually them frantically looking around for their owners and tbh that broke me.”

Twitter user Jessi Dietrich's tweet
Image via Twitter

The tweet received over 140,000 likes and hundreds of comments, many from pet owners who remained by their pet while they were put down. They spoke about how difficult the procedure was, but they were happy they provided love and peace to their pets in their final moments. However, many responded with anger that people would leave their pets alone at such a time. 

Plus, many people were depressed at the thought of an animal dying, panicked, and alone. Deitrich even responded with,


“Didn’t mean to break everyone’s hearts just wanted to raise awareness!!!!! I’m so sorry.[2]

Everyone deals with grief in their own way,

Dr. Zammit expands on this frantic searching that happens when the animals aren’t properly tranquilized before they are put down. “Once they’re tranquilized, they’re not going to be looking around, they’re not so worried about the owner leaving,” he said.


He continues that tranquilizing pets is “common sense” so they could drift off more easily and peacefully. Plus, many owners want to be there for their pets in their final moments. “Everyone deals with grief of losing their dog in their own way,” Zammit said. “I find the majority want to be with their pet [during the euthanasia procedure]. Some of them say, I really don’t want to be here, but I’m not going to leave him. This is when he needs me now.”


For owners who don’t want to see the euthanasia, he recommends they stay while their pets are tranquilized to help keep the animals calm. “I don’t force people to stay there, I don’t put pressure on them to stay there,” he said.

If they find that they just can’t be there, they can’t do it, I understand that, because it’s distressing to them. All I ask them to do is to sit quietly with the cat or the dog, we give them a tranquilizer, just an injection, like a vaccination in the muscle, let that work and then the people can leave.”

Like many difficult things, euthanizing animals doesn’t often get easier. Many veterinarians suffer from stress and heartbreak after each one.

“My profession, unfortunately, has a very high rate of suicide, and a big part of it is the pressure we feel,” Dr. Zammit said. “Who gives us the right to put dogs down? You can tell me it’s stopping the suffering, and it’s so kind and all those things, but it doesn’t make it easy for us as vets.”


How to Prepare For a Pet’s Passing

Some vets can come to the home, but if yours doesn’t, bring the pet’s bed or favorite pillow or blanket. The vet will provide a blanket, but your pet may feel more soothed by a familiar one. Keep in mind, the vet will talk to you throughout the process, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many will give the pet a sedative to calm them down, but if they are very sick or quiet, they may not need it. The medication used for euthanasia should render the animal unconscious and will shut down the brain and heart within one or two minutes. 

When the pet passes away, they may urinate and their eyes may not close. You may notice a final breath or some twitching. While this can be very startling, it’s a normal part of the process. Just know that the pet isn’t in pain anymore. For many people, putting their pets to sleep is the last bit of compassion after a lifetime of care and love

Afterward, you could choose to bury the pet at home, if it’s legal in your area, or in a pet cemetery. Many vets have connections with cremation services, so ask yours if you’d like to go that route. [3]

Keep Reading: Man Made His Wife Choose Between Her Rescue Dogs And Him – She Picked The Dogs


1. “The mistake owners make when having to put their pets down.” Yahoo News. Michelle Cheng. September 21, 2018.
2. “Vet Reveals What Happens in a Dying Pet’s Final Moments, Breaks Hearts Around the World.People. Kelli Bender. September 11, 20188
3. “What Happens When You Put Your Pet to Sleep?Web MD. Amy Flowers. October 23, 2020

Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.