What happens during euthanasia? We asked a veterinarian about the difficult decision-making process

Ferenczi Deborah

2024. February 3 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Euthanasia is the most difficult decision in every pet owner's life. Many believe that during euthanasia, they are the ones killing the animal because they make the decision. However, it is important to know that in many cases, it proves to be a better solution, no matter how terrible it may seem, than letting the animal suffer. In order to get a very clear and professional insight into this, we asked a veterinarian, Barbara Kovalovszki-Németh, about exactly how euthanasia works and when it becomes the best decision.


Writing about the topic of cat euthanasia, even as a journalist, is truly difficult. We search for the right words, but often struggle to find them. Dr. Barbara Kovalovszki-Németh, a veterinarian, explained to us what we should know about euthanasia, providing a completely different perspective that hopefully helps many in properly assessing the condition of their beloved pets and making the right decision if needed.

On the cat euthanasia from a veterinarian’s perspective

Below, we tried to ask those questions to dr. Barbara Kovalovszki-Németh that concern most people on this topic. We believe she gave extremely satisfying and thorough answers that may make euthanasia seem less cruel.

– When is euthanasia a better decision? How can we know that the animal is already suffering a lot?

B. K-N.: The issue of euthanasia is very sensitive and divisive in today’s world. Except for some countries and situations, it is not allowed in human cases, but for our pets, it can provide a legally permitted option to end their suffering.

Before making the decision, it is necessary to individually examine the animal’s living conditions and the developed health condition. Unfortunately, even as a veterinarian, I have to say that every case is different. It needs to be assessed individually; there are no specific parameters that suggest euthanasia. Therefore, the decision is somewhat subjective, both from the veterinarian and the owners. Assessing the patient’s health, diagnosing diseases, determining the level of chronic pain, and presenting the possibilities of medical treatment are all tasks of the veterinarian.

After the preliminary examinations and knowing the diagnosed problems, the veterinarian and the owner need to weigh the situation and the options together. Based on their professional knowledge and existing medical experience, the veterinarian can suggest that, due to the chronic, incurable, and significant problem causing irreversible deterioration in the animal’s quality of life, euthanasia is the most humane solution. However, the decision always needs to be made by the owner.

– How is euthanasia performed? Is it painless?

B. K-N.: The process of euthanasia is professionally defined and regulated. The permanent sedation can be requested by the animal’s owner, often by filling out a consent form at the veterinarian’s. Euthanasia can be divided into two phases, ensuring a painless intervention. First, an anesthesia and analgesia reaching a level of sedation similar to surgical sedation are administered as prescribed. When the patient reaches this state, unaware of the external world and not feeling pain, the second and final sedative is administered, resulting in a gradual and irreversible cessation of respiration and circulation. The assessment of the depth of anesthesia is the responsibility of the veterinarian, with several vital parameters assisting in this. In most cases, the veterinarian informs the owner when the animal is sleeping in the appropriate depth, so they can say their final goodbyes if they wish. After that, the second drug is administered.

– What happens after the animal has died?

B. K-N.: In most clinics, you can leave the body, and the clinic takes care of the transportation, or the owner can take it home and, following legal regulations, bury it. You can request cremation, even individual cremation, and in this case, you receive the ashes in a unique urn as a memory. There are also alternative solutions, such as making jewelry from cut hair strands.

Is euthanasia really a cruel decision?

During my conversation with Barbara, the question of euthanasia took on a completely different perspective for me. It turns out to be a much more humane method than letting the animal suffer and die a natural death. A painless death is probably a much better alternative than not making this decision due to our own conscience. Euthanasia is more of an opportunity for your beloved pet to leave this earth peacefully.

death euthanasia sick cat veterinarian veterinary opinion

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