to euthanase or not?

I starting a section called medical on this blog – as I am so often asked medical and euthanasia questions. The opionions expressed in this medical section are my own opinions, and only based on my experience in rehabbing sick chickens and animals – what we have tried and been succesful with, or unsuccessful. I am NOT a vet, and if you have access to a vet, that is the route you should go for responsible animal care. Our blog could assist you in making decisions, or in supportive care, but we are not a substitute for good veterinary care or advice.

Euthanasia is an ethical and personal decision in itself, never mind the ethics then around how to euthanase.

I am pro euthanasia if the animal is suffering more than what I would persoanlly want to go through (by the way – the option of euthanasia is what I would want for myself, which is the only reason I can enetertain this as a possibility). If there is no quality of life, and no near future hope of a decent quality of life.

Euthanasia refers to circumstances where:

  • pain, distress or suffering are likely to exceed designated levels and cannot be alleviated promptly (see Section 1.21 of the Code)
  • the health or well-being of the animal is grounds for concern.


 I am not in favour of euthanasing healthy animals, but understand the welfare issues surrounding this.

Compassionate euthanasia involves the loss of consciousness and function simultaneously.  Any drug that paralyses muscle use, but conciousness remains  while suffocation occurs, for me, is not humane. For example with drowning, function is lost before consciousness – this is not humane. Front slitting of throat – so common in abbatoirs – the animal loses function, but not consciousness. Yuck!  The drug ‘euthanase’ , for example, assists the loss of both conciousness and function simultaneously.  There are other methods that achieve the same result.

These are the guidelines I use before euthanasing:

1. I never euthanase without a proper 2nd opinion (preferably veterinary – and a veterinarian I have a relationship with and trust). I cannot reverse my decision, therefore it needs to be a well considered decision.

2. I keep in mind that birds hide pain exceptionally well – you will see severe pain through rapid breathing, sometimes open mouth breathing, loss of appetite, physical falling or difficulty walking, abdominal breathing (breathing movement almost happens in bum region )

3.  In the abscence of birds or animals being able to tell us what’s wrong, we must assume that what would be painful for us would be painful for them.

4. I try what I can to prolong life in a humane way before making that decision, unless keeping them going for even a day more would just be torture.

5.  I spend time watching a healthy hen (animal)  for 1 minute and record everything she does in that one minute (head turns, pecks floor, runs three steps etc) – now spend 1 minute on your unhealthy hen (animal), and see if vast difference in behaviour). How big is that gap?

6. Is your hen eating, drinking, foraging, preening?  If they are too ill to eat or drink, then I assist. If this goes on for too long, I re assess. Starving or de hydrating is a terrible way to die.

7. I spend a lot of time before making a decision to euthanase, sitting quietly with my animals. This allows me to be present to their pain and discomfort, and to make a better decision.

8.  I will always try and euthanse at the place where the animal lives, if this is possible. It reduces stress.

9. If possible I will always try and medicate my animals pre euthanasia to limit anxiety.

10. I always stay with my animals up until their last breath. As painful as losing something you love can be, I would want the people and animals I love around me in my last momemts. I believe this is the courageous and compassionate  thing to do. “What is best for the animal is not what is always best for the owner,” Rauch

other link on valid reasons for euthanasia:



3 thoughts on “to euthanase or not?”

  1. Hello, I found your blog via surfing for information on euthanasia.

    I am totally distraught and traumatised and I guess I am looking for answers.

    My 12 year old GSD was diagnosed with cancer all over his chest cavity two weeks ago. I had to make the decision to put him down on Friday (23rd March) because he had stopped eating the previous day. His breathing was also not great even though he was on diuretics.

    However, I am left traumatised by his euthansia process. I had it done in my car as i could not face taking him into the vets office yet again for the last time. My vet who i have used for 12 years did it, so i was not using a vet I did not know.

    He did not sedate my dog and i vaguely recall he had two syringes – a clear one and the green one. I know what the green dye indicates, and I know my vet used the drug “Euthanase” to put my dog down.

    However, my dog whimpered and cried as the drug was taking effect. This has left me in a complete mess of what i thought would be an instant process. It was a brief whimper and cry, but it still happened. Then his head lifted and his mouth opened (he was sitting upright in the car).

    This was in Johannesburg.

    Is this normal? I fear my dog was conscious throughout the process until he collapsed. I am in shreds over this. Please if you can, could you offer some insight into this? Email me directly if you prefer, and thank you for your time in reading this.

      1. Dearest Karen

        Sorry it has taken a few days to get back to you, but I wanted to get some more info for you from my friend Caron who is a vet – just to put your mind at rest. This is what she wrote back to me……
        ‘Hi. Very sorry to hear about yr friends GSD. I know euthanasia can be very traumatic. The sound her dog made is perfectly normal. He didn’t feel any pain. Often they can also gasp after wards and let out a wimper. It is traumatising, I know, but does happen often. People seem to have a false impression from the Marley and me movie where he goes peacefully and closes his eyes. One of my worst euthanisia was a friends staffie, who was 17 and let out a huge cry before passing. Unfortunately often the older they are the more chance their is that they cry. Please let yr friend know that her dog didn’t feel any pain. Unfortunately it happens some times. Often they also have agonal gasps after they have gone which can be very disturbing to witness. These are just normal reflexes. The euthanse we use is an overdose of an old anesthetic so it is the same as getting put under for an op.
        Hope this helps’
        Karen, I have euthanased many animals (mostly chickens), but dogs (and others) too. Euthanase is the most humane way of putting an animal out of its misery, and you made the right choice. There are two things I wanted to say about your vet – perhaps you could give some gentle feedback to your vet on explaining more clearly what happens post euthanasia, or what to expect – this feedback may be useful for him. But….the fact that our vet was open to coming to euthanase in your car, shows a wonderful level of compassion. My experience of many vets (not all) is they do things often to suit themselves and not to suit the animal in need. This would be a fabulous acknowledgment of him.
        From my side, I really admire that you were there with your doggie until the end. It’s a privileged to have these wonderful creatures in our lives, and I always find an immense privileged to be with my animals in death to. As with all deaths, give yourself time to grieve and feel sad, but not to dwell in the ‘what ifs’ – this will not allow you to heal – this has been my experience, and what has worked for me.
        I hope this has helped to put your mind at rest.
        Kind Regards

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