Should Your Other Dogs Or Cats Be Present During Euthanasia?

Should my pet be present?Scub:Soph
Being a veterinarian specializing in at-home pet euthanasia, I often get asked these types of questions a lot – “Should my pet be in the room during my other pet’s euthanasia?” Many people wonder if they should put their cats in the basement, have a family member walk the dogs, or keep the dogs in another area of the house. Simply put, the other pets should be present during a euthanasia – most of the time.

Other pets already know their companion is ill.
When your pet is ailing, the other pets in the household already know this information. You may start to notice changes in their behavior, like a cat taking over the other cat’s usual resting places, or an otherwise playful dog suddenly leaving the sick dog alone. Pets pick up on this by instinct. Pets may know this information before the pet owner does! You may realize that your cat, for instance, is fine one day and sick the next. That doesn’t mean the illness just started. It means that your cat was hiding its illness until it couldn’t anymore. In the wild, animals that show illness are deemed as weak and can be shunned by others, or even be prey to other opportunistic animals. Dogs tend to be more expressive to people and show their illnesses sooner. Dogs in the wild live as a pack so oftentimes the other members of the pack will aid the sick dog by protecting it from predators or bringing food to it. Dogs and cats know what “illness” and “death” are by nature.

There are reasons not to let the other pets be present.
I do recommend that the other pets be present, but only if they want to be. If they wish to be in another room, don’t force them. Many, oftentimes, lay down quietly near the the family and seem to “get it”. A reason not to have the other pet present is if that pet is disruptive. By this, I mean that the dog may be too immature, like a puppy for instance, to really understand what is going on. Or, that dog just wants to play during the procedure, or seems overly interested in the new person that just arrived in the house. In those cases, the dog should be left in another room until the euthanasia is over. So far, I’ve never had a cat be disruptive to the process.

The call is yours!
Ultimately, this is your experience and you should decide what’s best. If you’d rather not have other pets present, that’s okay. Whenever possible, though, after the euthanasia is complete, I recommend bringing the pets in to sniff the deceased pet. Many times, the other pets don’t appear to be doing anything but avoiding the pet or just taking a sniff or two. That may be all your pet needs to process the information. Don’t force them to be nearer to the pet, or to sniff more, just because you expect “more” from them.

Being there eases their transition.
Lastly, pets should be present during euthanasia (or allowed to see the pet afterward) because it will greatly ease their transition of not having the pet around anymore. They will understand their companion has died and was not just taken away.

Let me know your experiences!
I’d love to hear your comments that you, as a pet owner, experienced regarding this topic. You can help other families decide what’s best for them!

Dr. Kari Trotsky is the founder of Peaceful Endings, an at-home euthanasia service for dogs and cats. She has over 15 years of experience as a veterinarian and serves Chicago and the suburbs. Please visit her website – PeacefulEndings.net. You can reach her by phone at 630-205-4275 or by email at DrKari@PeacefulEndings.net. 

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22 Responses to “Should Your Other Dogs Or Cats Be Present During Euthanasia?”

  1. JasonOctober 15, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    Over the years, I had several pets and did not like others looking for them when I returned without them. But for the last few I have had others there and seemed to adjust better after woods. The last euthanasia was my 16 1/2 year with my 7 month old present. After the procedure, he did not seem to be aware. When he got home thou, He immediate took her blanket and bed to his bed which he had never done then layed there without moving the entire day. From that day forward, he cared that blanket of hers everywhere.

  2. Dottie RobinsonNovember 16, 2016 at 3:02 am #

    Thank you for posting this. It has been a question on our minds recently. Our oldest has cancer and has even gone through the CHOP treatment – he was cancer free to 10 months but the cancer is back. We tried chemo a second time and he just couldn’t tolerate the process a second time. We recently found a mass in his bladder, so his time is near. Just didn’t know if we should take his sister with us when we have to euthanize him. Thank you again.

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyDecember 29, 2016 at 7:52 am #

      I would definitely take his sister with him, or opt to have euthanasia performed in the home, which is much more peaceful for pets and their people.

  3. John C. LordDecember 10, 2016 at 3:13 am #

    We had to take our oldest girl in for euthanasia today and my wife and I took all three dogs to the vet for the event. One of the senior doctors (that all our dogs were comfortable and familiar with) performed the procedure. We all stayed until Honey was gone, and Brandy and Lily got to sniff her and seemed to understand she would not be coming home with us. I think being there also helped us (the humans) recognize the reality as well. While she is gone now from our lives, she will be forever in our hearts. Honey Sue Lord, June 1, 1999 – Dec. 9, 2016, 9:20am PST.

  4. John ThompsonDecember 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    Thank you for that good information.

    Can you tell us your thoughts on how the human owner should act during the euthanasia process? When I put down my last dog Max, I tried not to act sad or anxious. I tried to act as if nothing unusual was going on and remained as calm as possible. Thing is, I wasn’t really fooling Max with my act as I’m sure he was smart enough to look past my facade. When he finally went, I burst into tears (I’m secure enough in my manhood to admit that). At that time I left my other dog Sally at home and for a couple weeks she grieved, seemingly aloof and lethargic. Sally was definitely aware of the fact that her lifelong buddy had mysteriously just disappeared.

    Now it’s almost time for Sally to go. I have since acquired a new dog, Rex, who is now 2 years old. Now say Rex is in with us during the euthanasia process of Sally. Do I do that same act of trying to stay calm? Once Sally is gone, I fear that I will burst into tears again and I read somewhere that it’s not a good thing for owners to cry in front of their pet as it makes them seem weak and unable to remain in charge as the alpha. This may confuse your pet at a time when they need leadership most. How true is this? I would be interested to hear some comments on this. Thank you.

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyDecember 29, 2016 at 8:00 am #

      Like you said, acting calm didn’t work with Max. He looked past your facade. New studies have shown that the dominance thinking is no longer valid. I view my pets as my closest family. We are friends, although they know that I am able to call the shots, drive them places, lead them with a leash, tell them no or okay. They trust me. I have also cried in front of them and they have comforted me. When you live in sync with your pets, the results are amazing. They know and understand your moods and act accordingly. They want to make you happy. They want to play when it’s play time and they want to work when it’s time to work. And they relax when it’s time for that, too. I’ve seen many people cry during their pet’s euthanasia and I’ve seen no pets worked up over it. They seem to just know. My opinion is for you to act exactly how you want to. Cry if you want to cry. Hold it in until she passes, if that’s what you want. But, do not worry about hiding it from Rex. He will understand and want you to know he’s here for you, if you need him.

  5. Corey BezermanJanuary 9, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    Thank you for your thoughts …My 16 year old Baxter has had a great life with me and his sort of brother Hudson for many years. Baxter was
    diagnosed with liver cancer 3 weeks ago which they drained his stomach and took him home.As his dad it is my responsibility to take care of him as he did for me for so many years.
    Today my heart is broken as I have to put one of my best friends Baxter down. I didn’t know if I should bring Hudson as he loves Baxter as much as me. That’s also breaking my heart. I googled it was so happy I did. I will take my other boyw me and will just have to be strong. G-D bless and thank you Dr. Trotsky
    Corey Bezerman

  6. LNWeaverMay 10, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

    That’s interesting that animals are aware of death. I’ve heard of captive animal groups mourning, so I guess there are instances of this behavior. I’m trying to decide if it’s time to put my dog down; she’s in a lot of pain and not getting better.

  7. Kate TMay 26, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

    Thank you for this. I’ve been trying to figure out how to handle this. My only concern with having them in the room is that I love my vets and I don’t want my other pets to be scared of them afterwards. Is this a realistic concern?

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskySeptember 13, 2017 at 4:24 am #

      I haven’t found that to be a concern at all.

  8. LauraAugust 21, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

    Today we put down our 17 year old Siamese Jasmine. she had cancer in her jaw and was having trouble eating and started having an odor in her mouth. We did it before she was suffering too much. We also have an 8 year old male siamese, Hank. they were buddies. We took her home from the vet and let Hank see her. He sniffed her, marked the box with his chin and lay by the box for about 15 min. then he hid in the basement till I took Jasmine out.

    I wanted to show him Jasmine because the last kitty I had to put down, I could not bring him home to show the other one and the survivor, also a siamese howled all day and night looking for him for weeks. I finally got another siamese, (Jasmine, the one I just put down today) and he settled down.

  9. EB KelleySeptember 2, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

    I will be taking my my 14 year old dog in tonight in fact for euthanasia. After consulting your website & reading these heartfelt letters, I have decided that his life long canine companion should be there too.
    Thank you

  10. Kathy ThomNovember 1, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

    I have a 12 yr old dog with end stage cancer, 1 yr after diagnosis. we have decided its “time” I don’t want her to suffer any further. Her daughter is 6 yrs old and they’ve never been separated. should she be present during euthanasia? im thinking-yes, just need my husband to understand its a good idea.

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyJuly 2, 2018 at 1:59 am #

      Kathy, I’m sorry for your loss and that I didn’t respond sooner. I hope everything went smoothly.

  11. Sky SimoneJanuary 5, 2018 at 2:09 am #

    My best friend Teddy Cat was euthenaised at the vet on Monday night the 1st of January at a night time emergency vet. His body is at the vet in the freezer.
    I want him buried as I’m not comfortable with the idea of cremation, when we pick him up to bury him, I have asked my partner if he will take the box to the other cats in the bathroom and remove the lid and let them sniff and grieve.

    I have his sister whom is from the same litter. The 2 of them have never been apart in their 14 years of life. I plan on burying him tonight. on their 14th birthday.

    I want her and the 10 month old kitten (who is very immature) to see the body of Teddy so that they know I didn’t just send him away somewhere….

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyJuly 2, 2018 at 1:57 am #

      Sky, I’m so sorry about Teddy Cat and I’m sorry I’m just replying to you now. I hope the other kitties were able to see him and move on.

  12. Denessa WilkeJanuary 12, 2018 at 12:35 am #

    I do not know how old this thread is bur if anyone can help id appreciate it. My 11 month old puppy got under a crack in the plastic fencing under my deck. She was hit and killed. It was my son’s dog. However i think ive taken this loss harder than anyone. Except my 10 yr old pit mix that was her lil baby. We got her at 8 weeks so she was Stasia’s littl baby. Well we freaked out when we found her dead we wrapped her up and Just held her crying. My pit came and laid her head on top the puppies she laid there for awhile. My pit has hardly eaten our drank since then that was almost a week ago. HELP

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyJuly 2, 2018 at 1:56 am #

      I’m sorry this happened and I’m sorry I couldn’t reply sooner. How is your pit mix now? Most pets start to feel better within two weeks or less. They tend to live more in the present than we do. My sympathies on your loss.

  13. GeorgeMarch 31, 2018 at 2:33 pm #

    Thank you for your article Dr. Trotsky, my wife & I have been battling each other this past year, for our 15 yr old Aussie. Information like this sure helps.

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyJuly 2, 2018 at 1:42 am #

      I’m glad the information helps. Fifteen years is a very long time. I’m sure you will make the best decision for your Aussie.

  14. IngridMay 2, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    Our oldest had cancer. She and our younger dog were inseparable. She let it be known that she was tired, and ready to pass. Our veterinarian agreed. I, along with our veterinarian, felt that it would be beneficial to have the younger dog present during the euthanasia…to give her closure. However, it turned out to be tragic. She became extremely frightened, backing away and attempting to hide under a chair, while shaking violently. She had not exhibited any of these signs until the euthanasia was being carried out. Now she is sullen, and she avoids me (my husband opted tonotbe present during the euthanasia).i was always her favorite person prior to this. I am heartbroken. I feel as though I lost both of my beloved dogs.

    • Dr. Kari Trotsky
      Dr. Kari TrotskyJuly 2, 2018 at 1:38 am #

      I’m so sorry for your loss. It could be that something unrelated happened during this time. It’s hard to say, but if you work with a behavioralist, you should be able to help her get over what is wrong.

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