How Do Dog Shelters EUTHANIZE Animals?

There are two types of animal shelters known as kill shelters and no-kill shelters.

Kill shelters are your average shelter and, though unfortunate, may need to put down animals due to aggression, age, disease, and a lack of space.

How do dog shelters euthanize animals? We’ll cover the process here.

Why Do Shelters Euthanize Animals?

The main reason that a shelter will euthanize dogs is because of a lack of space in the shelters.

Shelters typically have a certain amount of animals they can home in there due to limited resources or people to take care of the animals.

This is why it’s especially important to adopt through a shelter.

Other reasons include health and age and aggression. If a dog is too sickly or aggressive to be adopted, it will be put down.

Read our related article, Do Animal Shelters Kill Dogs? to learn more about why shelters put animals down.

How Do Dog Shelters Euthanize Animals?

Vets taking care of a dog
Dog shelters have a rollercoaster of a job especially when you consider them euthanizing dogs.

Euthanization is unfortunately a process that many shelters end up having to do to their dogs.

Let’s look a bit more into the process and see how things are done.

First off, euthanization typically is done by giving a lethal dose of anesthetic.

Even while euthanasia is typically accomplished by injecting a lethal dose of anesthetic into a vein in the front leg, this procedure can be performed on any part of the body.

A nurse holds the dog while a little area of its fur is shaved. The dog will only feel a little pinch from the needle, and the injection itself will be painless.

As with any anesthetic, the injection may cause a brief period of dizziness in the dog.

Within seconds, usually, before the injection is even finished, the dog becomes unconscious.

When the heart stops beating, death happens within a few minutes. If the animal is very sick or has weak circulation, it may take a little longer.

Reflex muscular activity or involuntary breaths are possible in the minutes following death.

These are not indications of survival; rather, they are reflexes signaling terminal illness.

The eyes tend to remain open, and urination is intermittent. Most euthanizations are swift and easy, causing the animal minimal suffering.

Watch this video to learn more about animal euthanasia:

Read More: How to Adopt a Dog From a Shelter. Adopting can help prevent excess euthanasia.

The Euthanization Process

Before Euthanization

Before euthanization, the shelter workers and vets will try to make the animal as comfortable as possible.

This could mean giving them treats, giving them a comfortable place to lie, or anything else.

They also will usually get a lot of love, some food, and other accommodations to make their last moments as peaceful as possible.

During Euthanasia

Needle and medicine
Euthanasia is a painless process. The shelter animal will feel no pain and will “drift to sleep”.

Medications that stop the heart quickly are typically injected intravenously during euthanasia procedures for canines and felines.

Before giving the dog the euthanasia drug, the vet may give it a tranquilizer to make it calm and sleepy.

The next step is to inject the euthanasia solution into the animal’s vein so that it can quickly spread through its system.

The dog will go into an immediate coma and feel no pain or discomfort as a result.

Soon after, cardiac arrest sets in and the dog dies.

Within 30 seconds of intravenous delivery, most dogs experience a painless and quick death.

After The Euthanasia

After administering the solution, the veterinarian will check for cardiac activity to confirm the dog’s death.

Then the shelter will come up with a plan for aftercare. This could mean a burial or cremation of the animal.

Read our related article, How Much Does Cremation Cost for a Dog?’ to get an idea of the cost and care that goes into animal cremation.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately euthanization is a hard decision but it’s, unfortunately, one that has to be made sometimes in a shelter environment.

It’s also important to recognize that a shelter will not euthanize unless absolutely necessary.

Adopting from shelters is a great way to help prevent this from happening often.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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