What actually happens when my pet is put to sleep?

The following describes the euthanasia procedure. If you do not wish to read about this please leave this page now. 
 
The procedure is performed by the veterinarian.  We will sedate your pet which is an injection that will go under the skin like a vaccine.  This allows your pet to be able to relax and become a little sleepy before the injection.  Often times it takes about 15 minutes for it to be effective.  An IV catheter is then placed in one of your pet’s leg veins, and intravenous injection of a concentrated anesthetic is given (acts as an overdose). In general, it is very rapid and very peaceful. Your pet will just go to sleep. On rare occasions, there may be a brief vocalization or cry as consciousness is lost. This is not a cry of pain although you may misinterpret it as such. If your pet has poor circulation or low blood pressure, it may also take a few moments longer for the injection to work.
 
Within seconds of starting the injection, the overdose will cause the heart to stop and any circulation within the body will stop. As the heart stops and the blood pressure decreases the animal will stop breathing and your pet will die peacefully.
 
Once your pet has died you may observe some involuntary muscle contractions or respiratory gasps – again this is not evidence of pain or consciousness.  The bladder and/or bowel may empty in the absence of muscle tone.