Before you proceed, decide what you want to do with the body. Burial options are limited in most cities, leaving cremation the only reasonable alternative. Doing your homework ahead of time will make the handling of your pet's remains much easier.
You will need:
1) One or more disposable canisters of compressed Helium Gas, available for purchase at many big box stores for under $20 for inflating party balloons. These can be kept on hand for the appropriate time, and will "keep" for several months. After use, simply recycle the empty containers, or discard them in the regular trash.
2) A crate, cage, or other container for your beloved pet. Preferably, this should be your pet's favorite resting and relaxing place.
3) A very stout plastic bag, large enough to completely enclose your pet's cage. If the cage is particularly big, you may have to get a "tree bag" from a garden center, or create a large enough bag out of several heavy bags and a lot of duct tape. The seal is very important, so tape both sides of all joints.
4) Some stout string, about 12 inches long.
5) A twist tie, the kind used to seal bags of fruit or vegetables.
6) Optional, but recommended for large dogs; 3 feet of 3/4" inside diameter plastic tubing.
7) Stout masking tape, packaging tape or duct tape.
8) Some very private and quiet time, once you know you are ready.
Step 1) For pets who are suffering from unrelenting pain, the sooner you do this the better. For pets who are clearly approaching the end, but are not yet critical, you can take a few days to prepare them so they will not be in any fear. In that case, put the bag over the cage, leaving the bag open at the door. Put a treat in the cage and allow your pet to go into their cage and get the treat. When your pet is not fearful of the bag, and is quite comfortable with the new decor, proceed to step 2.
(Note: Withholding food from your pet for a day before this makes clean-up easier)
Step 2) With your pet in the cage, close the door and put the nozzle of the helium canister in the open end of the bag. Use the length of string to tightly secure the bag around the nozzle, so that the nozzle is protruding into the bag. Make sure there are no leaks and that the nozzle is unblocked by plastic bag **If you are putting a larger dog to sleep, you may need to use more than one helium tank, so tightly secure the plastic tubing in the opening of the bag instead, and then put the nozzle in the other end of the tube. Press hard enough to make a good seal between the hose and the nozzle.
Step 3) Open the valve on the helium tank, and begin to flood the bag and cage with helium. If the cage is small and the bag is big, this is all you have to do. If the cage is large, you may need to make a small cut in a corner of the bottom of the bag, to let out the remnant air as you flood the cage with helium.
Step 4) Once the cage and bag are fully flooded, and the bag looks quite inflated, close the small hole in the corner of the bag with the twist tie, if you had to make one. Secure it tightly. Continue to maintain constant, but not extreme, pressure in the bag. You want the bag inflated, but not ready to burst.
Step 4a) If your dog is large, inflating the bag may use up the first helium canister completely. If that is the case, then simply remove the end of the hose from the first canister, and place it on the nozzle of the second canister and continue. Try not to lose any gas pressure in the bag by holding your thumb over the end of the hose.
NOTE: During Steps 3 and 4, you will hear your pet relax and almost immediately slip into unconsciousness. It only takes few seconds, and there is NO PAIN. Breathing may become very deep, and you may hear some panting. Following this, and very briefly, you may hear your pet move about rapidly. DO NOT PANIC. This is merely a seizure; a sign of an oxygen-starved brain. Your pet is TOTALLY unconscious during this time, and CANNOT feel any discomfort or fear whatsoever.
Step 5) Leaving the bag sealed to the helium canister, and after checking for any leaks, retire to your favorite comfy chair and listen to some music. It is advisable at this point to not reflect on the life of your beloved pet, because it will cause you undue stress, and you're not finished yet. You will have the rest of your life to think fondly of your pet later. For now: Relax.
Step 6) Periodically peek to make sure the bag is still inflated. Breathing will slow, and then become sporadic, finally stopping altogether, between 9 and 30 minutes from when the bag is first flooded with helium. Just to be sure, listen after 40 minutes, and if there are no breath sounds, you have done it; CONGRATULATIONS, You have released your pet from his/her pain, and your family from the agony of dealing with euthanasia at a vet's office.
Step 7) Open a nearby door or window, and ensure proper ventilation of the area around the cage. Then, open the bag and allow the helium to escape. Remove the bag from around the cage. DON'T WORRY. What you will see is a completely peaceful animal, which CLEARLY did not experience any discomfort, pain or fear.
Step 8) Your pet may have involuntarily defecated, and/or urinated. Feel free to clean him/her up with paper towels and warm water. You don't need to worry about hurting your pet now. The pain is gone.
Step 9) Take as much time as you need to grieve for your beloved pet. While you may feel relief that his/her suffering is over, your own sadness may be difficult to take. When you are ready, call your vet's office and inform them that your pet died in his/her sleep. Make the arrangements you've decided on for disposal of the body. Many local humane societies offer cremation services at very reasonable rates.
Step 10) Announce the death in your family by whatever method you prefer. You may be surprised at how much understanding and sympathy have. Take comfort in this shared grief.
MY STORY: Our 9 year old German Shepherd was much loved by my kids, who had grown up with him. They adored him, so when he began to bite and snap unpredictably, it was hard for my kids to take. Medications helped his arthritis pain, but didn't make him totally trustworthy around anyone. For the last 6 months of his life, I lived in CONSTANT fear he would bite a child, or the postman, or anyone else. I had to be extremely careful how I handled him, because he would bite me too. He had good days and bad days, but he also had good moments and bad moments, and it was impossible to tell which he was having until it was too late and someone needed stitches.
Our vet recommend more aggressive medications, which were going to cost over $100 per month. He was never going to get better, and the bites were likely to get more frequent and more severe. What had been a loving pet was now a walking lawsuit waiting to happen. I was terrified that he was always about to bite someone. When I realized that prolonging the life of the dog was making my life a living hell and would eventually result in horrible injury to someone, I asked the vet about performing a quiet euthanasia at my home. The vet refused! He insisted that because the pain was manageable, and because the dog was otherwise in good health, he would not put him down, at my home or anywhere else. Wow! Every vet I asked said the same thing!
So instead, I began to research painless, easy methods of euthanasia that had a very low risk of danger to anyone else. The "self-deliverance" websites on painless suicide methods offered vast amounts of useful information. My wife and I began to plan...
Rather than make my kids go through the anguish, my wife and I decided to euthanize the dog in his crate at home without telling the kids ahead of time. In order to save him from any fear, we ran several practice runs, until the dog walked willingly into his crate when it was in a giant black bag, lie down and wait for his treat. Then, one Friday morning while the kids were at school, we followed the above directions, which resulted in our dog dying peacefully, painlessly and without fear. He looked angelic, resting there like he was asleep. My wife and I removed all the "evidence," and carefully discarded it. We cleaned his body tenderly and tearfully. Then we waited for the kids to arrive home. Of course they were heartbroken. They cried and wailed and hugged the dog, and we cried with them.
As far as they were concerned, their dog died peacefully of natural causes. He was old. They didn't require any further explanation.
My wife called the crematorium. When the kids were ready, we all picked up the body of our beloved dog and carried him to the car. At the facility, I carried him in, while my wife consoled the children in the car. When we got back home, we sat in the back yard and told stories, sometimes tearfully, about what a wonderful dog we had, and how lucky he was to have gone so quietly...
May your love for your pet endure beyond your lifetime. May the decision be easy for you. May you take some comfort in releasing him from his pain without fear, without pain, without worry.