Euthanasia

This sounds like such a depressing topic to bring up. But, its not. We are so lucky in the world of veterinary medicine that we have the option to relieve an animal of its suffering.


I get ALOT of questions about euthanasia. DISCLAIMER: there is not right answer for majority of these questions; but this is how I answer them.

Is this the right choice for my pet? What would you do?

  • You have to remember, that my relationship with my pet is different than your relationship with your pet. We all have our own personal beliefs on how far we should go medically and on the importance of quality vs quantity of life. I want you to know that deciding to euthanize is not a selfish decision. In majority of cases, the decision is actually very selfless because you are making a choice based on your pets quality of life.


When will I know it’s time?

  • I tend to use the ‘rule of 3’. Pick 3 things that your pet LOVES to do (ex. go for walks, play fetch, play with the cat, etc.) and if he/she cannot do 2/3 of these things anymore, then it is time to start thinking about end of life options for quality of life reasons.


What are you injecting?

  • There are a few different ways to perform euthanasia. One of the more common drugs that I use is injectable pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium.

  • Pentobarbital is a short-acting barbiturate drug that can be used as a sedative/anesthetic agent, treating seizures, and for euthanasia. Typically, it is just used for euthanasia since we have other medications that can be used for its other uses.

  • Phenytoin is an anti-seizure drug but it is uncommonly used for this in vet med.


Is it painful?

  • No. Pentobarbital and phenytoin are non-irritating when injected intravenously. Each drug acts differently to cause a rapid, humane, and painless euthanasia.

  • Phenobarbital will rapidly cause your pet to into an unconscious state. At high doses, it will cause respiratory and vasomotor depression in the brain.

  • After your pet is unconscious, phenytoin then will cause the heart to stop.

What happens if the drug can’t be injected into the vein?

  • Sometimes, the drug may need to be injected directly into the heart or into an abdominal organ. If this is the case, your vet will heavily sedate your pet before for they do not free anything.


Why is it blue/purple?

  • A harmless fluorescent dye is added to help distinguish it from other drugs. This is a critical control point to prevent euthanasia drugs being accidentally injected.


Isn’t it nicer if I just wait for my pet to die at home?

  • We all hope that our pet will pass peacefully at home. However, this is very rarely the case. Often, a natural death can be very difficult and uncomfortable to watch. With euthanasia, it allows us to be able to say goodbye to our loved one and let them pass without suffering.


How do you emotionally handle euthanasia?

  • I look at euthanasia as a treatment option. Part of our job is to relieve pets of their pain and assisted death does this. Euthanasia is a perfectly reasonable option if treatments have been exhausted, the owners are financially constrained and their pet is sick, pain cannot be managed, etc.


You should never feel judged by anyone about your choice to euthanize your pet for quality of life reasons. Do not hesitate to talk to your vet about options or discuss how your are feeling. We are here for you.

**NOTE: If owners want to euthanize a young, healthy pet, I always try to get them to re-home or surrender the pet**

O: do you have any other questions?

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