Euthanasia Methods

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:38 am

Two summers ago, I worked with a vet at the marine mammal center in SoCal. Sadly, the summer of 05 was a really bad domoic acid (a neurotoxin affecting many many marine mammals and birds) year and along with that came lots and lots of euthanasias. She did it differently from what I had seen before. She injects her patients with a sedative first (telazol), IM. Once the patient is asleep (or pretty knocked out), she does the usual IV injection of euthanasia soln.

I now work at a hospital that also does this (cats and dogs) but in previous veterinary settings, vets just went straight to the pink juice.

So I was thinking that guinea pigs (and any other small animals), of all patients, should most definately always get sedated prior to a vet trying to poke its liver or heart with a big needle. I was told that going for the heart is quite painful and I imagine the liver isnt much better.

I have no idea what other vets do out there. Maybe the first few places I worked at were just cheap and didnt want to spare the few fractions of a mL of telazol. Its sort of a morbid topic but should you ever have to make that kind of vet trip, be it cat, dog or guinea pig, I hihgly recommend an IM sedation. Pet falls asleep within 5-10 mins. I have rarely seen animals not go under easily... this is usually with animals that are still pretty healthy (but is old, ugly and has no bladder control, usually).

Personally, I think they should all be done this way. Sorry for the random post but I had been wanting to share this thought with piggy owners for awhile.

I Love Lucy

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:45 am

For dogs and cats, our vets usually "top off" their syringes of euthanasia with Propofol, which works nicely. Since it goes IV, it starts working right away, immediately followed by the euthanasia solution. I've never seen a euth done this way go anything but perfectly peacefully. I really like that they do it that way. For smaller critters (birds, rats, tiny kittens), we gas them with ISO and then usually do a cardiac stick (never removing them from the ISO until it's done).

I don't think any animal should have to suffer through a cardiac stick or injection into the liver without sedation.


Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:56 am

Iso is nice but I have seen some of them really fight it. Usually hamsters. Iso smells and many animals dont like being forced to sniff it if they can put up the fight.

The reason I suggest an IM injection of a sedative as oppose to an IV one is that its not always easy to stick the vein of a sick animal. Plus some of them move. Ive seen some animals get stuck multiple times, trying to hit the vein. If they are sedated... even if the IV inj doesnt go super smoothly, at least the animal doesnt know you are poking it multiple times. Its pretty difficult to mess up an IM injection.

the reason I made this post is because I have seen, from different vets, direct cardiac sticks without any other pain preventer or sedation.

I Love Lucy

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 3:08 am

Yeah, I simply can't imagine that a cardiac stick isn't somehow painful if the animal is awake. I could perhaps see it in the case of an animal in extreme agony due to a terrible trauma (i.e., hit by car), but that's about it.

Good point on the bit about hitting a vein. We often place catheters for the sake of the owners and depending on what vet is doing it, but I like your idea a lot more, I think. The animal need only feel one needle stick that way.

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:32 am

Valentine was given Iso just before and she fought like a wild thing. It was a horrible thing to watch knowing her last few minutes were spent struggling. I will never allow that method to be used again. Something will be given to SQ or IM first.

Who's your Branni?

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:44 am

Dr. A gives the sedative first so you can be with them and then takes the pig into another room for the cardiac stick.

My dog and cat vet does the sedation first and then the euth stuff.

I am thankful for the sedation, both for them, and my last minutes of memory (and guilt!)

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 9:24 am

If the family is going to be there, a catheter is put in place. Then the animal goes back with their family, and the pink juice is given. If the family is not going to be there, they just go for the vein. I have had to hold animals for cardiac sticks, and I don't like it. One of the vets will do it, if the circulation is poor, and the pink juice is not circulating fast.

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Cavies 'n Cobwebs

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 9:38 am

I had a pig of mine PTS at my last vet. They just took her next door and stuck the needle in, I could hear the squeal. Judging by the young vet's expression I'm not sure he'd actually done one before. We were both pretty horrified by it. One reason I'll be discussing this first with my current vet, I like the idea of a sedative first.

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:02 am

I know when my bird was PTS, they took her to another room. So, I'm sure they stuck her heart. The little GP at work, was a heart stick, and I hated holding her for it.

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I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:06 am

Good and useful discussion, CP.

I have one question though - as so many of our animals are sedated using Iso for surgery, why is it different in this case? Do our guinea pigs struggle agains the Iso when they're going in for surgery?

I've asked my vets to gas down first with Iso and then to do the needlestick. If your method is more humane then I'll ask my vet to use this method instead.

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:38 am

My vet lets me back in the OR with him and they are all sedated with ISO in the little sedation box. All of my pigs have struggled with the ISO, rubbing thier noses and trying to get away from the gas. I really hate watching it.

I never realized Diprivan (propofol) could be used for gp's too. It's a beautiful thing in my vent patients. Thank you for the advice. I fortunately have not had to have anyone PTS as of yet. Everyone so far has passed at home.

I can't imagine how painful a cardiac stick is... and the risk of missing would be great.

I know of co-workers who have OD'd thier pets with IM insulin or a sedative at home. That way they did not have to spend thier last moments in the vet office.

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For all Wonkys & Winkys

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:08 am

I have had two different experiences with putting my pigs down. The first time, they gassed him first, and then when he was asleep, they injected him in his heart. The second time, they gave an injection, and he slowly fell asleep, and when totally out, they gave the shot in the heart. I was present at both. My poor little pig struggled when the mask was held on his face, and it took forever for him to fall asleep. The injection was far less tramatizing for the other pig, and he fell asleep in my arms. Both pigs were totally out of it when they got the heart injection, so I know that they didn't feel it because I was there. I would much rather go with the injection then the gas for the initial sedation as it is far less tramatizing in my opinion. Sorry, my vet told me the meds that were used, but since I didn't care, I didn't remember the names.
I do know that my vet said that they are very careful to make sure that the animal is completley out before the heart injection, because she said that it is a very painful injection to get. She said that it burns when being injected.


Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:11 am

Actually, for surgical procedures, all animals are usually given a sedative (usually propofol or telazol, IV) first. Whn given IV, the animal goes down immediantly and they are intubated and connected to the iso before losing full conscienceness.

Iso smells awful and even cats and dogs struggle if you mask them with it fully awake.

The animal is scared as it is... and suddenly someone is holding their head against some smelly weirdness.

I have mixed feelings about the cathether. In all honestly, it is placed there for the sake of the vet and owner more so than for the animal. its so that once the owner is ready, all the vet has to do is to push the euthasol soln thru rather than struggle with a vein. Some vets can't find a vein if their life depended on it. I personally think a cathether placement is more stress than is needed. I believe in as little interaction if the animal as possible.

An IM injection does pinch, but when compared to nothing or gassing, I think it's worth is because 1) the pet never has to leave sight of the owner (and vice versa) and 2) the pain is over in a second. A sedative given SQ will take a bit too long to come into effect.


Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:13 am

because she said that it is a very painful injection to get. She said that it burns when being injected.

Well if you think about it... its a beating heart with a needle in it. Its really the only way to put all that solution into the pig's blood stream.
Last edited by ChunkyPiggies on Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:13 am

Exactly Lynx, I am sure they struggle with Iso for procedures as well, I guess it feels different though whe we are doing it for euthanization since when we are doing procedures on them we are doing it to make them better. They will, God willing, wake up and continue an enjoyable life.


Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:07 pm

I've had my bunnies I've had to euthanize done with IM sedation first. I would not do it any other way, now that I've seen the peacefulness of it.

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:13 pm


Anyway, I think I have had three guinea pigs heart sticked. I think the second time the vet missed it and had to do it again. I regretted causing any additional pain. The last time I had taken along an xray of a guinea pig at my large animal friend's request. She counted down the ribs to find the best place. It was very very quick.

This is such a hard subject to talk about because it is mixed with the pain of loss. None of us want to cause our pets any additional pain or fear at the end of their lives.

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Cindy in MI
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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:39 pm

If we know we are facing a euthanization, why can't we get an oral sedative to give the animal to make them really loopy even before we leave the house to take them in? Get them good and loopy first so they are minimaly stressed and hardly feel the IM or SQ sedation stick, then once under that, proceed? In the case of the one cat I had to have pts, it was going to be traumatic to just take him out of the house and ride in a car. I did give some oral acepromazine beforehand but he wasn't as loopy as I would have liked to have seen.

Why not do this and what med would work best?

With a hamster I had to have pts, once we got to the vet's, I requested oral sedation first. The poor little hammie was so sick that just that almost pushed her over the edge. She was agonal breathing just with the oral sedation. Then they gave her the euth solution. For her, it was probably about as least traumatic as possible.

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Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:42 pm

This thread has been so helpful. If Roo doesn't improve - and if we've exhausted all avenues, my husband and I had agreed that we'd euthanize.

I'm certain that my dog/cat vet would come to our home to do it - but I'm also sure she's never put down a guinea pig - so this information will be helpful for the both of us.

Wheekness for Pigs

Post   » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:43 pm

I had to euthanize a hamster awhile back. The use of the isoflurane was pretty easy for the ham but she had already been anesthetized for surgery that discovered widespread abdominal cancer and she was on quite a bit of pain medication. Once my daugther made the decision to euthanize (it was her pet), the vet gave a bit more isoflurate and did the cardiac stick. In this case, it was very peaceful.

I understand where people are coming from and wanting to spare their pet any pain. It is also a draining experience to have to make that decision to help your pet pass. There have been some suggestions about carrying out euthanasia of a pet on one's own. I mentioned in some other thread that I have a friend who is an anesthesiologist and he is often approached about doing euthanasia for pets. You really have to know what you are doing in order to prevent putting your pet through a lot of additional suffering. He flatly refuses to help people with this because animals are so different from humans and their responses to drugs and procedures can be vastly different from their human counterparts. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to personally botch an attempt to euthanize your pet and put them through undue suffering.

If you are ever in a position where your pet is to be euthanized, I think it makes sense to share your concerns with the vet. Make it clear that you don't want your pet to experience any fright and perhaps together, you can come up with a solution that gives both you and your pet some peace.

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