Losing part of the family

While obviously no one likes to think about it, pets get older. It can be so hard for a family to have to imagine their lives without a pet in it that they have had for a long time. Many animal lovers wish their pets could live as long as the owners just to avoid the sadness of losing them. But, there hits a point that it is no longer healthy to keep the animal alive. The pet is sick or old and it becomes inhumane to force the pet to continue on. I have a very old dog that I have had since I was three years old and I don’t want to see him pass away ever. He’s so old now though I constantly wonder if he’s even happy living due to his weakened body. With such worries come the concerns of how to handle the rest of the pet’s life. Often a talk the vet has to have with owners is regarding euthanasia. I personally wonder what is in this shot that allows the pet to pass away peacefully. Let’s find out.

Euthanasia is basically a sedative overdose. This provides that the pet will drift painlessly into sleep and simply “stay asleep.” Most of these drugs are intravenous injections and are done as a two part series. The first is usually to put the pet to so sleep and the second is to kill the pet. There are several different options for euthanasia. To understand the best option for the animal is to understand each drug individually.

Telazol is the first sedative available. Telazol has tiletamine and zolazepam in it. The combination of the two drugs allows for a very effective anesthetic. No pain is felt during this option.

Ketamine is another option and “has some pain-relieving effects, which makes this combination preferable to some veterinarians for routine use during medical procedures.” Both ketamine and telazol work very well however, ketamine is sometimes used as “club drug” and is thus not kept in many vets’ offices.

Propofol is commonly used in vets’ offices for anesthesia. However, propofol is very expensive. What veterinarians will commonly do with this drug is keep what is left in the “one-use-only vials” to combine and use it as the first injection for the two injection series for euthanasia. Being as the pet is being put down anyway, spreading infection is not a concern, and saving the remainder from these vials is permitted.

Medetomidine is a very good pain reliever for animals but can be expensive for larger dogs.

Acepromazine “is a tranquilizer commonly used in vet practice to chill out aggressive dogs through IM injection.” Acepromazine is popular because it is cheap and not commonly abused.

A drug commonly used in the first injection for a two part series is Xylazine. Xylazine is a tranquilizer for horses but is very inexpensive to use to euthanize small dogs.

As for the second shot used in the two part series, the most commonly used is Barbiturates. This basically sends the animal into cardiac arrest very quickly. Being as the animal is heavily sedated first, the pet will feel no pain. However, there is always potential for the sedation methods to be less effective than expected and for the pet to twitch or appear to be in pain before dying. The two part injection method has become popular for the reason that the animal will feel no pain and will appear to feel no pain, thus making the loss easier for the owner.

What mostly needs to be kept in mind when deciding whether to euthanize an animal or not is what is best for the animal. Having an honest discussion with a vet is one of the best choices to make. All of the above drugs have been tested thoroughly and provided the safest results. It is never safe to give an animal the cardiac arrest causing drug without atheistic first. It is unfortunate to lose a pet, but it is even more unfortunate to be uneducated about the matter and allow the animal to suffer.

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3 thoughts on “Losing part of the family

  1. Ethan Asam

    I know exactly how you feel about your dog because one of my dogs had to be euthanized last year and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. My dad is also an Anesthesiologist and so I’m also familiar with anesthesia and its effects so it sparked my interest in reading this blog. I thought it was interesting reading the different types of euthenasia that are used for various pets. That what made me think about the bigger picture. I wonder what kind of drug shelters use for the thousands of pets they have to put down each year. Shelters may not see it worth it to use Telazol or Ketamine. 4 million animals have to be put down a year according to http://www.peta.org/issues/companion-animal-issues/companion-animals-factsheets/euthanasia-compassionate-option/ and the most humane way to deal with them is put them down but I know some shelters use gas chambers because it is cheaper. I never knew there were so many options in regards to euthenasia and it really made me wonder which drugs are used and when.

  2. Jesenia A Munoz

    Not too long ago, I had to put my dog to sleep. She was 15 years old and I had her for as long as I can remember. I owned her and her brother and I noticed how different she was after her brother died. She required a lot of attention just as any human would after losing a family member so close to them. She grew to be blind and started getting very sick and after having to take her to the vet one late night, I decided it was best to put her to sleep. They gave me the option to hold her in my arms as they injected her with the medications you speak of in your blog. It was extremely heart breaking for me but it definitely was a peaceful ending. I remember her feeling so empty in my arms after the second shot. She felt like a teddy bear in my arms but she looked as if she was finally in peace. You are most definitely right about needing to be informed when going through this process. When a pets’ life is at stake, you must handle it with care just as you would a humans’. Thank you for this post! It is definitely relatable.

  3. Rebecca Sorensen

    I have had a cat since I was 4 years old, and this past year I had to face the decision of putting him to sleep. He had been around the house or almost my entire life, and I did not have a single memory that he was not there for. When the vet first told me and my parents that it was time to give him the shots to put him out of pain, I immediately rejected it. But, it was becoming obvious at home how uncomfortable he was and that he was in a lot of pain, and it certainly wasn’t fair for us to make him suffer like that. The vet gave us some information about the shots she would be using, but I did not pay much attention, but looking back it probably would have been nice to be aware of what was being used on my cat before we lost him. After reading this, though, I think I know and understand what was used. Although it is so sad to see a best friend, even family member go, it is the right choice for them at a certain point. Thank you for such an informative post!

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