As a veterinarian for more than 25 years — and a pet owner — I know how difficult it is for pet owners to talk about or even ask about putting a sick pet down. Our pets are cherished members of their family and most people will do whatever it takes to help their beloved pet get through a health crisis. At the Animal Medical Center (AMC), our specialists successfully treat tens of thousands of patient cases each year ranging from renal failure in dogs to infections in frogs – from cancer therapy to cruciate rupture and from gall bladders to geriatrics, we see it all.
However, in cases where there is no quality of life for the pet, absolutely no chance of correcting the problem — if a prolonged illness causes the pet to suffer and have pain, the veterinarian and the pet owner often sadly come to the mutual and difficult conclusion to euthanize — a safe, humane option.
With that said, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Texas Adopts Animal Drug for Executions”, was brought to my attention by a client who had recently euthanized his beloved cat — and I had real concerns that pet owners might think euthanasia is bad.
For generations, veterinarians have used the drug pentobarbital, an anesthetic agent, for euthanasia because it is extremely effective. Pentobarbital — according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s Guidelines on Euthanasia — acts rapidly to smoothly induce euthanasia. For these reasons the Guidelines choose pentobarbital (or other chemically-related drugs) as the preferred compound for euthanasia in dogs and cats.
At the AMC we typically give a sedative, often propofol (the drug made famous by Michael Jackson) followed by pentobarbital. AMC staff sends sympathy cards and creates pawprint mementos following the death of a pet to help ease the grieving process. The family is always welcome to be present during euthanasia. The end of a beloved pet’s life is a difficult decision for every pet owner. Veterinarians everywhere work hard to make the loss of a beloved pet a peaceful experience.
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