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Sedation for euthanasia?

Species: Cat
Breed: long haired
Age: 11-15 years
My cat was recently diagnosed with tumors in his lungs.He's no longer eating on his own.I have to feed him through a syringe as instructed by our vet.He will drink water on his own and still uses his litter box.He has not been acting like himself in a while.He has lost quite a bit of weight.

We've discussed with the vet about having him put to sleep because we don't want him to just be here and suffer.He does not appear to be in pain however.I can tell he doesn't feel well though.

The vet informed us that they absolutely will not give any animal a sedative before the procedure because of "complications".Also,they will not have an I.V. in place to administer the final shot that will put him to sleep.So it will just be the one shot only.

My cat cannot stand to have anyone touching his paws so I know he will pull away and try to jump down.We were told that the vet and the technician would just hold him down get the needle into the vein.To me this seems very inhumane.I can't see how they will be able to find a vein on the first try and get it to work effectively if my cat is fighting it.An I.V. in place beforehand would give him time to be calm and happy before he goes to sleep.

If he needs to be put to sleep so he doesn't suffer,I wanted it to be as peaceful as possible for him.Not the total opposite.
We've called around to other vets in the area
and the few that we spoke with informed us that they too do not use a sedative or an i.v.Our vet has been in business a very long time and we've been there since Sammy was a kitten.

Is this normal for this procedure? What else could I do?
I'm just really worried that it will not go well and his last moments will be terrible.

Right now my only other option is just keeping him at home and comfortable and letting him pass here.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

First of all, I'm so sorry to hear about Sammy. I had a very similar case as my first appointment today. It was an elderly kitty with a chest cancer and he was really having serious breathing issues. Today was the day for euthanasia and it was quite sad.

I'm surprised that none of the vets in your area do sedation or place an IV catheter before euthanasia. In our practice that is pretty much standard. I am guessing that the main concern with not sedating Sammy is that, sometimes, when a cat has respiratory problems, when we give the sedation, it can cause a cat to have even more breathing problems. When I had my case this morning, I instructed my technicians to give half of the regular dose of sedation because I was worried that the cat would not handle it well. I have to tell you that even with that half dose, he had some respiratory distress. It's a tough call in cases like this because if I did not give sedation it may have been difficult for me to hit his vein. (After he was sedated we put a catheter in place.)

It's important to know, though, that every vet has their own procedure when it comes to euthanasia. In every case, the ultimate goal is to make the procedure happen as smoothly as possible, with the least amount of discomfort to the animal. If your local veterinarian does not routinely use sedation or an IV catheter, the reason may be that they have a routine that works better for them. Often, for cats, it can be easier to give an IV injection by using the vein on the inside of the back leg. It is often easier to inject directly into this vein than putting a catheter in.

I would really advise against letting Sammy die at home. We all hope that our animals will quietly pass away in their sleep and unfortunately that is not usually what happens, especially if there is a lung issue. From experience with dealing with clients who have waited to have their animals die at home, the final experience can sometimes be awful. If a cat is in respiratory distress, then this can end up causing severe panic for both the cat and its owners. It would horrible for it to be 3 a.m. and for you guys to discover that Sammy is struggling to breathe. A sudden trip to the emergency clinic in this state would be awful.

I understand your fear that things won't go well at the vet clinic. Remember though that your vet does many euthanasias a week and really should be able to make things go smoothly.

I'm so sorry that you and your family are going through this tough decision, but it does sound like the time is coming soon.

I hope everything goes ok.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for responding so quickly.

Your response helped me to better understand everything.I most likely will be bringing him in very soon.I already knew that it would be a better choice than just letting him die at home,especially with his breathing issues.I'm still very concerned that it will be an awful experience for him so I'll be contacting the vet once more to have them explain exactly how it will all happen when the time comes so there are no surprises.

Thank you for your help.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.