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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Catch-up Blog #2: Euthanasia Gone Wrong?

Here's an email I received from Marie,

In November I made the sad decision to have Sam my companion of 14 years put down. I have been there before and it's never easy to say goodbye but always it has been a simple injection in the side and they slip peacefully away. This time unfortunately wasn't the case.
He sat on the table looking weary. He'd had enough. The vet shaved part of his leg which I thought odd and then injected straight into his leg. He screamed and shook and then died in my arms. I was absolutely traumatised. My friend took me home and I couldn't stop hearing his scream. He was a lovely boy. Loved everyone and to die like this?
Later I wrote to the vet for answers, the reply was amazing. He blamed Sam. (He didn't move. He just sat there.) A simple injection into the side didn't exist and I had walked out without paying. My friend stood next to me when I asked reception what I owed and they said they would send the bill.
I've contacted the Royal College but they only seem to be organised for complaints against a vet. I just want answers. I just wonder how many more pet owners have gone through this.
Is this procedure unusual? The norm? I need to know.

There are actually several acceptable ways to humanely euthanize a pet.  The most common way is via an intravenous injection in the front leg, which is what it sounds like Marie's vet did.  Some vets will give an intramuscular sedative prior to euthanasia, and some will give an intravenous anesthesia to make them unconscious before the final injection.  Personally I just give the euthanasia solution without anything else, unless the pet is very restless, aggressive, or otherwise at risk of moving around a lot.  I also place an IV catheter rather than injecting from the syringe into the vein, just in case the pet moves slightly and the needle might come out of the vein.

Probably 99% of the time the procedure goes smoothly, resulting in quick, peaceful death.  But on rare occasions things go wrong, even if the vet did everything properly, and every vet can tell you about these nightmare cases.  I have also had pet suddenly scream before passing away.  One time I had a cat literally jump about a foot off the table with a loud yowl as I injected, then fell down hard, suddenly dead.  All vets have had cases where the animal needed a far greater dose of euthanasia solution than should have been necessary for their body size.  Believe me, these cases bother us as well!  I really hate seeing pets react like this as I know how much it upsets the clients (rightfully so!).  Whenever I perform a euthanasia that goes smoothly I'm always thankful.  Most people don't realize it, but this is a procedure that doesn't go perfectly every time, and that usually isn't the fault of the veterinarian.

Not having been present, I can't say whether or not Marie's vet did things appropriately.  But based on her description it sounds like this was within normal standards of practice.  A front leg IV injection is the most common method, and an intramuscular injection of euthanasia doesn't exist.  I'm very sorry that it happened this way, but it doesn't sound like it was the "fault" of either the vet or Sam.