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Painful euthanasia?


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this is a difficult post for me to write given that I have elderly dogs. My friend had her Golden Retriever euthanized today because of advanced cancer. My friend said that Madison's passing was 'horrendously painful'. I can't even bring myself to type the balance of her message.

 

I've only had one dog put to sleep and it was just that....at home, it was like she fell asleep. I can't imagine what my friend has described.

 

What went wrong?.....To my mind, it shouldn't be painful......... I'm feeling sick at heart, I cannot even begin to imagine how my friend is feeling. :rolleyes:

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Both dogs we had euthanised last year went relatively peacefully. Stinky slowly drifted off to sleep, then her breathing slowed to nothing. The vet had a terrible time finding a vein on my Lu, but I honestly think Lu was so ready to go (she also had cancer) that just the sedative the vet gave her first would have been enough.

 

That said, I do know that Lu reacted terribly to anesthesia when she had surgery. She had emergency surgery twice, and the first time, it was awful. She totally panicked when the vet tried to anesthetise her. Thereafter, she was always sedated first. I think, at the end, she would have had a worse reaction had she not been so worn out anyway. I wonder if something like that happened.

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I have no answers but I am so sorry for your friend and her dog. You too.

Yes I have senior dogs and I can't imagine having a painful crossing. I hope mine fade away before i have to make decisions for them.

 

prayers for Madison that she has finally found her peace.

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I am so very sorry to hear of this. I've had to put several old and ailing dogs to sleep, over the last 20 years, and a couple cats. All were peaceful crossings. I can't even imagine what went wrong for your friend. Some sort of allergic reaction to the drugs?

 

If your friend can, in time, I think she needs to have a good stern talk with her vet, to sort this out. I shudder to imagine her grief. :rolleyes:

 

~ Gloria

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I would say of all the ones I've done Kirby's was the most unusual. He started breathing again and to make matters worse I think the vet got worried. He stood there for what seemed like forever listening to his heart. I've heard they cry out and moan though almost like a bad dream state.

 

I'm sorry for your friend

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It is hard to say without seeing, but... Since this is IV infusion- a vein can be missed, and if that happens, both solutions (if they use two) will burn. Also, some dogs have reactions to the drug. The best way to do this is to dose with sedative, and then the solution. I am sorry for your friend.

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I'm so sorry that your friend had to go through something like that.

Both of the dogs I had put down lived full and long lives and I was sure it was their time to go. The first one didn't really want to succumb to the sedative initially (he was a tough boy all his life) but in no way was it painful. The last one, Hughie, it was like he went to sleep. As much as I didn't want to see him go, I couldn't have imagined a more peaceful and dignified way for him to leave me.

 

I think your friend should have a talk with the vet to ask what the vet thought went wrong.

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It sounds like your friend's experience was horrible and I'm sure mine can't compare, but 2 of the last 3 dogs I've had euthanized cried with the first injection. The one that didn't cry had the medication injected directly into his vein (no IM). It absolutely devestated me . . . I've got 2 senior dogs that I'm sure will need to be put down in the near future and I'm terrified to take them in (when the time comes). I really need to discuss this (and our options) with my vet because I never had this experience before. Perhaps this is a good thing for everyone to do prior to the event?

 

My sympathies are completely with your friend. You're trying to prevent suffering and to see their last moment like this is so heartbreaking . . .

 

Kim

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I work in a vet clinic and have helped with lots of euthanasias. The drug used does not hurt if it gets in the vein. However, if the vein is leaky or they miss the vein, it can sting. I also know it can feel funny as it goes up the vein but it does not hurt - some dogs will react to it just because they're on edge or an overly sensitive dog and it feels wierd. I've seen some pretty bad euthanasias but not because of the drug itself, more because the dog was panicky, or really reacted to the poke of the needle and jumped and blew the vein so we'd have to try another leg etc. The only pain the dog should feel with the euthanasia is the poke of the needle and many dogs don't react to that - it really depends on the dog. My oldest is getting close to that time, and I know just because of what she's like that I'm going to have to muzzle her and she will yelp and try to bite when she gets poked with the needle...its just the way she reacts to any type of tiny pain or anything. She'd do the same thing when poked with any kind of sedative as well, or if I pull on a matt or anything.

With some animals, we've started taking them to the back first and putting in an IV catheter. Then bringing them back to the room. That way, the injection is totally painless and you know for sure its in the vein etc. The dog at that point also has no clue anything is happening because it doesn't need to be restrained or have the leg held or anything. If the animal seems too high strung we also ask the owners if they want the animal sedated first.

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It is hard to say without seeing, but... Since this is IV infusion- a vein can be missed, and if that happens, both solutions (if they use two) will burn. Also, some dogs have reactions to the drug. The best way to do this is to dose with sedative, and then the solution. I am sorry for your friend.

 

That's the same thing my vet told me when it as time to put my Lab mix down. He and the techs were very careful to make sure they had a vein so as not to cause Buddy any unnecessary discomfort. My good old boy was ready and was very patient while they made sure they had it just right. I insisted on staying with him the whole time. I was the last person he saw and the last voice he heard. It was peaceful.

 

Years ago, I was too young and cowardly to stay with my first BC when it was time and I've never forgiven myself for that. I've vowed to never leave a pet like that again.

 

It's a hard thing to do but the least I can do for a lifetime of devotion.

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My deepest sympathies to your friend - both on the loss of her dog and the painful euthanesia. It must be doubly horrible to make the decision to save your pet from suffering and then the euthanesia be painful for the pet.

 

IMO some vets are more skilled than others at euthanesia - and I consider this to be an excellent skill for a vet to have. None of my pets euthanized by my vet have shown any discomfort - not even with the needle prick; she injects the mediation very slowly so that the pet relaxes into sleep which then becomes deeper and deeper until the pet dies. For me, luckily, it has been a sad but very peaceful experience to witness. However, I've seen animals euth'd by other vets when the animal exhibited agonal breathing, involuntary reflexes, etc. which left the owner wondering if the pet felt any pain.

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I stay with all my dogs when it is their time. I've noticed the vet's like to take the dog

to another room to put the needle in. I heard my first dog cry a little but it was only for

a moment. I think they like to spare you the anxiety as they are putting in the needle.

They probably also don't want you freaking out and getting the dog upset either. When

the needle is in they bring the dog back in and tell you to take all the time you want

loving up your dog and saying your goodbyes. When you are ready you stick your head

out of the room and they come right away. Then you sit with your dog on the floor or hold

them on the table as they inject the drug that stops their heart. The vets say some dogs

thrash around a bit and some moan, which could just be the air passing with the last exhalation.

My three that I have had put to sleep went very peacefully, which is a good thing because I

am crying and having a hard time. The vets have always seem genuinely sorry for me.

While not a pleasant experience I thought it was a good passing for my old friends. Mona

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It was not the IV medication that my dogs reacted to, it was an IM med (i.e., my vets give two injections - one IM and one IV). Can you please tell me what drug your vets use IV (alone) so that I can discuss using it with my vet? I was a critical care nurse early in my career and have quite a bit of experience with death and dying (both with people and animals - I'm familar with agonal breathing and muscle spasms, which did not occur). The thing that really bothered me is that my dogs are/were all stoiic and the fact that they cried (and became scared) demonstrated to me that the IM injection was extremely painful.

 

Kim

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Every dog I've made the decision to euthanize, I've stayed with. That would be about 6 or 7 dogs. I've never regretted staying and the experience has always been a peaceful release. Everything was done in front of me. The one I anticipated difficulty with was Sam, the rescue dog who messed up my hand. He was the one I euthanzied for behavior issues. I didn't want his last minutes to be a struggle with a muzzle, so before I left on the 1 1/2 hour trip to the vet, I gave him 2 caps of Ace. By the time we got to the vet's office, he was woozy and so his death was easy -- for lack of a better word. What a horrible experience your friend has gone through. It's enough to put off the inevitable next time, and some people would.

 

My mother who is 83 and has ferrets, had her favorite put to sleep a couple of years ago. She, who babies those things, had to be talked into taking her dying ferret (he was uncomfortable) into the vet, witnessed the ferret crying out when being poked with the needle, and from that day forward, she blames the vet. Don't ask. :rolleyes: It's a long story. I'm thankful, having read the original post here, that that's all she witnessed. Had that been my mother, she'd have been badly traumatized.

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I stay with all my dogs when it is their time. I've noticed the vet's like to take the dog

to another room to put the needle in. I heard my first dog cry a little but it was only for

a moment. I think they like to spare you the anxiety as they are putting in the needle.

They probably also don't want you freaking out and getting the dog upset either. When

the needle is in they bring the dog back in and tell you to take all the time you want

loving up your dog and saying your goodbyes. When you are ready you stick your head

out of the room and they come right away. Then you sit with your dog on the floor or hold

them on the table as they inject the drug that stops their heart. The vets say some dogs

thrash around a bit and some moan, which could just be the air passing with the last exhalation.

My three that I have had put to sleep went very peacefully, which is a good thing because I

am crying and having a hard time. The vets have always seem genuinely sorry for me.

While not a pleasant experience I thought it was a good passing for my old friends. Mona

 

When I had my golden mix put down a couple years ago the vet was going to make me wait until he was "ready". I refused to leave Sam. Luckily, my vet and I are high school class mates and know each other fairly well. He gave me a hug when Sam was gone and the techs' jaws dropped. They said Dr. never does that.

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My oldest is getting close to that time, and I know just because of what she's like that I'm going to have to muzzle her and she will yelp and try to bite when she gets poked with the needle...its just the way she reacts to any type of tiny pain or anything.

Maybe you can discuss with your vet the option of giving her an oral sedative at home before taking her in? Surely a vet would give that consideration to a long-time/good client. I understand that many such drugs (I'm thinking in terms of valium or similar--wouldn't want to give ace) can be abused by humans, but in this case I would think a vet would make an exception so that the dog didn't have to be stressed by a muzzle at the time of euthanasia? If they don't want to send you home with such meds, what about letting you take something out to your vehicle and give it to the dog there and then wait till it takes effect to take her inside? This is the approach I would take with my Farleigh when his time comes. He is fear aggressive and has to be muzzled at the vet for any procedure, but rather than put him through that at such a time, I would ask the vet for something to give him at home so fear/fighting wouldn't be an issue by the time we got to the vet's office.

 

I've never had an oldster (cats in my case) react in pain to euthanasia, although some have taken longer to die than others.

 

J.

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Yes I had a dog with a very painful euthanasia. Charlotte also had cancer and was only 4.5 yrs old when euthanized. She had an aggressive form of GI Tract Lymphoma. At the same time she was also in liver failure. She seemed ok for a couple months after diagnosis even with the liver failure.

 

When the day came that we needed to euthanize we took her to our regular vets. When she was injected with sedative the high pitched crying began. She never really fell asleep. They gave her more sedative in hopes that it would kick in. The whole procedure took a lot longer than anticipated and was a lot more painful for everyone than it should have been. Between us crying, the vets crying, the techs crying and Charlotte crying it was the most horrible thing ever (not all the people were in the room at a time - some of them were at the front desk, etc...). Charlotte was a favorite at the clinic.

 

Anyways, our vets explained to us that the liver failure was the main culprit. They hit the veins just fine and did not blow the vein. Because of the liver failure Charlotte's body was not processing the meds properly or quickly and that is what made it so painful. All she did was lie there crying horribly she was not fighting.

 

Yes I know how your friend feels and it is horrible. She needs to speak to the vets though to find out what happened if she really wants an answer. If the dog was having liver or probably even kidney failure, that might explain a lot.

 

Next time I have to make the decision I will still be in the room with my dog. The only thing I would do differently is not wait so long if my organ has any kind of organ failure. She may have been acting ok until the last dreadful day but we should have done it sooner. I did not know then that her being in liver failure would effect things like it did.

 

I am sorry she had to go through it.

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These stories are so incredibly sad. I've only euthanized one of my pets. She was an old and sick cat. I seriously think she KNEW. The vet took her back and sedated her, then shaved her leg so they could see the vein. It was very quiet and peaceful and I was just sick about it for a long time afterwards. I just can't imagine if it would have been painful for her!

 

Honestly, I always wonder if euthanasia is the right thing to do--we are taking the life of God's creatures, but why should we allow them to suffer in pain. I do wish that vets would do home visits for this purpose. The vet trip, especially for elderly cats, can be so stressful in and of itself. It seems an unfair way to end.

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I do wish that vets would do home visits for this purpose.

I just wanted to say that many vets will, but it may not be a service the clinic advertises. After my vet mentioned a home visit as an option for my Kate, I will always try to arrange euthanasia at home if I can--it was a less stressful experience for humans and animals alike. However, I was using this same clinic 2 years earlier, when William's time came, and I didn't even know a home visit was a possibility--it certainly wasn't something the clinic offered when I called to schedule his appointment. It might be that you have to ask your vet for it.

 

Or, one of my friends in TN used a specific home-visit vet when her dog's condition deteriorated quickly and her regular vet was unable to accommodate her request for a home euthanasia that same day. Although my friend was initially hesitant about using a vet she didn't know for this procedure, she decided the benefits of having it done at home were more important than having a pre-existing relationship with the vet performing it.

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When the oncologist told us he'd found a lesion on Buzz's lung at his 3rd chemo chest x ray, I asked our general practice vet the next day if he would do a house call for a euthanasia. He said yes. Buzz went on for another 2 months after that, but it comforted me knowing that we could say good bye to him at home.

 

It's much the best way, though if I had to watch my pet suffer the way Kris's friend did, I know it would haunt me. Thank you, Kim, for providing a possible explanation for that.

 

Ruth

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The only dog I had euthanized was my Brandy. She was 16 1/2 and hated the vet's office. My vet at the time, bless her soul, was 8+ months pregnant and came to my house so I could save Brandy from the trauma of the vet visit. It was as peaceful as her falling asleep. I will never forget that vet. I met her a few weeks ago and realized that it was almost 11 years since she had done that for me. I hope that my dogs will die peacefully in their sleep at home but if the time comes, I'll be asking for a home visit for sure.

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I wasn't present at the euth in question so I can't say if the dog was painful or not.

 

HOWEVER: IV injection euthanasias are done with an overdose of an anesthetic agent. ALL anesthetic agents - including that one - can cause a transient excitement reaction in a small number of patients. An excitement reaction MAY include movement or vocalization or both. These can easily be mistaken for pain, even if no pain is present. Whether or not pain WAS present in this case, I can't say, but vocalization is not proof that it was, and nor is movement.

 

I always discuss this with clients who choose to be present at euthanasias (PRIOR to going ahead) so that the client is prepared that we see that in a small number... seat-of-the-pants estimate, I'd say about 2% in my experience.

 

You can set an IV catheter so that you can pre-medicate with a sedative (NOT an anesthetic, but a sedative) in the expectations of smoothing out the excitement reaction. That works MOST - but not ALL - of the time. Some animals are more reactive to medications than others, and I've seen dogs vocalize when fully anesthetized. It's unusual, but not non-existant.

 

One word about home euths: That is the single most likely time for something to go wrong, simply because you're working in field conditions without your usual backups. I do them occasionally - but with reservations, because I'm trying to provide the best experience of this for the owner AND the patient that I can, and my odds go down once I leave the hospital. This is hard enough as it is, for everyone concerned, and doing it at home carries the risk of making it harder. You can increase your odds of a good outcome by visiting the hopital earlier in the day and getting an IV catheter put in beforehand, though, especially if your dog has questionable veins.

 

That said, I've been lucky on the home euths. I always take clippers and extra drugs and whatever else I think I'll need, and I'd say 85% of the time it goes well, although of that 85% I bet I need the extra drugs and/or cannot find (let alone hit) a vein about 5% of the time, and a further 5% I have trouble KEEPING the vein - as in, it starts to blow when I begin the injection, and I have to go to another vein. (Usually, though, the dog is asleep by then so it doesn't feel the second injection.) That's as opposed to things going well about 99% of the time in the hospital.

 

YMMV, but that's been my experience with it.

 

To the OP, you might mention to your friend that there IS such a thing as an excitement reaction with anesthetic drugs and offer at least the possibilty that what they were observing was that, and not a pain reaction. I don't know if they'll find that of any comfort - but it's information which might shed additional light on what happened there, at least.

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Thank you for those explanations, both of the excitement reaction and of the pros of hospital euthanasia and cons of home euthanasia.

 

Sometimes, what we think we are seeing is not quite what is actually happening, and that's important to know.

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Thanks AKDogDoc for your very clear explanations. Having this information ahead of time certainly would help prepare for the situation. I will provide this information to my friend...it might help alleviate her pain.

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