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Euthanasia Process Q <Trigger Warning>

(22 Posts)
AmantesSuntAmentes Sun 15-Feb-15 23:32:07

I had to have a much loved soul mate pts last year. Unfortunately, the pts process was lengthy and traumatic. He was crying, gasping for breath and flailing, for around 15 minutes. The defecation was expected and some gasping but not this. The vet had to check his heart repeatedly and make a second administration, before being satisfied that he was gone.

Although I have witnesses the deaths of a number of animals, including dogs, I find myself disturbed by my boys last moments and now fearful of any potential future euthanasia (multi-pet household).

I know I could leave a pet with the vet if and when the moment arises but I wouldn't be able to. I'd absolutely need to be there until the end.

Could anyone with experience please describe to me a normal euthanasia process? I fully understand that this is an emotive subject but I would appreciate the opportunity to rationalise my fears, if anyone feels able to help?


tabulahrasa Sun 15-Feb-15 23:48:23

My last dog...they gave him an injection which he did not appear to notice (in that way they don't if there's biscuits and someone to make a fuss of them) he jumped up to lick the vet and she did the second one, he slowly went to sleep, she carefully put him on the ground, waited a minute then checked his heart...but you could already tell he'd slipped away.

It was pleasant (for him) totally peaceful and took less than five minutes.

JoffreyBaratheon Sun 15-Feb-15 23:49:13

I have seen several dogs PTS. With 2 exceptions, it was utterly peaceful and almost instantaneous. My 6 year old staffy (tumour) died on his feet. I would have sworn that that was the norm.

Then I stayed with a friend's elderly dog. It started crying as the needle went in. It didn't stop instantly. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, distressed. It died quickly but not quickly enough. The person whose dog it was had to go out of the room at the last minute and I stayed with it so it wouldn't be alone. I never told him that his dog seemed to die distressed. I thought he wouldn't be able to handle it if he couldn't even stay in the room.

And then there was my 14 year old dog, PTS last year.

It was horrific. Hopefully, more to us than to her. It wasn't instantaneous. Then she started to take these frightening, loud (and seemingly endless - it went on a good few minutes) gasps for air. The vet just turned to us casually and mumbled something about it just being her nervous system and it sometimes happened with old dogs as their circulation's not as good. But too little info, too late. Vet checked her heart and verified she was gone but the horrifying gasps went on. And on. As the vet left us alone with her, still it continued. She also spasmed and peed herself (which I have never seen in all the other ones, either). Obviously knew the peeing could happen. But it was still upsetting as she was my baby.

As the vet wasn't very informative, I looked it up afterwards on the internet. Apparently it's called 'agonal breathing' and is just a reflex - if you're seeing it, the chances are the dog is gone already. But feck me. The awfullest thing I have ever seen. It is very hard to think of my beautiful girl now without those images coming into my head.

A few years back if anyone had asked this q I would have reassured them it is instant and painless. But now I think that is just the luck of the draw. Sorry but whenever this comes up I intend to be graphic and brutally honest as I wish I'd stumbled on this info on the internet, before it happened.

If elderly dogs are more prone to it, then vets should maybe sedate first. And warn you. I didn't even know sedation ahead of time was an option. I feel upset about that - and the vet's casual attitude - whenever I think about it.

Next time I will get the pet sedated first.

MsAdorabelleDearheartVonLipwig Sun 15-Feb-15 23:56:19

Our old boy went in a matter of seconds. The vet explained things very gently. He injected him in the leg and we stroked his head and talked to him and in seconds his head stopped moving and he was still. He did give a big sigh which freaked us out a little but the vet did say this might happen. That was it. His eyes were still open, the vet tried to close them but they didn't really close properly and looked a bit like he was half asleep. I'd forgotten that bit.

That's the first time in over two months that I've recounted that without bursting into tears.

In so sorry you had such an awful experience. I think you must have been incredibly unlucky though. I've never heard anybody else describe it like that.

HcachumBabow Sun 15-Feb-15 23:56:54

I'm sorry for your loss and doubly so that it was such a traumatic experience.

DH and I had our beloved DDog1 PTS just over a year ago.

The process was very calm and very quick. We hugged and spoke to him as the vet administered the injection and he was gone within seconds. It was like he was falling asleep, he just closed his eyes and drifted off whilst we held him. He gave maybe one or two little breaths that sounded like gentle snores but that was it. When the vet checked after maybe a minute or so he was gone.

We were given the opportunity to spend some time with him but once he was gone neither of us felt a real sense of attachment to his body. We also chose not to have either his body or ashes back.

MsAdorabelleDearheartVonLipwig Sun 15-Feb-15 23:58:37

Oh Joffrey, well, you're the second then. I'm so sorry, that's awful.

piggychops Sun 15-Feb-15 23:59:10

It's a tricky one because we can't predict how a pet is going to die. Even with sedation you can still get agonal gasping. I would tend to sedate if I feel a pet is going to be distressed about having the main injection ( which goes into the vein). Sometimes giving sedation can mean the blood pressure drops and the vein isn't so easy to find.
I usually warn owners about agonal gasping when I talk through the procedure before I start.

tabulahrasa Mon 16-Feb-15 00:00:34

Talking of getting the body back... (I think this is funny, but it might not be if you're easily upset).

The vet asked me if I wanted his body, I looked at her horrified and said no, she looked at me a bit oddly.

It was only after I'd left that I realised she meant his ashes and not did I want to carry a 40kg body to my

tabulahrasa Mon 16-Feb-15 00:01:28

Car and take it home blush.

Luckily I wasn't bothered about his ashes either, I saw him go as far as I was concerned and what was left wasn't him.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 00:07:32

Thank you both for your posts. tabulahrasa, I'm glad your boy went peacefully. It is very reassuring to hear that it can be this way.

Jeffrey, I very much appreciate your honesty and I'm sorry you've had similar experiences to mine.

I agree that it is important that people are aware of how it can sometimes be. The shock element certainly made the experience all the more awful, for me.

My boy was young though. Only three and had had sedation. He was a large breed. The only other similar story I've heard of in RL (which was since my boys death), was in another similar large breed.

No one in RL knows of what happened. They all loved him (friends and family alike), so I've told them he went quickly and peacefully, much like you did with your friend.

I truly hope neither mine or yours were aware but in the case of mine, I do find it hard to believe sad

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 00:08:11

*Joffrey. Sorry.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 00:24:04

Thank you for your stories of peaceful endings, HcachumBabow and MsAdorabelleDearheartVonLipwig. I'm sorry for your losses and I really appreciate your reassurance that it can be calm and peaceful.

I had read about agonal gasping, I guess if this is what my boy experienced, then I really did fail to understand exactly how lengthy and (apparently) traumatic it can be.

The vet didn't explain the procedure to me. She was in a clear hurry to get the job done, which I also found upsetting.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 00:27:50

I have shot several animals, all for humane reasons, and the reflex movement and noises can go on for some time, even if the brain is effectively no longer there.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 00:49:18

I think that's what I need to wrap my head around! As you and joffrey have said, they aren't aware/ the brain is shut down. I've just never witnessed it go on for so long. It's a reassurance to be reminded that shot animals also experience reflexive movements (it quells my concerns about the effectiveness of the injections). Also, oddly, to recall that hens can appear very much alive when they really aren't (failed beheadings aside).

Scuttlebutter Mon 16-Feb-15 00:57:32

I've been present for the loss of three elderly dogs in the past two and a bit years, the most recent being last November. All their passings were very peaceful indeed.

When Mick went (in November) he gave a little sigh, almost a cough as he went, but it wasn't troubled.

In all three cases, the vets were extremely kind and very professional, and there was no sense of rush at all. In fact, they went out of their way to make things as calm and low key as possible.

I take my hat off to vets as they not only have to manage the euthanasia process but also distressed owners - not an easy job.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Feb-15 09:22:40

I think my little girl's agonal breathing went on for around 5 minutes. I wanted to run out of the room and at the same time, to stay with her. The vet's explanation was laconic and inadequate. It was only a few days later, online, looking it up that I realised it was in fact a sure sign my little girl was already gone. But I could do with being told that at the time.

I was so glad I didn't take the kids with me - three of my sons are adults, and two were home from uni when it happened. I still find it hard to get out of my brain and if I hadn't been able to research what it was, after the event, would be having even more nightmares, several months on. Apart from the friend's dog going in slight distress, I had never seen a dog being PTS that was anything other than peaceful and quick, and would have had no compunction about taking the kids with me, if they wanted to go - so glad now I didn't. In both the 'slow' deaths I saw, the dogs were elderly. Our staffy was at the peak of physical fitness - apart from the brain tumour - when he was PTS. Even the vet remarked what a shame it was because he was so healthy-looking and strong. And he died instantly. So I can't help thinking that for some elderly dogs with, as the inadequate vet said, poor circulation, it may be a bit harder. I would have appreciated someone forewarning me and suggesting sedation.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Feb-15 09:24:21

I should add - we were with that vet for 14 years. I have changed my vet. New pup won't be going there!

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 16-Feb-15 11:08:36

As a vet I want every euthanasia to be
Dog\ cat sits happily on table we clip leg introduce needle into vein and dog\cat slips away with no distress at all.
I always sedate animals that appear to be distressed or that I know in advance hate being handled.
But things that make it trickier due to the sedation or the medical condition of the pet means that veins are either tricky to find or that they collapse the moment you get into them.
As the drug we give is a massive overdose of anaesthetic some animals can go through the excitement phase of anaesthesia and paddle and whimper as they go- this is impossible to predict and happens when we give some anaesthetics.
Some animals will have agonal breathing again we can't predict this, I always explain that this can happen before we start and that the heart has stopped and not their pet gasping for air. If the agonal breathing occurs I reiterate this.
Around 50% of pets empty their bladder and bowels after euthanasia and again there is any way to predict or stop this.
Finally some animals seem to require more than you could predict of the drug, the one I use is 1 ml per 10 kg. I use 5 mls for every cat, 10 mls for dogs up to 15 kg and 20 mls for dogs to 30kg. So I am trying to at least use five times the dose the animal should require yet sometimes I still need more. I try to handle this by explaining that every animal is an individual and some just need more.
I did in the region of 100 euthanasias last year only one of them was like what some of you have been through. I felt awful I did everything I could to make it go smoothly, but nothing seemed to make it better. 6 months later it still haunts me and I consider what I could have done differently. Each time I run through it there isn't anything.
Believe me when it doesn't go right we as vets beat ourselves up mentally about it for months.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Feb-15 11:26:04

Amantes, it was already bad as our's had a fear of the vet's and we were too broke when it happened, to afford to pay the extra for the vet to come out to our house. So she was frightened, just being at the vet's (she once went for her nails to be cut by the groomer who is based at the vet's and was so terrified, she passed out!)

So I know she was afraid. She always was, at the vet's. I just thought once the needle went in, she'd slip away fast having always been a bit on the fragile side. If you'd ask me which of our dogs would live to be 14, she is the last one I'd have guessed. I now know the agonal breathing is just a reflex and the dog is already gone when it happens. But at the time it was happening, she looked alive and it was like she was desperately clinging on to life and I was thinking why on earth didn't I realise something like this would happen, as she was always stronger than she looked... so sort of blaming myself for it, too.

The vet's brief - and not very informative 'explanation' made it worse too, as it didn't reassure us that she was gone. And on top of that it seemed patronising, that maybe she thought we were too thick to understand. I never had the same vet twice at that practice, over years and years. I should have known better than to have gone there.

moosemama Mon 16-Feb-15 12:01:44

I'm so sorry you had to go through such a horrible experience.

I've sadly been with many dogs while they were pts over the years. Every single one has gone peacefully, the only exception being our large breed boy, who was fear aggressive and terrified of the vets and it was the sedation he reacted to not the anaesthetic for pts.

He was actually only going in for xrays/scans and had to be sedated for them to do that, but he fought the sedation all the way, had to be topped up several times and then I had to put a blanket over his head and try and get him to lie on the floor with me while he calmed down. Ds1 was only 10 days old (pfb), I was still hormonal and I ended up convincing myself he'd somehow sensed what was coming and that's why he fought - even though I know that wasn't the case.

Sadly the tests found his cancer had spread to almost every organ and he was suffering far more than he was letting us know, they kept him under anaesthetic and called us back just half an hour after we left him with them, then after we'd had some time to say goodbye they turned the anaesthetic up and he slipped away.

I was wondering if perhaps putting them under, as if for an op, then turning up the GA might possibly be a better way if you feel you've, understandably, been left traumatised and possibly phobic of going through it again. I'm not a vet, but was just wondering whether or not a gradual increase in the drugs might not lead to such a drastic reaction by the body?

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 12:04:24

Lonecatwithkitten, thank you. Your description and explanation is very helpful. It does sound like Joffrey and I experienced a less common process.

I always explain that this can happen before we start and that the heart has stopped and not their pet gasping for air. If the agonal breathing occurs I reiterate this.

This vet didn't, unfortunately. I suppose there is a fine line between giving an owner due warning and terrifying them! However, a medical explanation for what was happening would have been very welcome, to me. Instead (and another thing which has made it hard to wrap my head around the fact he was beyond awareness), the vet spoke to him the entire time and there was panic in her voice. I would far rather she'd explained that he was gone, than continue to act as though he could hear us, iyswim? Because in doing that, she reinforced my fear that he was aware of all of this.

Joffrey, I wonder if a dog being more nervy or wired, can cause the effects we witnessed? Because although yours was older and mine was young, that is something they had in common. Could the extra adrenaline provoke a prolonged reaction, I wonder?

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I'm sorry it's been difficult for you, your own dog and your friends but it's been good to 'speak' with someone who's had similar experiences.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 12:28:59

Sorry Moose, cross posted! I'm sorry for your loss. It's interesting that yours was a large breed and wired up at the time too. I suppose I'm trying to find a correlation, in the hope that there might be a way to predict these difficulties, although I'm sure people with more knowledge and experience than me have tried!

I definitely will discuss other options with my vet next time around, I actually hadn't thought to! Unfortunately the vet involved wasn't my usual one and I won't be using her again. I know the reaction wasn't her fault but I don't think she managed the situation very well at all.

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