Sadly the time may come when your little furry pet needs to be euthanased. Unfortunately, most do not simply go peacefully in their sleep. It is important to consider your pet’s quality of life, whether they still enjoy all their daily activities and whether they are still eating and toileting as normal. If their quality of life is deteriorating then you may wish to read this article to help understand what the options are and what happens during this time. We would always advise you to speak to your vet to discuss the options.
Table of contents
Points you may need to consider include…
Transporting your pet can be very stressful for them, so the aim is to minimise this as much as possible. Make sure you use a suitable secure carrier with their own bedding in and make sure there is access to water and food if needed. Make sure in the car they are kept in a cool area which is also quiet. Sometimes it is possible to transport them in their own cage, however if this is very large or difficult to transport we do not recommend it, as often they become very stressed when your vet tries to get them out of a large cage.
Unlike dogs and cats; rats, gerbils and other small furries do not have easily visible veins for a final injection of anaesthetic to euthanase them. Instead they often need sedation, which is less stressful for them and involves less handling, which they prefer. Sedation is not painful for them. There are two main ways of sedating them, firstly using an anaesthetic gas and secondly by an injection.
Sedation with an Injection
This is an injection of a suitable sedative agent given to your pet which over the course of a few minutes will cause them to become unconscious. However, this can be stressful especially for some smaller rodents as they will need to be held firmly for the injection to be given. However, once given they can be placed back in their carrier to keep calm and be surrounded by a familiar environment. This option may not be suitable for those pets that are not able to be handled at all.
Sedation with an Anaesthetic Gas
This involves being given anaesthetic gas via a small mask or inside a clear box, this method involves far less handling so is better for those nervous ones or those that become stressed. The downside is that due to the gases used, for your safety you cannot be present for this. The unconsciousness that occurs is very short lived so unfortunately the final injection needs to be done quickly, so often away from you as the owner.
Once your little pet is unconscious and unaware of their surroundings then the final injection, which is an overdose of an anaesthetic drug (usually pentobarbital) can be given. Depending on the size of your pet this may be done either into a vein (after clipping fur away to reveal it) or into your pet’s body which will take a few minutes longer to stop your pet’s heart beating. They will not be aware of what is happening. The drug works by stopping the brain functioning and then stopping the heart beating and is very quick.
All of this is designed to be stress free and painless for your pet but also quick and dignified for them. They do not feel anything once unconscious. Your vet will then check they have passed away before you can decide what to do with their body. These choices should be discussed with your vet. This can be a difficult and upsetting time and we would encourage you to speak to your vet practice to discuss everything or any concerns you have.