How do vets euthanize cats?

Written by merrill gillaspy
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How do vets euthanize cats?
Veterinarians use a thiobarbituate solution to end your cat's suffering. (cat image by vanilla from

When first you bond with your new kitten, the last thing on your mind is euthanasia, which comes from the Greek and means "easy death." Sadly, death is of course the inevitable outcome for all of the pets of this world. And although the euthanizing of your beloved cat isn't necessarily a given, responsible pet owners must be braced for whatever comes with the privilege of sharing their lives with animals. Educating yourself as to what euthanasia involves, including knowing how veterinarians approach euthanasia, will stand you in good stead if ever you find yourself needing to make life and death decisions for your feline companion.

Why Euthanize?

Euthanasia should not be entered into lightly. Even if your cat is in great pain and experiencing a loss of function and diminished quality of life, deciding when to end his suffering is often not clear cut. Age-related illnesses can bring older cats close to death's door and any cat, particularly those who wander freely, can be critically injured, forcing cat owners to think about a final option for their felines. Acute disease states, such as cancer, involve the kind of intensive treatment that may or may not be worth your pet's suffering through. Your veterinarian is key to helping you weigh your options. Some cats have such extensive behavioural problems that euthanasia may seem the only solution, but in cases such as these, there's often a behavioural remedy frayed owners have yet to try. Always talk to your vet.

The Appointment

Once the decision is made to end your pet's suffering, set up an appointment with your vet. Make sure you get all of your initial questions answered on the phone. It's best to choose either the first or last appointment of the day. To avoid those anxious final moments in the waiting room, you have the option of calling just before your appointment to make sure the staff will be ready to receive you. You can take your pet home for burial or leave your deceased cat with the vet, who can provide either cremation or burial services for a reasonable fee. There are plenty of vets willing to perform home euthanasia, so keep this in mind as an option.

The Injection

Your vet will use a euthanasia solution in the form of a thiobarbituate injection, according to the Vet Info website. A veterinary assistant will hold your pet, putting a small amount of pressure on a vein in the foreleg. The vet can then press a needle into the vein and gradually inject the solution. You can hold your cat throughout the procedure if you prefer. Some owners opt to say goodbye to their cats and then stay in the waiting room as the procedure is performed. It's entirely up to you.

The Effects

The injection is designed to produce a quick and painless termination of nerve transmissions in the body and to effect complete muscle relaxation. Your cat will feel only the pinprick. When nerve impulses are blunted, there is no brain activity whatsoever--no sensation or movement. The cat's heart and lungs will slow and quickly cease functioning altogether, but only after the brain activity stops. The solution is available only to licensed veterinarians with special certificates that permit the purchase of the solution, explains the Pet Center website.

The Final Moments

According to the Pet Center, about six to 12 seconds after the injection is administered, your cat will take a deep breath, grow markedly weak and then fall unconscious, as if in a deep sleep. It is not uncommon for euthanized felines to continue to breathe for a very short period until all movement stops. In fact, it is sometimes observed that the more elderly and ill the cat is, the more extended this unconscious breathing state can be.

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