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emergency euth of small animals?

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  • emergency euth of small animals?

    My beloved old kitty died last night. He had had a seizure, and the vet recommended that we wait a few days to make sure his hiding and not eating much was not just post seizure disorientation. Last night, though, he started breathing in a very labored way and twitching. I knew he was dying, and called the vet because I know those things can be drawn out and I didn't want him to suffer.

    The vet, though, was off on a livestock emergency call. We don't have an emergency vet around here, and I couldn't reach the only other vet practice in the area. I was looking up numbers for the nearest emergency vet (about 50 miles away) when he passed.

    That made me think...I know how to humanely put down a horse if the vet is far out and it will end their suffering, although thank God I have never had to do it. But what about small animals? I am thankful that he seemed to pass without much suffering, but it can't have been comfortable. What if he had spent the night suffering? I know it can happen. I knew he wasn't going to make it--in fact I knew the seizure was the beginning of the end (he was 24, and his health had been declining somewhat recently, just not enough that his quality of life was gone), but the vet didn't want to euth yet and I was willing to try.

    I am sorry if this thread is inappropriate, I will close it if I need to. But I just keep running through "what-ifs" in my head and I find myself really worried that I'll be in this situation again, but the cat will be in pain. Are there veterinary guidelines for humanely euthanizing a dog or cat like there are with livestock? If not, how do others who live in remote areas deal with the lack of 24/7 vet availability in small animal emergencies?

    I know how to deal with this in horses, but I feel useless with small animals. And I miss my kitty.
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

  • #2
    First, let me say I am sorry for the passing of your kitty and that it sounds like he truly did not suffer much in the end.

    If I have a small animal suffering, I have my husband shoot them the same as he would a horse in the same situation, just with a smaller caliber weapon like a .22. If he wasn't home I would do it myself, but have been lucky enough not to have to deal with that particular situation.
    Lapeer ... a small drinking town with a farming problem.
    Proud Closet Canterer!


    • #3
      Thoughts and prayers and huge hugs for you today ~ RIP Kitty ~

      I, too wonder about this ~ thanks for posting ~ interested in this information ~ as I am always so "paralyzed" with my sick animals & vets are sometimes, rather frequently not available = weekends and Holidays.
      Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


      • #4
        I also have a DH who hunts and he would dispatch any small animal the same way. It would still be a very sad and horrible thing to have to do and I am very sorry about your poor kitty.
        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
        Incredible Invisible


        • #5
          So sorry for your loss. 24, wow! What a long life - and it must have been a good one with you because it is very obvious how much you cared for and loved him.

          This is a hard topic, but I would guess shooting may be the best bet in this type of situation, but I would pray none of us ever have to pull the trigger on our own furry family members.
          Concordia means "Harmony" in Latin.
          Full Time Dressage Addict


          • #6
            For a dog or a cat, and if you absolutely cannot get to a vet in time to euthanize your animal, a well-placed gunshot would have to be the only "humane" quick solution I can think of.

            I hope no one ever has to do that.

            I'm really sorry on the passing of your kitty. It must have been very difficult for you.


            • #7
              So sorry for your loss, CosMonster. 24 is a wonderful old age for a kitty, and he was obviously a very lucky and loved boy.

              A kitty or dog's head is so small I imagine it is hard to go wrong shooting them in the head. Luckily have never had to do it on a beloved pet, but have used it on groundhogs, raccoons, snakes and whatnot with success.


              • #8
                well, horrible memory, but cat hit by car, no guns, nothing, person ended up doing the necessary thing with a shovel blade to the base of the neck.


                • #9
                  I have done it once, and would never claim that it is foolproof, effective, or recommended, but this is what I did:

                  Barn kitty got run over and was hopelessly injured, awake but in obvious pain. Vet wouldn't come out "just to euthanize a barn cat". (no current vet that I am using) and I was dead broke and no emergency vet facilities around in those days.

                  All I could do was give the poor thing a giant slug (like 5cc) of ACE (which was all I had on hand) and wait for it to be deeply sedated, then I suffocated it with a towel. No struggle, the poor thing purred right until the moment it went out. Can't say how long the poor thing might have lasted without it, for all I know it went into shock all on its own and died, but at least it had someone to hold it and try; I felt like I had to do something.
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    One of the greatest horrors in life to me is to come upon a small animal suffering by the road, obviously mortally wounded, writhing in agony.

                    Thanking heavens I finally found the strength to stop my car and take care of it - I find a big enough rock, say a little prayer and then - lights out.

                    It is still very hard, but IMHO much better to deal with than having the think of the poor creature struggling hours or even days in that condition. I thank heavens I found the inner strength to do it.

                    A .22 would be much easier I think, but that's not always on hand. For a small creature in agony, a person with the courage to wield a heavy object on its head is the most merciful thing to happen the poor soul.

                    Bless you for thinking of this - I know several horse owner friends who just can't deal with it - they shudder and drive away, or hide the poor suffering animal away from sight and sound until someone else comes along to deal with it -or worse, it perishes in agony waiting.

                    Each person who finds the courage to face & deal with these situations is one more poor little souls chance at a better, quicker end.

                    Sorry for your loss, ((hugs))


                    • #11
                      Ugh, reminds me of the time I killed a squirrel by crushing its head with my foot at college. Poor thing fell out of a tree and broke its back -- everything behind the shoulders was dragging and it was screeching in agony. Horrible to have to do. I did wrap it in my sweater so it wouldn't see the end coming. My stomach still turns thinking about stomping on it, but it was the merciful thing.

                      The shovel would work better, and is my usual method for offing snakes. I like the Ace idea -- I wonder how much it would take to overdose a kitty or dog and just let it go to sleep forever that way.


                      • #12
                        Condolences for the loss of your grand old man.

                        Not packing heat myself, I'd have to resort to more primitive weaponry and it would be very, very hard. I do like the idea of drugging them beyond perception first, however.

                        What about a massive overdose of insulin? A friend with an old diabetic cat had hers modify his diet, not tell her about that and go into an insulin-induced seizure. It sucked then (by the cat's standards), caused permanent neurological damage (which he didn't seem to mind to much) and cost her a great deal of money. She did not want to do this again, so her vet explained that should this happen again, she could merely add more insulin and quietly finish him off.

                        Sorry for the rather fuzzy details, but it sounds like the least catastrophic way to do a hard job.
                        Last edited by mvp; Aug. 3, 2010, 01:35 PM. Reason: You know, if you are going to write about a 24-year-old cat, you should learn to spell
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                        • #13
                          So sorry.....

                          So sorry for your loss.....

                          The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has published acceptable/conditionally acceptable/unacceptable methods of euthanasia here:

                          There isn't a good answer to your question (because for small animals like cats/dogs there aren't many acceptable/conditionally acceptable ways to euthanize "in the field". If you had any sedatives (xylazine/ace) for your horses, you could always give that until you could get to a veterinarian (or until they could come to you). An overdose of a sedative might be enough to euthanize a sick pet, or if it wasn't a small dose of euthanasia solution would probably be needed.


                          • #14
                            So sorry about your kitty, glad it didn't have to suffer much.

                            The last cat I had to euthanize was a stray that somehow came the many miles of empty land and ended up here.
                            Our wildlife is NOT kind to cats, that is why we quit getting any barn cats.
                            I saw this feral acting cat one evening, found him the next morning, disemboweled but still trying to get away from me, I would say courtesy of our resident bobcat and a quick .22 helped him go quickly.

                            What I always wonder is, when someone finds an injured animal, are they really knowledgeable enough to be sure the injuries are terminal, other than when it is very obvious, as the cat here the other day?

                            Now, with the OP's kitty, there was not question, it was her cat and she knew it well.

                            This is a good thread, so people think this thru and have a sensible plan, if and when they have such situations happen to them.


                            • #15
                              Sorry for your loss, but thank you for bringing up a topic all of us with lots of critters should think about. 24 years on a cat is amazing, I am sure he knew he was loved when he passed. ((hugs))

                              With really small animals like chinchillas, in emergencies it is possible to use dry ice, or baking soda and vinegar, in a sealed container. They basically fall asleep and don't wake up. I don't know if this would work on a dog or a cat, the trick might be finding a big enough container and making sure that you generate enough carbon dioxide. I have fortunately only had to use this once on a chinchilla and she passed quietly.


                              • #16
                                animaldoc, what a great reference to keep and hope NEVER needs to be opened. Thanks for posting it.

                                I agree this is a great thread, if only to remind us to think about the topic once in a while and to have some sort of plan.
                                Click here before you buy.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks all for your kind words and good ideas, and for taking this in the spirit it was intended...I was a bit hesitant to post but I didn't know where else to talk about this and I felt like I needed to know. Bubba, my cat (I didn't name him, and actually we tried to rename him several times but it really fit for some reason), was really loved. I just got in from burying him beneath our junipers...my landlord will probably want to kill me for it (actually not really, she's a dear friend but she put a lot of work into those plants, and we're buying the place anyway) because I had to chop through some roots, but I couldn't bear to leave him in open desert with no shade even though I know it's not really him anymore, and also the junipers are fenced in so no dogs or coyotes can get in to mess with the grave and they have tons of roots.

                                  deltawave, thanks for sharing your experience using ACE on small animals. Before he passed, I was thinking about using some on him to get him up to the emergency vet, but I had no idea what to do. In retrospect I guess it didn't matter since I knew he was dying and the worst it could do was kill him, but I'm so hesitant to use tranqs on any animal, and being upset I wasn't thinking clearly. I just keep a bottle on hand for absolute emergencies and have literally never used it in 7 years of being a full-time professional trainer (which I know isn't that much relatively, but it's not one horse in the backyard either--also don't worry, I do replace it when it expires).

                                  Festivity, I've used that method on betta fish and had thought about it with regards to cats, but my only concern would be that they would freak at being closed in. By the time Bubba passed he was beyond noticing that sort of thing, but in the days leading up to it (when the vet was saying post-seizure, but I think it was a pretty natural behavior for a dying animal) I think he might have panicked as he still wanted to be around people. Do you know how quickly that works?

                                  Otherwise it seems like a small caliber weapon is the best. My heart goes out to those who have had to euthanize strays or injured wild animals with shovels or boot heels...I've done that too and even if it is a pest which you wouldn't want in your barn normally, at least for me it is hard to see them suffering and put an end to it.

                                  edit: thanks too to animaldoc...that file is saved in case I get in this situation again, although I couldn't manage more than brief review right now. It seems to cover the subject well, and is pretty much what I was looking for. I also hope no one needs it...it's a terrible position to be in.
                                  exploring the relationship between horse and human


                                  • #18
                                    I am so sorry for your loss. I have used an overdose of dormosedan to euth a cat before. I injected 2ccs into the abdomen. It took about an hour but that hour was extremely peaceful. The cat had been in tremendous distress but within a minute or two started to settle down and then went to sleep. Eventually the breaths became farther and farther between and then stopped. I sobbed the whole time because this was the first time I had ever been the one to do the euthing. Usually I just watch and cuddle. While I would prefer it to be done quickly by a vet I would not hesitate to do it this way again if necessary.
                                    McDowell Racing Stables

                                    Home Away From Home


                                    • #19
                                      I always hold my dogs and cats and horses when the vet euths them. I prefer to do it with my regular vet as some of the emergency room vets are not so sympathetic to us. (some are nice but some are callous.)

                                      My vets (and many vets with a daily practice) euth wild and stray animals for free. I've been lucky to take in squirrels and cats and dogs I've found in the road to whatever vet was in that city or county and never was charged for euth-ing.

                                      And my regular small animal vets have never charged for euth-ing.
                                      I guess the euthanol that is used for horses is more expensive? I've always been charged for horse euth-ing. Of course I always have a big dose of ketamine administered first so my horses have always been "asleep" when they are euth-ed.

                                      ETA: I always drive my small animals to the vet for euth-ing. Ditto the injured animals I pick up on the road. Carrier in truck/car for that very purpose.


                                      • #20
                                        I'm so sorry for your loss. Being a registered euthanasia technician for small animals, I must say I was surprised to find that I was stumped on the best method for emergency euth. techniques. Personally, I couldn't imagine shooting my own animal, although I know in extreme situations, I would if I had to. While animaldoc posted acceptable euth. methods, I have to voice my agreement that sedating the animal prior to any action (if possible) is the best way to ensure it passes peacefully. Obviously if the situation is so severe that you cannot sedate the animal quickly, then performing the euth. immediately would be the most humane method. Ultimately, whatever is going to end the animal's suffering is the humane and best way to ease the transition. Again, my thoughts go out to you. I hope that none of us ever have to refer to these accepted methods, but ultimately, everyone should be prepared in the event that the worst happens. God bless.