Euthanasia: How is it done?

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Euthanasia: How is it done?

Post by Happy Hoppers on Thu Jun 19, 2008 12:01 am

Euthanasia- how is it done?
Rabbiting On Spring edition 2007

Author:- Dr Linda Dykes
Some additional information contributed by Happy Hoppers Forums

Rabbits are euthanased (PTS) using a lethal injection of what amounts to an irreversable overdose of aneasthetic. Some vets prefer to sedate the rabbit first by putting a cannula into an ear vein to give the euthanasia injection through. Others prefer to carefully inject the drug into a vein (usually ear or leg) without sedating the rabbit first. Other methods such as injecting directly into the abdomen, are rarely used unless it is impossible to locate a vein which may happen if the rabbit is collapsed and already near death. Ask your vet which method they use so you know what is going to happen, you should be given some say in the matter if you have a preferred method.

My personal preference, if a vein cannot be located, is to have my rabbit sedated with an intramuscular injection of the General Anaesthetic drug Domitor (sometimes combined with Ketamine) and then have the Pentobarbituate (the lethal injection) administered abdominally once they are in a deep sleep and blissfully unaware of everything around them. It should be noted that this method is often marginally more expensive than other PTS protocols, but in my opinion well worth it if a simple intravenous injection is not possible as it removes any possibility of the rabbit experencing a painful or fear stricken death. Some vets may instead wish to 'gas' the rabbit to sleep prior to euthanasia but many feel this is not the kindest or least stressful method available as the smell of the gas can induce panic and rabbits have to spend their last few minutes of consciousness absent from their owners.

Once the final injection is given, if given directly into a vein, it only takes a few seconds for the rabbit to become unconscious and go floppy and relaxed. Death follows soon after. Your vet will confirm death has taken place by listening to the chest with a stethoscope and gently touching the eye to make sure the corneal reflex has vanished.

Most veterinary practices are very experienced at helping owners at this difficult time, for example, arranging payment in advance or offering the last appointment of the surgery when there is no time pressure and no waiting room full of people to walk past. It may be possible for you to arrange to have your rabbit PTS at home, do enquire, if that is what you want.

There are three things to mention that can be upsetting if you are not prepared. Although there is nothing gory about rabbit euthanasia, many rabbits will pass some urine or feaces after they have died, so be prepared with a towel. Secondly, picking your rabbit up for a last cuddle immediately after euthanasia can be quite a shock as the rabbit will be totally floppy (note aside...support the head if you want to give a cuddle). Finally some rabbits will give off involuntary reflex movements (muscular twitches) in the minutes immediately following death, this is natural and nothing to worry about though it can be quite shocking if you are unprepared.

Many people dread the thought of seeing there beloved pet dying and wonder if they should be present or not. Although I personally derived great comfort from knowing my rabbits last moments awake were spent with me this is an intensely personal choiceand you must decide what you think is best for you. Whilst the majority of owners spend the entire process with their rabbits some people prefer not to watch their rabbit being PTS and instead to spend sometime with the body afterwards. Others prefer to remember their rabbit alive and not see the body at all. There is no right or wrong answer, but if you have the opportunity to do so it is worth talking to friends who have had a pet euthanised so you can make an informed choice.
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