Q. I just had to have my 16-year-old cat Panda put to sleep and it was the worst experience of my life. The vet only gave one shot in the vein instead of two. He said that that’s how many veterinarians do it but I later read that this method is outdated. Panda passed peacefully but I’m still upset that she didn’t get the best medical attention she could have.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2013 edition of their guidelines for the euthanasia of animals, “Barbiturates administered [intravenously] may be given alone as the sole agent of euthanasia or as the second step after sedation or general anesthesia.”
In other words, as long as she received barbiturates (and we have no reason to believe she didn’t), Panda received proper medical attention.
While the most popular method of achieving this goal in veterinary private practice is the so-called “two-injection method,” the single-injection protocol is perfectly appropriate.
Indeed, for the first five years of my career that’s how I did it, too. After I had to euthanize my own dog, however, I came to recognize the added value of a two-step method from the owner’s point of view.
In this approach, an initial injection is given. It goes either in the vein or in the muscle to elicit profound sedation or complete anesthesia. Once administered, typically rendering a pet both completely unresponsive and thoroughly pain-free, a second drug is then administered (usually a barbiturate, intravenously) to overdose the animal and cease all brain function.
The idea behind this method is that if a pet is perfectly still before the second injection is administered, there’s never any possibility that she’ll appear to experience pain or resist. Pets given one injection only, however, may move jerkily, vocalize or exhibit other signs that may be interpreted as distress. The two-injection approach, by contrast, seems more serene to most pet owners.
In any case, if Panda passed peacefully, it seems likely to me that you were in excellent hands, regardless of how it might’ve felt at the time. So sorry for your loss.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.