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Dog Euthanasia Q - Was this Normal?


Joker
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We lost our dog yesterday. We scheduled the euthanasia appointment because he had cancer and yesterday morning it was obvious it was time. We've never done this before and it was so much worse than I expected and I'm wondering if they screwed up. I've always heard people say it was peaceful but this was very far from that. 

They gave him an injection of a sedative and told us it would take 5-10 minutes to settle him down. It was immediate though and within a minute he was stumbling. He then fell to his side unable to move, except for his mouth, and his eyes were wide open and unblinking, and he couldn't get his tongue back in his mouth - he kept trying. I called the tech back in and she said it was normal and left. We were all a mess at this point watching it. Several, long minutes later the vet came in to administer the final drug and he finally quit breathing. She actually ended up having to shave both front paws because the first time she tried the final injection she said his vein was swollen so she had to try the other one.

I was a mess last night and I'm not any better this morning because I actually feel like they screwed up (maybe too much sedative?) and I didn't know any better to stop it. I've talked with one other person who has been through it and they said it was not normal. I'm wanting some other feedback before I say anything because I don't want to accuse them of something if this is actually more the norm. 

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Yes and no. 

It was normal procedure. 

They should have told you what to expect. Yes, the sedation is supposed to pretty much knock them out, so they don't feel or notice the second injection. It does sound like he reacted to it more quickly/heavily than many dogs, but that doesn't mean they dosed him wrong, just that his body was already trying to shut down if that makes sense. They should have encouraged him, or had you encourage him, to lay down and relax rather than letting him fall down. But not being able to get back up, yes, that's normal for the sedative. It's not like a light valium thing, its like a pre-operative sedation. It's pretty heavy. 

What we told people was that they could stay for the whole thing, or just stay until the sedation took hold, and explained that once it kicked in they would be out of it so much they wouldn't know if you left. So yes, he should have been totally out of it by that point, but it sounds like they didn't explain that part to you very well, and also that it hit him hard and fast rather than more gradually. 

I'm so sorry it was hard on you and him. Hugs. 

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I've had dogs for whom the sedative hit hard and fast like that, and dogs who weren't affected much at all by the first dose and had to be given another one. And one time the vet--my favorite very experienced and very kind vet--had trouble finding a vein for the euthanasia drug and had to make two attempts. I'm positive dehydration made it difficult in that instance.

Hugs. I'm sorry an already traumatic, sad experience was worse than it had to be. It certainly sounds as if they should have explained things better and had a better bedside manner in general.

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My dog was sedated once. He was so weirdly not himself that it definitely ‘felt’ wrong, but it did what it was supposed to do. I think my response was emotional because I thought he’d just be a more relaxed version of himself. I’m guessing there’s a very wide range of normal for dogs.

i don’t think you should pursue this. You’re mourning and there’s no real point in putting that pain into an action. Nothing would come of it. 

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First of all, ((((hugs))))

Just like with some people, some dogs are more sensitive to anesthesia. It sounds like that was the case with your dog. However, I'm surprised they gave it to him while he was upright. Both when I worked as a vet tech, and when I've had to have my own pets put down, the pet would be lying on a table from the start. There would be no opportunity to stumble. I've also never been left alone with my pet I was having put down, once they were given the first dose. With our last dog they allowed us as much time in the room alone with him as we wanted, to say goodbye, but once the process began there was always someone from the practice in the room with us. 

I'm so sorry you had to experience his end that way. 

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I'm so sorry. Hugs!

Our vet puts a blanket down on the floor and has the dog lie down before the sedative is given. They leave us alone with the dog while the sedative takes effect, then administer the final drug, and then allow us as much time as we need before we leave.

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I’m so very sorry for your loss. I don’t know the answer to your question, but my sympathy goes out to you. 

ETA: Please don’t blame yourself! You did what your dog needed, and even if it wasn’t the way you expected, you can focus on grieving the loss now, not the end of life moments. 

Edited by mmasc
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One of mine was a bit like what you described (in the clinic, complete with a missed vein, shaving etc ), and after that I vowed to have it different. Our most recent was what I'd call a very excellent peaceful euth. There is a vet here who does palliative and hospice care - that's his entire practice. He works with the primary vet but focuses on end of life comfort and pain.
He changed up her meds for the months beforehand, helped us make quality of life decisions etc. When it was time, he came to our house, administered an injectible sedation - which I don't think she noticed), then got iv access (slowly and gently and I swear she didn't notice it at all either), then when we were ready, he pushed the final meds, again slowly, gently. When it was over, he went to sit in his car and when we were ready, he came back with a special dog basket with big cushions and blankets to take her to the crematorium and laid her out all comfy. It was more expensive than the clinic but was so much more peaceful. He'll do them outside, inside, wherever the animal is happy and content as his whole goal is to make it a gentle slipping away. I think he was at our house for well over an hour, probably closer to 2. 

I know a vet tech who works at a higher end clinic where they also do very peaceful euths. They have a beautiful quiet room for it, it's done slowly and quietly and gently so it's possible to do them in a clinic as well but most clinics just kind of do a quick one on the exam table or in the back and that's not what many people want anymore. One of our rats was done there...at one point I was in a room by myself for some reason and they sent in someone to sit with me to talk to me & keep me company and that was nice. It's these things that make clinics good imo...

 

Hugs to you. It's never long enough. 

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Honestly, too much sedative is way better than not enough. BTDT.  😢 😢😢

The first time I had to do this, many years ago, the vet did not use enough sedative, and when she started sticking him with the second one, my poor dog thrashed around and I had to hold him down while he looked at me in terror. I was a total freaking mess for days after that. So when I had to let my little Maltese go last year, I told the vet (different vet) what had happened the first time and he agreed to basically give her a lethal overdose of the sedative, and then do the final one that stops the heart right away. He had already put in the IV when we first got there, so she was lying in my lap being petted and eating treats when he did the first injection and she just instantly went out, then he did the second shot. I was still a mess, but at least I knew she hadn't suffered and probably didn't even know it was happening.

I'm so sorry for your loss, Joker  (((hugs)))

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We have had two dogs put down over the years by the same vet. They brought us into the exam room which had been prepared with a soft towel placed on the exam table. They took them into the back and put in an IV line and gave them a sedative. They then brought them back to us, carrying them,  and put them on the exam table. They were obviously sedated, but were calm and lay quietly on the table. When we were ready, after we said our goodbyes, the vet gave the final injection through the IV and they very quickly passed. It was sad and emotionally hard, but the way they did it made it easier. 

 

((((HUGS))))

Edited by Mary in VA
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It sounds to me like, while the vet did it "right," they did not do it in a very compassionate/sympathetic way. We put our dog down 2 years ago. We were heartbroken, and our experience was very peaceful (dog was in my lap the whole time). Your experience sounds upsetting and I'm sorry you had that on top of your loss. 

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Okay, so I had a dog and a horse euthanized in the last five years. I am so, so sorry you had this experience since euthanizing an animal is hard enough without any mishaps. I really don't know if it can be called mishap because I am not a vet.

This is what happened during my dog's euthanasia:

The vet told me to have my dog lie down (large mastiff). I sat on the floor with her and she put her head in my lap. Vet gave an injection and she became increasingly sleepy but was still awake for maybe 2 minutes?? It was peaceful except for the fact that I was sobbing and she tried to lick my tears off. I was still cradling her head 5+ minutes later. There was no more movement and the vet gently told me that she had passed.

This sounds rather different from what you experienced. If you had said you had a horse euthanized, I would have not been surprised that it was more traumatic. You can't ask a horse to lie down (unless they are extremely well trained), so they get the shot, their eyes roll back in their head and they go down hard because it's a heavy animal. My dh was with me when we had our gelding euthanized and he was talking about it for days and would never want to see it again.

Edited by Liz CA
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*hugs*

That sounds really upsetting for you, on top of everything else. But I'm sure your dog didn't blame you, and now he's past suffering. This isn't your fault. You've done absolutely nothing wrong.

When you calm down, if you feel up to it, you may want to give the vet some feedback on this. Sounds like they should've prepped you better. They're the experts.

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I'm so sorry for the loss of your dog.  That's exactly how it went down for my cat (well, except for the tongue hanging out thing), which was totally unexpected for me.  The first sedative knocked my boy down fast, after he stumbled around for a while.  The vet said that is typical for animals that are very close to death.  But I didn't quite expect that and it felt like I didn't have a proper chance to say goodbye because the cat was so out of it after the sedative.

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Thanks, everyone. I do think after some time I will send feedback regarding how they could have made it a little easier on us and been more informative. The worst part wasn't him falling over. It was his wide open eyes and tongue. It was so unexpected and he looked so scared. His eyes weren't just open but very wide like when he is scared or really happy. 

Right now we just really miss him. We had him almost 11 years and it seems such a small amount of time but he really wormed his way into every part. We're giving a lot of extra love to our other doggie who seems lost without him. 

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I'm so very sorry.  Really, my heart just aches because we had to make that decision too, not once but three times in my life.  (It's always heart-breaking.)  Please try not to be hard on yourself.  Your sweetie is not suffering at all anymore!  You did what you had to do.  I was never in the room with our dogs, but my dh and two of our kids were, once, with our really old, faithful companion.  They said it was peaceful, but that it took forever for his heart to stop, which made them momentarily panic.

Like everyone said, I'm sure dogs all handle it differently.  I think someone should have been in the room with you though, and definitely been more compassionate!  When my dh and kids were with our dog, the vet stayed there with them the whole time, explained what was going on, and was very compassionate.  I think that made it a lot easier.

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On 12/7/2018 at 6:09 AM, Joker said:

Thank you! It helps to hear others say it can be normal. I've been worrying he suffered  more because of it all and blaming myself. 

 

Forgive me, but I was unable to read through all the comments past this one because I have to run.  But I just went through something similar last weekend with our cat.  She wasn't euthanized but she did die after what was supposed to be a pretty minor eye procedure.  I kicked myself afterward for several things, and questioned a bit the way things played out. Our cat was a feisty thing, and was known to be tough to handle. I spent a very sleepless night the night she died, wondering if rough treatment somehow played into her death (i.e., I wanted to blame the clinic, too).  A week later, with some time and hindsight, and having talked to the vet, I realize probably not.  I had and have to force myself to not dwell on her death anymore, and just focus on the wonderful pet she was to our family.  So, all that to say, all these feelings you're feeling right now, including guilt, and the intense tears that probably come as a result, will start to fade.  I'm sorry you lost your beloved pet.  I'm glad you got to be with him at the end. 

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I'm very sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved dog.  Unfortunately, we've been through the euthanasia experience several times including 2 dogs, 4 cats, and a lizard.  I'm especially sorry that your experience seemed traumatic rather than giving you the peaceful closure that we all hope for. I'll be honest, the euthanasia is never easy on me but I consider it my last duty to my pet to be there through the end whenever possible.  The "best" pet death was a cat who passed away in his sleep without so much as a twitch, as he nestled between my husband and me. He was old but hadn't been sick so it was unexpected. The worst pet loss was one that disappeared so we don't know what happened to him. 

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On 12/7/2018 at 11:53 AM, hornblower said:

One of mine was a bit like what you described (in the clinic, complete with a missed vein, shaving etc ), and after that I vowed to have it different. Our most recent was what I'd call a very excellent peaceful euth. There is a vet here who does palliative and hospice care - that's his entire practice. He works with the primary vet but focuses on end of life comfort and pain.
He changed up her meds for the months beforehand, helped us make quality of life decisions etc. When it was time, he came to our house, administered an injectible sedation - which I don't think she noticed), then got iv access (slowly and gently and I swear she didn't notice it at all either), then when we were ready, he pushed the final meds, again slowly, gently. When it was over, he went to sit in his car and when we were ready, he came back with a special dog basket with big cushions and blankets to take her to the crematorium and laid her out all comfy. It was more expensive than the clinic but was so much more peaceful. He'll do them outside, inside, wherever the animal is happy and content as his whole goal is to make it a gentle slipping away. I think he was at our house for well over an hour, probably closer to 2. 

I know a vet tech who works at a higher end clinic where they also do very peaceful euths. They have a beautiful quiet room for it, it's done slowly and quietly and gently so it's possible to do them in a clinic as well but most clinics just kind of do a quick one on the exam table or in the back and that's not what many people want anymore. One of our rats was done there...at one point I was in a room by myself for some reason and they sent in someone to sit with me to talk to me & keep me company and that was nice. It's these things that make clinics good imo...

 

Hugs to you. It's never long enough. 

I wish I'd done something like that for my kitty.  I don't regret euthanasia.  But I really regret taking her to the vet and doing it where she hated.  That bothers me every day.  

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