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Why more veterinarians are using sedation before euthanasia

Years ago, sedation before euthanasia was not a common practice. Now, many vets are using it as a way to calm pets and give owners more time with them before goodbye.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Putting a pet down is never easy and, for many owners, their furry friends are members of their family. 

Veterinarians are discussing a topic related to end-of-life care for pets: sedation before euthanasia. Some veterinarians prefer it and others do not.

Years ago, sedation before euthanasia was not a common practice.  Now, many veterinarians are using sedation as a way to calm pets and give owners more meaningful time with them before saying goodbye.

"I think they are more calm, they don't go through an excitement phase while we are giving it," said Dr. Kim Tanguay, a veterinarian with Spokanimal's Dorothy Clark Animal Center. "In general the whole thing is just way more peaceful and it seems more humane and kind."

Dr. Robert Dyke with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University in Pullman has been practicing veterinary medicine for 16 years. He said he has definitely seen a change in euthanasia practices in the last ten to 12 years.

"I've done it both ways, and in my experience doing it with sedation, it seems to make for a smoother process for the pet and for the client," Dyke said. "You know, especially when owners are present. Their pets, when we do this, I think it's just to help provide a better overall experience and process."

Some veterinarians against using sedation before euthanasia have said it makes the process take longer.

In response to that, Dyke said  it doesn't add much more time and it usually also depends on what the owner wants: more time with their pet or a quicker goodbye.

Others have said sedation makes it harder to find a vein. Tanguay said there are different types that can be used so veterinarians don't run into this problem.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends sedation or anesthesia before euthanasia, but it is not required.

You can always ask your local veterinarian about the best options for you and your pet.