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One of my girls, Irene, has been battling a tumor since early December and within the past week it's gotten bad enough that her pain meds are no longer cutting it. I know that I'm going to need to bring her in soon because it's just going to keep getting worse from here. When I spoke with my vet about the methods they generally use, she said that they generally use a shot into an organ (the liver I think?). I don't know if she meant that the pets are sedated first and then injected - it's something I need to ask. The local MSPCA uses a shot into the body cavity, which I had heard was the most humane way, but I don't know if I would be able to be with her when she passes or not. And then there's heartsticks, which some of the posts I browsed here had recommended as being quick and painless provided the rat is properly and fully anesthetized first.

Which method do you generally prefer, and what questions should I be asking my vet? I just want to make sure that Irene's passing is as painless and comfortable as I'm able to make it for her.
 

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For rodents, the only humane method I know of is a heart stick. Other methods work for larger animals or noncompanion animals but for rodents it could be a drawn out death -- in some large breed dogs, for example, an IP shot will take 20 min and usually isn't "painful". As per the AVMA for America, rodents should be under surgery-level anesthesia prior to an injection. The injection will cause death (if anesthesia hasn't already) within 30 seconds, none of which the animal is conscious of. If you are not in the USA, I would look up your country's euthanasia guidelines as these are generally "laws" for vets who risk licensure if they aren't used.
 

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A heart stick is, to the best of my knowledge, an injection directly into the heart which ensures death within seconds. It should never be performed on an animal that isn't under surgical-grade anesthesia, as it's very painful if the animal is awake for it. Nanashi7, I'm in the United States. The information I was going off of was taken from http://www.rmca.org/Articles/euthanasia.htm and http://www.ratfanclub.org/euth.html , but I have no idea how old that information might be, or how reliable.
 

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A heart stick is, to the best of my knowledge, an injection directly into the heart which ensures death within seconds. It should never be performed on an animal that isn't under surgical-grade anesthesia, as it's very painful if the animal is awake for it. Nanashi7, I'm in the United States. The information I was going off of was taken from http://www.rmca.org/Articles/euthanasia.htm and http://www.ratfanclub.org/euth.html , but I have no idea how old that information might be, or how reliable.
Thank you for the education. I appreciate it. :)
 

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Rmca I can't tell about the information reliability. All I know is the vets I go to and the ones training me do not advise or use IP injections for euthanasia and advise it to be cruel - IP anything in rats should be for aspiration purposes only. I don't trust Debbie dubcoums website, it has many non scholarly advice and such. Much of her advice is based on her experience and opinion.

Avmas publication on euthanasia methods is available online.
 

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I'm not sure where you're getting information on IP injections in rats and mice, but they're perfectly safe if the administrator knows what they're doing. We do IP injections pretty much daily and have never had any problem as long as the animals are angled properly, the needle is the proper length, you know where to put it and the liquid is the proper pH and volume. I also had one of my rats pts using an IP injection after being anesthetized; it was quick and he was out the whole time.
 

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We had our two old guys put to sleep recently, a month apart from each other. My boyfriend decided he wanted to be with them during the process, so he described it to me. The first boy was pretty out of it mentally and very weak physically due to an advanced PT. He wasn't very reactive, and had 3 shots before he was entirely unconscious and then given the lethal injection.

The second boy was showing beginning signs of a PT also, but was put to sleep for a more immediate issue. He was still fully aware of his surroundings and for the most part was alert and healthy. The same shots caused him a great deal of pain and panicked struggling trying to get away, and he just sat and screamed and cried for a long while after each injection was given. The vet said the medicine can feel like burning. I felt terrible when I heard this.. My boyfriend felt terrible being there and seeing him go through that.

I've decided that even though I would really want to be with a rat when the time comes for pts, I 100% would rather they be given gas anesthesia, the same way they would be knocked out prior to surgery. Unfortunately they don't allow owners to be in the same room for the gas risks, but I personally think it is probably the most humane for them to fall asleep with the gas and then receive the final injection. The shots just seemed so traumatic and painful.

I'm sorry for your girl.. I hope this process is as easy as possible for you both.
 

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I always have gas anaesthetic followed by intercardial injection. I wouldn't let a vet do just the injection except in extremis. The only place I've seen straight IC done well is in a lab. Vets just don't do it enough to be competent imo.
 

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We had our two old guys put to sleep recently, a month apart from each other. My boyfriend decided he wanted to be with them during the process, so he described it to me. The first boy was pretty out of it mentally and very weak physically due to an advanced PT. He wasn't very reactive, and had 3 shots before he was entirely unconscious and then given the lethal injection.

The second boy was showing beginning signs of a PT also, but was put to sleep for a more immediate issue. He was still fully aware of his surroundings and for the most part was alert and healthy. The same shots caused him a great deal of pain and panicked struggling trying to get away, and he just sat and screamed and cried for a long while after each injection was given. The vet said the medicine can feel like burning. I felt terrible when I heard this.. My boyfriend felt terrible being there and seeing him go through that.

I've decided that even though I would really want to be with a rat when the time comes for pts, I 100% would rather they be given gas anesthesia, the same way they would be knocked out prior to surgery. Unfortunately they don't allow owners to be in the same room for the gas risks, but I personally think it is probably the most humane for them to fall asleep with the gas and then receive the final injection. The shots just seemed so traumatic and painful.

I'm sorry for your girl.. I hope this process is as easy as possible for you both.
I'm really wondering why 3 shots were necessary here. When doing survival surgeries, we give one shot and allow them to roam their cage until they fall asleep. I had my boy pts with gas anesthesia and they allowed me to be in the room with him; granted there was a plastic chamber between us, but I was still there close to him. I had to argue my way into the room, but the vet finally agreed. Be obstinate, tell them you'll sign a waiver, tell them you'll find another doctor. It's not going to hurt anything for you to be there and I have to agree with you that gas is much more humane.
 

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Here in Nova Scotia, the vet uses gas to put the rat to sleep, followed by the heart stick. Also, the owner is not permitted to be present during the procedure. This I find very distressing, but that is how it is done here.
 

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I'm really wondering why 3 shots were necessary here. When doing survival surgeries, we give one shot and allow them to roam their cage until they fall asleep. I had my boy pts with gas anesthesia and they allowed me to be in the room with him; granted there was a plastic chamber between us, but I was still there close to him. I had to argue my way into the room, but the vet finally agreed. Be obstinate, tell them you'll sign a waiver, tell them you'll find another doctor. It's not going to hurt anything for you to be there and I have to agree with you that gas is much more humane.
I wasn't able to be with them when the procedure was done so I'm not sure exactly how it went, it was a series of doses from what I understand so it's not such a shock to the system. They give one shot and it kinda makes them drowsy, and then another, and they're usually asleep by then, but the two boys both needed 3 total before they were knocked out completely. They waited about 15 or so minutes I think between doses to make sure it took full effect before they gave him the next dose. We took them to UC Davis Vet clinic so I feel much more confidant that they knew what they were doing. But after hearing how it affected poor Pancakes so badly, I wouldn't be able to put my own babies through that..

If I can't hold and pet and console one of my babies being gassed to sleep before a PTS, then I'm not sure I'd be able to be there. I think it would much more stressful for me and maybe the rat if they knew I was there but trapped and couldn't get to me. I could instead just imagine it would be a similar situation to how they feel before surgery and I would feel better. But I feel terrible not being able to hold them while they fall asleep for the last time. But thinking about it so much, especially since my special girl is almost an old lady, and another of my babies is battling URI, is making me pretty sad.. It's so sad how short our little rattie's lives are. :(
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you everyone for your responses - I feel like I have a better idea of what I should be asking my vet about. Irene is actually doing very well, I think that she simply had a bad day on Wednesday which made me think that she was deteriorating much faster than she actually is. I know that she's not going to improve, but as long as her quality of life seems not excessively impacted I'm in no hurry to say goodbye.

The bad news is that today I noticed a lump on her tail which was not there a few days ago, and if it doesn't go down by tomorrow it'll be off to the vet again to have it looked at.
 
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