March 29, 2011 Pets and Family

Saying a Good Goodbye

A man holding a cat

Saying a Good Goodbye

As a veterinarian for more than 25 years — and a pet owner — I know how difficult it is for pet owners to talk about or even ask about putting a sick pet down. Our pets are cherished members of their family and most people will do whatever it takes to help their beloved pet get through a health crisis. At The Animal Medical Center, our specialists successfully treat tens of thousands of patient cases each year ranging from renal failure in dogs to infections in frogs — from cancer therapy to cruciate rupture and from gall bladders to geriatrics, we see it all.

However, in cases where there is no quality of life for the pet, absolutely no chance of correcting the problem — if a prolonged illness causes the pet to suffer and have pain, the veterinarian and the pet owner often sadly come to the mutual and difficult conclusion to euthanize — a safe, humane option.

With that said, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Texas Adopts Animal Drug for Executions,” was brought to my attention by a client who had recently euthanized his beloved cat — and I had real concerns that pet owners might think euthanasia is bad.

For generations, veterinarians have used the drug pentobarbital, an anesthetic agent, for euthanasia because it is extremely effective. Pentobarbital — according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s Guidelines on Euthanasia — acts rapidly to smoothly induce euthanasia. For these reasons the Guidelines choose pentobarbital (or other chemically-related drugs) as the preferred compound for euthanasia in dogs and cats.

At The AMC we typically give a sedative, often propofol (the drug made famous by Michael Jackson) followed by pentobarbital. AMC staff sends sympathy cards and creates pawprint mementos following the death of a pet to help ease the grieving process. The family is always welcome to be present during euthanasia. The end of a beloved pet’s life is a difficult decision for every pet owner. Veterinarians everywhere work hard to make the loss of a beloved pet a peaceful experience.


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Tags: AMC, ameruican veterinary medicine association, animal, animal hospital, animal medical center, animals, ann hohenhaus, bird, canine, cat, dog, dogs, drug for execution, euthanasia, euthanize, exotic, feline, ferret, frog, geriatric, health, michael jackson, new york vet, pentobarbital, pet, pet emergency, pet health, pet healthcare, pet insurance, pet owner, pets, propofol, rabbit, tales from the pet clinic, vet, veterinarian, veterinary care, walls treet journal, WebMD,

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