Euthanasia is the act of inducing death without pain. Humane death of an animal may be defined as one in which the animal is rendered unconscious, and thus insensitive to pain, as rapidly as possible with a minimum of fear and anxiety.
Euthanasia is an acceptable method for relieving pain or distress that cannot be controlled by other means. Animal slaughter, depopulation, and humane killing are distinguished from euthanasia, because they are performed for reasons different than sparing an animal from unresolvable painful or distressful conditions.
Euthanasia of animals is a common procedure performed by veterinary professionals, and because of the seriousness of the action, it deserves appropriate consideration. Some of the most difficult euthanasia decisions that veterinarians are required to make involve the euthanasia of healthy animals when no other alternative for their care can be identified. A veterinarian must be fully prepared to speak frankly about the animal’s condition and be knowledgeable about all possible alternative care resources when interacting with animal owners, caretakers, and control professionals.
Recognizing the importance of a “good death” in the humane termination of an animal’s life, many countries and professional organizations have developed guidelines and recommendations for animal euthanasia; some are more specific for certain species and environmental settings. Most recommendations emphasize certain factors that personnel performing euthanasia should consider when selecting the best method to use:
- ability of the method to induce loss of consciousness and death with minimal pain and distress
- time required to induce loss of consciousness
- safety of personnel
- compatibility with intended animal use and purpose
- documented emotional effect on observers or operators
- compatibility with subsequent evaluation, examination, or use of tissue
- drug availability and human abuse potential
- compatibility with species, age, and health status
- ability to maintain equipment in proper working order
- safety for predators or scavengers should the animal’s remains be consumed
- legal requirements
- environmental impacts of the method or disposition of the animal’s remains.
Euthanizing agents cause death by three basic mechanisms:
1) direct depression of neurons necessary for life function
2) hypoxia, and
3) physical disruption of brain activity.
Because loss of consciousness resulting from these mechanisms can occur at different rates, the suitability of a particular agent or method will depend on whether an animal experiences distress before loss of consciousness. Unconsciousness, defined as loss of individual awareness, occurs when the brain’s ability to integrate information is blocked or disrupted.
Ideally, euthanasia techniques cause rapid loss of consciousness, followed by cardiac or respiratory arrest and death. This may occur very rapidly in a technique, such as gunshot targeting the brain, or more gradually, with a method that first induces unconsciousness, such as anesthetic overdose. If loss of motor or respiratory and cardiac function precedes loss of consciousness, as might be the case if paralytic agents are used, animals may become fearful and experience distress, which is not acceptable.
For a list of acceptable methods and agents for euthanasia of different species of animals, see the accompanying table. The full AVMA Guidelines for Euthanasia 2020 provide information necessary to correctly select and implement these techniques.
The Context of Euthanasia
In most cases, the euthanasia of an animal occurs in a context with:
- prior communication and decision making
- planning for the euthanasia
- staging and conducting the euthanasia
- disposition of the remains
The emotional attachment between animals and their owners or caretakers requires an additional layer of professional respect and care. Discussing euthanasia openly allows everyone the opportunity to understand that the best interests of the animal, owners, and caretakers have been considered.
Veterinary professionals may have unfavorable experiences concerning the end of life resulting from conflict with clients, moral stress relating to participation and outcomes, internalizing the client’s grief, negative input from others, and lack of mental health support. Important mitigating factors are: 1) supportive practice policies with compassionate leadership, and 2) training in communication and deliberative frameworks. Early intervention for personnel experiencing unresolved stress or mental health problems is imperative. (See also Self-care for Veterinarians).
It is important that euthanasia is provided in a manner that minimizes distress to the animal and considers their natural behavior. A euthanasia approach that can be applied in familiar surroundings may help reduce distress. For animals accustomed to human contact, gentle restraint (preferably in a familiar and safe environment), careful handling, and talking during euthanasia often have a calming effect and may also be effective coping strategies for personnel and animal owners. Sedation and/or anesthesia may help to achieve the best conditions for euthanasia. It must be recognized that sedatives or anesthetics given at this stage that change circulation may delay the onset of the euthanasia agent.
Death must be confirmed before disposal of any animal remains. A combination of criteria is most reliable in confirming death, including:
- lack of pulse, breathing, corneal reflexes and response to firm toe pinch
- inability to hear respiratory sounds and heartbeat by use of a stethoscope
- graying of the mucous membranes
- rigor mortis
When to Perform Euthanasia
Some factors to consider in deciding whether to perform euthanasia are weight loss; emaciation; failure to gain weight (in a growing animal); severe pain that cannot be controlled; inordinate tumor growth or ascites; prolonged self-trauma; generalized alopecia caused by disease; prolonged diarrhea for which treatment is precluded in the protocol; coughing, wheezing, or severe nasal discharge; shallow and labored breathing; prolonged lethargy associated with rough hair coat, hunched posture, abdominal distention, or impaired movement; severe anemia or leukemia; icterus; CNS signs, such as convulsions, paralysis, paresis, tremors, and progressive head tilt; uncontrolled hemorrhage; urinary dysfunction (polyuria or anuria); lesions that interfere with eating or drinking; infectious disease (in terminal phases); hypothermia; and impairment of function, disablement, and other behavioral and physiologic signs of distress.
How to Euthanize A Dog With Benadryl
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a brand-name, over-the-counter medication that’s classified as an antihistamine. It’s used to help relieve symptoms of hay fever (seasonal allergies), other allergies, and the common cold, as well as itchy skin due to insect bites, hives, and other causes.
Benadryl is a great medication for use in dogs with mild-to-moderate allergies. Seasonal allergies, food allergies, environmental allergies, and allergic reactions to snake and insect bites all respond to Benadryl in most cases. However, in high doses, Benadryl can produces lethal side effects that can result in death of a dog, this explains why the drug is used by many to euthanize dogs. Benadryl takes about 15 to 30 minutes to start working and its peak effect happens around 2 to 4 hours. An adult dose to obtain sedating effects is between 25 and 50 milligrams.
When adopting the use of Benadryl for dog euthanasia, you need to be very careful about the process. You don’t want to end up harming your dog by not properly dosing them. In the same instance, euthanizing your pet from home could be illegal.
This varies by state and region so be sure to check out this list but also refer to your own state’s laws on whether or not euthanizing your own dog is legal in your area before you attempt it. Remember to always consult a veterinarian before deciding to euthanize your dog with Benadryl.
This process may not be suitable for everyone but it does provide an option for putting your dog to sleep peacefully and helping them transition to the other side. This can be a challenging decision to make and we certainly do not take that lightly.
You will find that most veterinarians do not recommend euthanizing your dog using Benadryl. Some of them would say that Tylenol PM is a better method. If you are close to a vet that you work with, you may want to discuss this with them.
Here is how to euthanize a dog with Benadryl:
- Make your dog as comfortable as possible.
- Give your dog 3-4 times the standard amount of a recommended dosage. For example, if your dog is 25 pounds, a normal dosage would be 25 mg. For euthanasia purposes, you would need to give them at least 75 mg.
- The overdose of Benadryl will cause your dog to go into a coma and not wake up.
Experts recommend that you work with your veterinarian to at least get the dosage right so you don’t take the chance that you cause your dog damage without actually effectively putting them to sleep. SEE: The Most Dangerous Dog Breed According to Science