Options for Euthanasia in Guinea Pigs

Options for Euthanasia in Guinea Pigs

Euthanasia is often a very challenging and emotional time for both you and

your veterinary surgeon. It is also a very important moment for you as a pet

owner. Understanding the process more clearly and the possible options

available may help to make the process a little less daunting for you.

The process begins with a conversation between you and your vet. The

decision is never an easy one to make. There are often many factors playing

a part in the final decision. The key points to consider are the quality of life

your pet has, the potential implications of treatment options if available, and

the potential for improvement in clinical signs or recovery. Whatever the

reasoning, once the decision has been made the process of how euthanasia

is going to happen should be discussed with you.

The process may occur in the veterinary clinic, or at your home. You

may be present with your animal, or choose not to be. Afterwards you may

choose to bury your pet at home or opt for cremation. Cremation can often be

organised by your veterinary clinic with options for your pet to be cremated

individually and their ashes returned to you if you wish.

There are three stages to euthanasia in a guinea pig. The first stage is

anaesthesia. Reliable access into a vein in an unanaesthetised guinea pig is

challenging. Injection of a euthanasia agent by any other route (other than into

the vein) can be painful in an awake guinea pig; therefore your guinea pig

must first be anaesthetised.

Anaesthesia can be induced either through inhalation (breathing in via

a mask or sitting in a chamber) of anaesthetic gases or by injection of

anaesthetic agents under the skin. Traditionally an inhalational chamber has

been used to induce anaesthesia in guinea pigs. This method reduces

handling of the patient, which can reduce stress, but the anaesthetic gases

can be irritant to the eyes and nose; and, due to health and safety

precautions, it is often not possible for you to be present whilst anaesthetic

gases are being used. Injection under the skin of anaesthetic agents is

performed though a small needle and may result in a momentary squeak but

is very short-lived and is therefore my preferred method for anaesthetising

guinea pigs prior to euthanasia. In addition injection under the skin then

allows you to hold your pet whilst they go to sleep, this often takes 2 to 5

minutes.

Once your pet is fully anaesthetised the second stage of the process

can be started. A second injection is required to perform euthanasia.

Remember at this second stage your guinea pig will not be aware of anything

nor will they be able to feel anything as they will be under general

anaesthesia. This second injection can be given in a number of different

ways. Ideally the injection is given into a vein. Injecting into a vein makes this

second stage more rapid. Commonly, a vein called the cranial vena cava will

be used for this purpose. This vein lies within the chest cavity and is accessed

through the underside of the neck. Other routes for injection include

intracardiac or intraperitoneal.

The intraperitoneal route involves injecting into the abdomen. This can

be the technically easier route but will also be slower than intravenous or

intracardiac.

The final stage is for your vet to confirm euthanasia by listening to the

heart.

At any stage in this process you may choose to be present or not.

Euthanasia is always a challenging time for all involved, as an owner you

need to do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Watching the process is

right for some and not for others. As a vet, euthanasia, although difficult, is

one of the most important jobs we do. I realise this blog may have been

difficult reading but I hope that laying the process out makes it less of an

unknown and therefore less scary.

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