Advice from the Experts

People and pets should stay together during euthanasia

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By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency My Pet World

Dear Cathy,

I have a sad question. Since 2011, I have had to euthanize three dogs. My dachshund Troy, almost 18 years of age, went peacefully. He went to sleep after the initial shot, and died after the second shot. My Maltese, Star, 13 years old, did not respond to either shot. They had to take her into the back room. My girl Penny, a Jack Russell, 13 years old, also did not respond to two shots and had to be taken to the back room.

My question is, what do they do in the back room? Do they suffocate the animal? Any other method? -- Robert Nielsen, Baldwin, N.Y.

Dr. Robert,

I am sorry about your experience. It's hard enough to make the decision to put a pet to sleep, but to have the procedure get drawn out and have your dog taken away from you before it's over is just heartbreaking.

Let me put your mind at ease. They do not suffocate your animal or do anything nefarious in the "back room." Euthanasia is done through an injection, as you describe, or through an IV. The process takes only one to two minutes and your pet should pass peacefully. These are the only two procedures they would do, so the only reason for taking your dog to another room was to probably put in an IV. But they should not have taken her from you at that moment, especially without explaining why. Your feelings are important at this time too.

While having to give more than one injection sometimes happens, this is far from the normal experience. Most pets pass quickly under either method and with just one injection. I prefer the IV method because if they need to give more euthanasia drug, it can be administered easily through the established IV. But to do this, they often take your dog to the back beforehand to insert the IV, which is why I think that's what your vet was probably doing.

Just so you know, you have every right to ask the staff what they are doing when they take your dog to another room, and your dog should not be removed from the room or taken out of your sight without you knowing why and until the euthanasia is complete. You deserve to be with your pet when it happens and have some quiet time with your pet afterwards. When it comes to euthanasia, you should be the one allowed to say, "I need to step out while you are doing this," not the other way around.

If you need to euthanize a pet in the future, maybe ask them to do it via IV. Hopefully, this will prevent you from being separated from your pet in his or her final moments.

Dear Cathy,

My son has an almost four-year-old lab mix. These past few months, her fur seems to be coming off in patches around her body, it scabs and bleeds at times. She seems to be losing weight as well. We don't know what's causing this. We want to take her to the vet, but the costs are so high, so we bathe her and put coconut oil on her in hopes that it cures her. So far, no changes, but more patches. Any idea what may have caused this? -- Mellisa T., Arizona

Dear Mellisa,

Hair loss can be symptomatic of many things, like parasites, fungal infections, diseases, or allergies. Your dog could have Demodex or Sarcoptic mange, which causes hair loss, or ringworm, which can be contagious. It's not good she also is losing weight.

I know it's stressful to go the vet when money is an issue, but for the cost of an office visit, she will receive an exam and your son can talk to the vet about what could be wrong. At a minimum, the vet may shine a black light on her skin to see if she has ringworm or do a skin scraping to see if it's ringworm or mange. The vet may even recognize the problem without a lot of tests and be able to prescribe medication or a topical ointment for her.

If the vet doesn't recognize the illness and needs blood work or diagnostic tests to determine what's wrong, he or she can at least let you know what might be wrong, so you can plan accordingly. Your vet may also be able to offer some alternative treatments if diagnostic tests cannot be done at the time.

Let me know what you find out.

(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)