The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Euthanasia Issues

DEAR DR. FOX: I had a Lhasa-mix dog named Buster for 17 years. He was the child of a rescue dog I had adopted earlier, who I believe made me a puppy to replace himself right before he died.

Buster was a 16-pound ball of gray fluff, and I took him with me everywhere -- on vacation, to work, out to eat. He was always at my side, and never even let out a whimper when I took him to the vet for shots. He trusted that whatever I did for him was for the best.

You can imagine how my life was shattered the day I had to have him euthanized. He’d stopped eating and drinking, could no longer make it up the steps, and had lost complete control of his bowels, to his obvious embarrassment. When the vet said his kidneys were failing and the end was near, I decided to let him go peacefully with me at his side, anticipating a smooth transition. I had been told by others who’d been through this that they would give him a sedative, he would go to sleep, and then be euthanized.

It wasn’t like that at all. As I rested my hand on his back and talked to him, the vet forced an IV in his leg and Buster began screaming bloody murder and wouldn’t stop. He looked over his shoulder at me as if to say, “Mommy, make them stop,” and I could see the whites of his eyes. He was terrified and in pain. He did that until he collapsed in my arms.

What a horrific last memory I have of him. To this day, I wish I had just let him die peacefully in his doggy bed under the desk at my office, where he loved to stay. I would never advise anyone to take their dog to a vet to be euthanized. Never. Ever. -- C.W. Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR C.W.: I am so saddened and infuriated that your poor dog was euthanized in this way without a prior sedative injection to make the intravenous injection of the euthanasia agent more fear- and pain-free. That memory will be with you forever, and I appreciate you sharing this to remind all veterinarians that this kind of human error and lapse in humane protocol is ethically unacceptable. It undermines the good name and dedication of what I consider one of the noblest of professions.

SHELTER-CAT CARE: FORGETTING THE OBVIOUS

A recent study by Dutch researchers posted in the British Veterinary Association journal, the Veterinary Record, showed that cats in shelters adapt faster to being caged, and show a significantly faster decrease in signs of stress, if provided with cardboard boxes with a small opening to hide in. While both groups lost equal amounts of weight under the stress of being caged in a shelter, the authors concluded that since hiding boxes reduce behavioral stress, they should be provided for all cats. (W. van der Leij and associates, “Hiding boxes reduce behavioral stress in shelter-housed cats,” PLoSONE 2019)

In my opinion, this would also help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, since stress can impair the immune system and make cats more susceptible to such infections, which are all too common in animal shelters.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)