The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine practice2021; 37(2); 515-519; doi: 10.1016/j.cveq.2021.04.014

When All Else Fails: Alternative Methods of Euthanasia.

Abstract: Barbiturate overdose as a method of euthanasia is becoming unacceptable. This has made alternative methods of euthanasia very important. Gunshot or captive bolt euthanasia is among methods that are acceptable, but they may not be esthetically acceptable. This has led to the use of other methods of euthanasia. Inducing anesthesia prior to euthanasia offers an easier method of control. Adjunctive techniques using intravenous potassium or magnesium salts administered intravenously and intracardiac administration of potassium chloride or intrathecal lidocaine offer alternatives that work well and are more environmentally safer than barbiturates. Pithing and exsanguination are also environmentally safer but may not be as esthetically acceptable as the other methods.
Publication Date: 2021-07-11 PubMed ID: 34243883DOI: 10.1016/j.cveq.2021.04.014Google Scholar: Lookup
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The research paper outlines alternative methods of euthanasia that are becoming more viable due to the decreased acceptance of barbiturate overdose. These alternatives, including inducing anesthesia prior to euthanasia, and using intravenous potassium or magnesium salts, are more aesthetically acceptable and environmentally safer.

Background of the Research

  • The study arises from a shift in societal perspectives on euthanasia, specifically with the formerly dominant method of barbiturate overdose.
  • Barbiturate overdose, although effective, has become less acceptable for various reasons, including its environmental impact and controllability of the procedure.

Alternative Methods of Euthanasia

  • The paper details several alternative methods of euthanasia which can potentially substitute the barbiturate method.
  • One suggested method is the use of gunshot or captive bolt euthanasia. However, this may not always be aesthetically acceptable in certain societal contexts.
  • An alternative that has gained popularity is inducing anesthesia prior to euthanasia. This method brings a greater degree of control over the procedure and minimizes suffering for the subject.

Use of Intravenous Salts

  • The research also proposes adjunctive techniques using intravenous potassium or magnesium salts, which are administered intravenously.
  • This method is advantageous in two ways: it’s effective in euthanasia and has less environmental impact than barbiturates.

Other Environmentally Sustainable Methods

  • Additional suggested methods of euthanasia that have less environment impact include intracardiac administration of potassium chloride or intrathecal lidocaine.
  • Pithing and exsanguination are also discussed as environmentally safer alternatives, though they might be perceived as less aesthetically acceptable than the other methods mentioned in the study.

Cite This Article

Turner TA. (2021). When All Else Fails: Alternative Methods of Euthanasia. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract, 37(2), 515-519.


ISSN: 1558-4224
NlmUniqueID: 8511904
Country: United States
Language: English
Volume: 37
Issue: 2
Pages: 515-519
PII: S0749-0739(21)00034-1

Researcher Affiliations

Turner, Tracy A
  • Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, 10777 110th Street N, Stillwater, MN 55082, USA. Electronic address:

MeSH Terms

  • Animals
  • Barbiturates / administration & dosage
  • Euthanasia, Animal / methods
  • Horse Diseases / drug therapy
  • Horses
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage
  • Magnesium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Potassium Chloride / administration & dosage

Conflict of Interest Statement

Disclosure The author has no conflicts of interest and no funding sources. The author is a member of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia.


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