This article is from the WSSF 2006 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Lynn Lehman, Racine, WI
QAnother of my munchkins is not in good health due to old age (she is approximately 1½ years old). She is very skinny and her back has become hunched. Her ears are starting to get dry and yellow, and now one eye is covered with a white/yellowish film. I feel so bad because I know she is suffering. I just pray she will go soon so she won’t suffer any longer. None of the vets around here want to deal with mice or any other small animals, so I can’t bring her in to be examined. Is there anything I could do rather than just helplessly watch her suffer?
AThis question brings to mind why I became a veterinarian in the first place. When I had pet rats in the late ’70s early ’80s, my family and I had a number of horrific veterinary experiences with end-of-life issues in our pet rats and mice. One very insensitive inexperienced veterinarian tried to euthanize my mother’s rat by cardiac puncture on an awake rat. This is not considered to be humane.
One of the reasons I went to veterinary school was to be able to care for the critters that share my life and provide them a humane death at the appropriate time. Many veterinary schools do not offer any courses in laboratory animal medicine. Regardless of one’s view about rodents in research, these are the courses where you learn about the medical care and diseases common to rats and mice. I can believe that some veterinarians who know little about rodents, would refuse to see clients with rodents for euthanasia because of a lack of experience and training.
The easiest method to use at a veterinary clinic is an overdose of gas anesthesia. The mouse or rat can be placed in a cat induction box (used for fractious cats) or anesthesia nose cone used for large dogs to put the rat or mouse at a surgical plane of anesthesia followed by respiratory/cardiac arrest. No needles, no massive restraint, no distress other than that which would be experienced if the animal was being anesthetized for surgery. In research, mice and rats are humanely euthanized by carbon dioxide overdose, again with no needles and no restraint. When a rodent is presented to a veterinary clinic for euthanasia, it is appropriate to ask how the euthanasia will be performed. Unless one is experienced in the handling and restraint of rodents and can appropriately administer an intraperitoneal injection, I do not recommend using the injectable euthanasia solution used in dogs and cats unless the rodent is appropriately sedated or anesthetized and at a surgical plane of anesthesia.