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Compassionate End Of Life Considerations For Pig Residents At Your Animal Sanctuary

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It’s an all too familiar situation: after agonizing about whether or not humane euthanasia is the most compassionate choice for a beloved pig resident, you are told by the local veterinarian (or maybe multiple veterinarians) that the only way to “humanely euthanize” a pig is through a non-compassionate method such as with a firearm or blunt force trauma. Let’s start by saying that this is simply not true. Staff at The Open Sanctuary Project have a combined 13+ years of providing direct care to sanctuary pig residents, and unfortunately, that includes being present for many euthanasias. We’ve also had the opportunity to connect with many other sanctuaries and compassionate caregivers, and we can tell you with absolute confidence that it is possible to use the same gentle, non-physical methods of euthanasia for a pig that one would expect for their companion dog or cat. Some details may differ, but the overall method is the same.

Unfortunately, simply knowing that gentle, non-physical euthanasia is possible is just the first step. Finding a veterinarian who is experienced in this method of euthanasia specifically with pigs can be challenging. Instead, you may need to find a veterinarian who is comfortable working around your pig residents and who is willing to learn how to sedate them and perform euthanasia using a commercial euthanasia solution (meaning a solution intended for euthanasia and approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association or similar organization*).

Because it can be challenging to find someone who is willing and able to perform euthanasia for pigs in this way, it is important to start having discussions with local veterinarians long before you actually need euthanasia performed. It may take time to find the right person, and it may require building a relationship with a particular veterinarian or practice before they are comfortable agreeing to euthanize pigs in this way (which, again, is why you should start this conversation early, before euthanasia is needed). It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to be a bit intimidated by mature large breed pig residents, so it may take some time working together for them to trust that you and your staff know how to safely work around the pig residents and can assist the veterinarian while ensuring their safety. 

If you find a veterinarian who is willing to perform compassionate euthanasia using euthanasia solution but isn’t experienced in how to do so, there are a few ways that they can gain the knowledge they need. There is some information available about the use of euthanasia solution in pigs, though it primarily comes from non-compassionate resources, and may not cover the specific information your veterinarian most needs. In our experience, the most challenging part for veterinarians is often how to properly sedate individuals prior to euthanasia and finding a vein in which to administer euthanasia solution. 

If your veterinarian is receptive to hearing about information you have gathered regarding how to perform compassionate pig euthanasia, it can be helpful to reach out to other sanctuaries (or you can contact us) to gather information about the euthanasia process. However, not every veterinarian will be interested to hear secondhand information from someone outside of the veterinary profession. If you find this is the case (and this is quite common), it can still be helpful to reach out to another sanctuary or caregiver- they may be able to connect your veterinarian to their veterinarian or preferred clinic, who can then act as a resource for your vet. If you’re not sure who to reach out to, or are still having a difficult time, feel free to contact us for assistance.

Pig, like all animals, are individuals. They deserve a good end of life just as much as they deserve a good daily life. It might take time and effort, but ensuring all your residents have access to compassionate euthanasia, should it be necessary, is an important part of providing lifelong care.

*Please note that while sanctuary residents should never be euthanized using methods that are not approved by the AVMA or a similar organization, there are many forms of euthanasia considered “humane” by these organizations that are not at all acceptable for use in a compassionate care setting. You can find more information on this topic in our resource here.

Updated on February 18, 2021

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