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Methods of Euthanasia by Species



The goal of euthanasia, by definition, is the achievement of a "painless death". As such, euthanasia should cause as little pain or distress as possible. The euthanasia methods listed below are in accordance with the 2007 Report of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia.

Acceptable methods of euthanasia are those that are recommended. Scientific justification for their use is not required by the IACUC.

Conditionally acceptable methods of euthanasia may be used in cases where acceptable means may confound experimental results. Scientific justification for the use of these methods is required by the IACUC. In addition, investigators must provide assurance of proper training in the use of these methods, and the maintenance of equipment in proper working order. Methods that are not listed are not generally acceptable.




Acceptable and conditionally acceptable agents and methods of euthanasia


Species Acceptable Conditionally acceptable
Amphibians Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2, tricaine methane sulfonate (TMS, MS 222), benzocaine hydrochloride, double pithing Stunning and decapitation, decapitation and pithing
Birds Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2 N2, Ar, cervical dislocation, decapitation
Cats Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2, potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia N2, Ar
Dogs Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2, potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia N2, Ar
Fish Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2, tricaine methane sulfonate (TMS, MS 222), benzocaine hydrochloride, 2-phenoxyethanol Decapitation and pithing, stunning and decapitation/pithing
Monkeys Barbiturates Inhalant anesthetics, CO2, N2, Ar
Rabbits Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2, potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia N2, Ar, cervical dislocation (< 1 kg), decapitation
Rodents/Small mammals Barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, CO2, potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia, microwave irradiation N2, Ar, cervical dislocation (rats < 200g), decapitation
Ruminants Barbiturates, potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia Chloral hydrate (IV, after sedation)
Swine Barbiturates, potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia Inhalant anesthetics, chloral hydrate (IV, after sedation)


Specific recommendations and suggestions


  1. Barbiturates
    1. The most commonly used barbiturate is sodium pentobarbital, used in a dose of 150 mg/kg for mice, and 100 mg/kg for other species.
    2. Routes of administration are IP in rodents and small mammals, and IV in other species.
  2. CO2
    1. Administration of CO2 from dry ice is no longer acceptable according to the AVMA. Use of a compressed gas source is required.
    2. There are several ways to reduce the stress associated with CO2 euthanasia:
      • Administer an inhalant anesthetic prior to administration of CO2.
      • Administer the CO2 in the animals’ home cage.
      • Do not pre-fill the chamber. Rather, place the cage in an empty chamber and fill it at a moderate rate (flow rate should be 20% of chamber volume per minute).
    3. While CO2 is currently an acceptable means of euthanasia, there is evidence to show that it is distressful, and it is possible that future AVMA panels may place it in the conditionally acceptable category.