Lizard and Snake Euthanasia

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When euthanasia is the only sensible option for the animal, you will obviously want to carry out the procedure in the most humane way. Acceptable methods include:

  • Lethal injection - sodium pentobarbitone is an effective and humane method of euthanasia in reptiles at mammalian doses. IV or ICo injections are acceptable. Injections should not be made intracardially or into the lungs as this is regarded as painful and irritant. Intractable snakes can be sedated with ketamine. ICo and IM are adequate but duration to effect can be variable.
  • Physical methods involving concussion are acceptable and the blow must be given with such force as to cause cessation of brain activity.

Because of the ability of reptiles to withstand anoxia, spinal cord severance (decapitation) is not an acceptable method of euthanasia. Inhalation methods are not considered to be humane because the central nervous system of reptiles is less sensitive than mammals to a drop in oxygen tension and they are capable of holding their breaths for long periods of time. Equally, reptiles are ectothermic and thus accustomed to fluctuations in body temperature - freezing is painful and should NOT be used.

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Euthanizing a snake with the owner present. Wright, K.; The North American Veterinary Conference, Gainesville, USA, Small animal and exotics. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Volume 22, Orlando, Florida, USA, 2008, 2008, pp 1800