Communiqué to all Canadian Veterinarians

2021 Potential Pentobarbital Shortage

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is aware of a global disruption in the supply of Pentobarbital sodium, the active ingredient in the most commonly used euthanasia products for animals in Canada.  

The situation is due to an explosion at an overseas manufacturing site in December 2020. As this manufacturing site works to restore operations, the shortage of the active ingredient is beginning to have an impact on the global supply of euthanasia products.

The CVMA is working with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) and the Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD) of Health Canada to minimize the impact of the global shortage on Canadian supplies of euthanasia products.

For its part, the CVMA has formed an expert advisory group including veterinary pharmacists, anesthesiologists, palliative care experts and species specialists that is developing resources and guidance on alternatives to pentobarbital sodium for euthanasia.

With respect to supply chain and distribution, CAHI is working with its membership and stakeholders to carefully manage existing and expected inventories of currently licensed pentobarbital sodium products while longer-term mitigation strategies are developed.

At this point, the global disruption in supply has the potential to impact the Canadian supply of euthanasia products in mid- to late 2021 and persist until mid-2022 if there is no change in ordering and use behaviours and stockpiling of supplies is avoided as much as possible.

The CVMA is recommending Canadian veterinarians assist in managing current inventories of pentobarbital sodium by:
  • administering ONLY the recommended dose of pentobarbital unless more is absolutely necessary; and
  • ordering ONLY the amount of pentobarbital sodium euthanasia products needed to cover their immediate clinic/practice needs.

This will help ensure all practices across the country can continue to have access to existing inventories for as long as possible and give CVMA, CAHI, and Health Canada the time needed to develop and implement feasible mitigation measures, including CVMA’s resources and guidance on alternatives to pentobarbital sodium for euthanasia.

Dr. Enid Stiles
CVMA President
You are receiving this message as a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). The CVMA is the national and international voice for Canada’s veterinarians, providing leadership and advocacy for veterinary medicine.