Use of ether as an anesthesia agent in animals is not allowed without strong scientific justification, EH&S guidance, and IACUC review and approval of its use and handling for the following reasons:
- Ether is flammable and forms explosive mixtures with oxygen and room air. In addition, carcasses of animals euthanized by ether are an explosion hazard and require special disposal.
- Induction may cause distress in animals due to ether's irritant properties, which have been shown to cause coughing, profuse bronchial and salivary secretions and laryngospasm. Ether can also cause pre-existing subclinical respiratory disease to develop into acute severe infection following recovery from anesthesia.
- Induction and recovery times for ether anesthesia are relatively slow.
A number of alternative gaseous anesthetic agents are commonly available, such as isoflurane and sevoflurane. Carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is also available in all campus vivaria for use as a euthanasia agent in small rodents.