As veterinarians, we are required to euthanise animals. There are many reasons why this service may be required, some of which may be deemed controversial, others compassionate. Pets are often an active and important part of families and as such there is a strong emotional bond associated with them. This bond can make the ‘End of Life’ decision very difficult.
As pets age, I am an advocate for families discussing a pet’s quality of life and what the final days may look like. Is your pet in pain or suffering? Are they still eating, drinking and toileting as they should be? If they are displaying ongoing signs of pain or aren’t following their normal behaviours, thoughts must then move to who is benefiting from keeping them going. A large percentage of euthanasia performed by vets is done for compassionate reasons and to end suffering. I often tell people they will know when the time is right.
The euthanasia process is an emotional experience for clients, their animals, vets and clinic staff.
Frequently, previous bereavements and current emotional events are relived and re-experienced during this time. I find acknowledging this is helpful to manage my own emotional state and as a veterinary practice we frequently discuss the process and individual’s experiences.
One of the more difficult and controversial scenarios we face is the euthanasia of healthy young animals with behavioural problems. Personally, I have little time for behavioural issues such as aggression.
Aggressive animals can cause great harm to both other animals and people. Though some training processes can correct these behaviours, if this doesn’t work within a set amount of time, it may be concluded that it may never work and the risk to humans and animals alike needs to take priority. I like to see animals re-homed to improved environments. Rescuing abused or abandoned animals with behavioural issues can in some ways work very beneficially for both parties. However, in some cases, the damage either physically or psychologically can be irreversible and, therefore, the safety of others once again must take priority.
Most clients and people in general would prefer animals to die peacefully when lying down to rest. Actively helping an animal eliminate their pain, distress and suffering is often a good and right decision. Managing the process as well as possible is the goal and a privilege. We are often told by clients who have watched family members suffer from long term illness, that this should be available to people. As with all living things, these decisions are a case-by-case scenario and not to be taken lightly or rushed into.