Home Uncategorized Euthanasia, the Most Difficult Decision in the Veterinary Profession

Euthanasia, the Most Difficult Decision in the Veterinary Profession

An image showing dog vaccinations. Courtesy

By Gitau Leah

Euthanasia is the act of putting an animal to death or allowing it to die by withholding extreme medical measures.

As difficult as it may seem, there may come a time where you need to consider euthanasia for your animal. Choosing to end a beloved animal’s life may be one of the most difficult decisions, but the most responsible and compassionate things to do. Compassion because, you will have brought an end to its suffering.

Consider a situation where your pet has an endemic disease. You have done everything in your power to save her, but she only gets better for a while and then the symptoms come back. The cycle begins again, and it’s painful to watch your pet in pain and there is nothing you can do to help. You could put her down and therefore end her pain. Euthanizing though should be the last resort.

Reasons for euthanizing by veterinarians

Euthanasia helps pet owners put their pet’s pain to an end. If your dog is suffering from a terminal illness, your best efforts will only prolong her life by a few months but eventually she will die. By euthanizing her, you will end her pain as well as your own agony of watching your dog writhe in pain.

Treatment for serious diseases costs a lot of money. Unlike human beings who are covered by health insurance, your pet’s treatment might have to come from your pocket. This can cause a serious strain on your budget. Considering that the pet will have to die if the disease is terminal, it’s better to put her down now rather than later. The option of euthanasia in this case can only be considered if the disease is incurable.

Terminal illnesses is also another reason that could lead to a veterinarian putting down an animal. The animal may be terminally ill and showing no positive signs of survival, and by allowing it to continue living, you will only be subjecting it to more suffering

Accidents do not only occur to humans but also animals. If for instance your animal encounters an accident and develops permanent difficulties in walking, you will be left with very few options, euthanasia being the major one.

Old age could cause a veterinarian to decide that it is the right time to put down an animal. When old age comes knocking, body parts also become fragile, hindering movement and limited expression of natural behavior.

Aggressiveness is a trait that we have observed in some of our animals and efforts to calm them down can turn out to be fruitless. Considering the harm and injury that the animal poses to the public, a veterinarian may decide to euthanize it..

A difficult decision for veterinarians

Euthanasia is often a highly emotional issue to deal with, especially for the medics who have to perform this procedure. It can be disheartening watching a beloved one die.

“… I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for … the relief of animal suffering …” The Veterinarian’s Oath that we all take at graduation describes euthanasia as part of our duty as a veterinarian.

For some veterinarians, undertaking a euthanasia could be the hardest part of their jobs. The feeling can be ‘bitter sweet’ because, they are able to end the suffering of an animal humanely, but at the same time, the emotional pain that come with it is excruciating.

A wrenching moment for the owner

The veterinarian always has the best advice for the good of the animal, but it is up to the owner to decide whether they want to end the suffering of the animal or prolong its death.

It can be such an unbearable moment seeing your animal breathe its last, but the veterinarian will always advise accordingly. Some of the questions that veterinarians pose to the owner include; Is your animal able to do the activities that they enjoy? Does your animal want to eat and drink, keep body condition, and stay hydrated? Can your animal urinate and defecate appropriately? Are you willing to take care of your animal in its current state of health? Do you have the financial means to try to cure or improve your animal’s condition? If most of these questions are answered “no”, then it is time.

A peaceful end for the animal

There are a few humane ways to euthanize an animal. For pets and horses, veterinarians use an injectable euthanasia solution. For livestock, they commonly use gunshot to the brain. If the animal can be disposed of properly and the producer can justify the cost of euthanasia solution, the veterinarians may choose the latter.

Every end-of-life discussion is specific to the animal, the owner, the situation, and the veterinarian.

Veterinarian advice on euthanasia?

Euthanasia comes with a lot of emotional burdens and so, veterinarians sometimes come up with precautions that help owners get psychologically prepared for a loss of one of their members in the family.

  1. Planning and preparation for euthanasia

Preparation for euthanasia is crucial to animal owners, as it helps them ease down the emotional pain that could come after the procedure has been carried out.

If a veterinarian agrees that euthanasia is the best choice, it is important to prepare as best you can. Making the decision in advance rather than in an emergency, making prior arrangements helps ease the process; such as checking with the county health department for the best means of disposal.

For instance, making an early decision on where the procedure will be carried out is crucial, and making arrangements for removal of the body for disposal.

One could also need some time to think whether they want to be present during the procedure, or if they need a friend or a family member to accompany them

Insurance considerations

Before performing a euthanasia, one might need to consider whether they are aware their policy’s guidelines, which can help minimize any unpleasant surprises, which relate to their claim.

Many insurance companies prefer to be informed on any medical conditions, especially if death or euthanasia is a possible outcome.

If the animal is insured, notify the insurance company in advance so that there are no problems with         claims, while the veterinarian will provide you with any required documentation.

  • Getting closure for family members

Euthanasia can be a very difficult moment to come into terms with especially for animal lovers. Before performing the procedure, one might need to explain to the members of the family, especially children, in sensitive but honest terms, why the decision was made to euthanize the animal.

Coping with emotions associated with euthanasia for veterinarians and owners

Given the affection we have for our animals, coming into terms with their deaths can be extremely difficult. We therefore need to find coping mechanisms for our emotional well-being.

First of, one should always ensure that they find a support person that they can talk to, to help them relieve the emotional pain off their heart.

Allowing your emotions to surface without judgement is always the best thing to do. You can even cry about it until you can cry no more. Crying has a way of relieving us emotional stresses.

Get encouraged for putting to an end the suffering of that animal and not prolonging its sorrows.







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