I can’t tell you how many times the issue of euthanasia comes up when I tell people what I do for a living. Most of the time they say something like “I couldn’t do that-I couldn’t bear to put an animal to sleep. That must be the hardest part of your job.”
How do vets feel about it?
Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you that don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian and I give you my honest opinion of issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me-it can be hard to hear the truth.
Euthanasia (or “putting an animal to sleep”) is a common part of veterinary practice. It is not uncommon for vets to perform this service at least once a week if not more. It’s a part of the job and you can’t avoid having to do it.
For me and most veterinarians, not all euthanasia patients are the same. Sometimes it can be very upsetting to put an animal to sleep, and sometimes it can even be relieving. Allow me to explain.
It is not uncommon for me to cry during a euthanasia procedure when I know the pet and pet owner well. Sometimes you have a patient who has been sick for a long time and you’ve tried everything to help but the disease progressed in spite of all attempts. I’ve also cried when a pet reminds me of one of my own that I’ve loved and lost.
It is saddest when pets with treatable problems are euthanized due to financial considerations. To put it bluntly, the pet owner can’t afford the care and elects to euthanize their pet over treatment. An example of this is a puppy that was hit by a car and has some extensive and treatable problems. They could have survived but the owners couldn’t afford it so they were euthanized. When this happens it is very disappointing and hard to deal with. It is also very sad when we see animals who have been abused to the point that they simply have no chance of survival.
On the other hand, euthanasia can sometimes be the kindest choice. I won’t say that any vet looks forward to putting an animal to sleep, but sometimes we know it is for the best. We see pets suffering and know the most compassionate thing we can do is to end the pain. I believe pets are “too good of friends to let them suffer” and if I can stop them from hurting, I will do it.
My Final Thoughts on How Veterinarians Feel About Euthanasia
In short, euthanasia can be a very sad part of practice. Vets feel very connected to their patients and it is hard for us too.
But there are times that euthanasia can be a blessing to end suffering, and it really is the best choice in those circumstances.
Like anything else, the process of euthanasia is part of my job and you can get used to doing it. If you work at a busy practice that euthanizes many pets and sees a lot of patients, you almost have to distance yourself a little from the emotional side of the process. It isn’t that you don’t care that you are ending that pet’s life; rather, you won’t be mentally healthy and able to focus on treating your patients if you focus on the sad things. You can’t become deeply emotional every time or it will tear you up-but it is normal to feel some sadness.
The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can’t always say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another point of view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.