How Veterinarians Cope with Euthanasia

How Veterinarians Cope with Euthanasia by Deborah Y. Strauss D.V.M.

Perhaps the only thing harder than losing a pet is having to endure the experience several times a day. Veterinarians and their staff can sometimes participate in four or five euthanizations in a single day. Doing so is difficult and doesn’t seem to get any easier with time.

It’s tough to make the process painless for anyone (except the animal), but there are ways vets and their staff can cope with these losses.

Showing Emotion

Vets and staff members often cry when euthanizing an animal, and it’s important to make it known that this is okay. Doing so honors the loss and lets the family know that others truly care about both them and their animal. The rule of thumb is generally not to cry harder than the pet’s owner, but a good cry is a healthy and natural response that vets shouldn’t stifle.

Grieve Together

Veterinary office staff work together and support each other every day to save lives. There is no reason not to do the same when a life ends. Once a month, have a short staff meeting where the pets who were lost during the month are remembered. Grieving together is often helpful and the ceremony can serve as a rite of passage that helps bring closure.

Make Smart Hires

Some veterinary clinics will euthanize an animal at the owner’s request, even if the pet isn’t sick or injured. Known as convenience euthanization, this procedure is sometimes viewed as cruel. Some vets won’t perform this procedure, but others will. It’s important for clinics that do provide this service to tell potential employees that during their interview. Some people find this practice immoral and will struggle if asked to participate. They may do better working elsewhere.

Choose Participants Carefully

Over time, vets and vet techs form special bonds with certain pets and their owners. If a bonded animal needs euthanized, it’s a good idea to ask the staff member if they wish to assist. Some will want to be present when special animals go to sleep. Others won’t. Respecting these wishes allows staff members to grieve in the best way for them.

Send a Note

Doing good feels good, so encourage staff members to provide comfort to pet owners. Send a sympathy card shortly after the appointment and again on the anniversary date. This helps pet owners know that their beloved animal is remembered and can help staff members feel good about offering continuing support to clients.

Services at My Deborah Y. Strauss D.V.M. Mobile Veterinary Clinic

One way my practice is unique is that I’m willing to do house calls for euthanization. For example, if your beloved pet would be more comfortable passing at home instead of making a stressful trip to the office, that is a courtesy I’m more than willing to provide. I’ve found that it’s a more pleasant experience for pets and owners alike.