May 15 2013

Euthanasia – Trying To Make It Easier

We have had a lot of sad cases ending in euthanasia recently. Kidney failure, oddball diseases, cancer, old arthritic labrador, neurologic disease – they have all been very sad. I’m especially bummed when I can’t fix whatever is wrong, either due to personal finances, limited treatment options, or just because death can’t be avoided due to age. Death is sad. Feeling like my job was incomplete makes me feel like I let someone down, even if the odds were against me.  Seeing someone hurt because an animal they love very much is suffering is sad for everyone involved.

So its been one of those weeks (and its Wednesday…).

But I do like euthanasias in a very small way. Euthanasias are our best effort to make loss and death as easy as possible. We try to keep things quiet, make sure the dog or cat is calm, and try to make death as peaceful as possible, instead of agonal and terrifying like it may be at home or in a stressful environment.  We also perform euthanasias at home, which is another great way to meet the dying pet in its most calm environment. It isn’t Plan A, but I am privileged to be a part of a very special time of compfort, sorrow, and memories as pets spend their last little bit of time with their family. As much as it possibly can be, it is a time that is very different for each individual and each pet.

Now, I’m not one of those people who wish that euthanasia was made legal for people.  Instead, I see euthanasia as short term hospice. My wife worked as a volunteer coordinator for a hospice when I was in vet school. Instead of finding that hospice was full of pain and death, she saw that it was a celebration of the persons life and an effort to alleviate any suffering that they may be experiencing.  Similarly, euthanasia is an opportunity for us to talk about how good our beloved pet was, and provide good pain management to alleviate suffering, even for a short time.  Euthanasia is our best shot at celebrating the animal’s life instead of prolonging unnecessary suffering.

So when I feel like its a bad day around here, I try to remember that death is painful, but dying shouldn’t have to be.

– Doc Cleland

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