CAETA Euthanasia Research 2022; Creating new directions

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It’s easy to take the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach to euthanasia work. Many practitioners feel comfortable with what they’ve been doing for years, and as long as the patient has a peaceful passing, it seems reasonable to leave well enough alone.  Companion animal euthanasia is emotional work, and let’s face it, change can be scary. I myself can get stuck in ruts and find it hard to get out.  Norms are changing in vet med though. As animal care professionals, we do best staying current with societal shifts, drug availability, and of course the latest research meant to drive elevated experiences.  

Let’s start by looking at a new study in progress exploring what pet owners believe is a good euthanasia or a bad one. Designed by the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA), the goal of the study is to ensure what pet owners want and expect is what veterinary teams are delivering.  Once we have a firm grasp of what a euthanasia experience should include, and perhaps more importantly what to avoid, a second study will launch to ask vet professionals the same thing.  

What the Pet Owner Euthanasia Study explores:
~ Appointment preparation
~ Major concerns, Ex. pain, fear
~ Previous experiences
~ Veterinary trust
~ Pet owner expectations 

The results will be compared and detailed training materials created for veterinary teams to follow.  Expect three publications on this project; one highlighting what pet owners expect, one telling us what vet med aspires to, and the last one showing how to bring it all together. Research like this bonds pet owners and veterinary personnel in partnership for the well-being of the patient.

Euthanasia research in 2022 also includes a potential new euthanasia technique. CAETA is designing a study to determine the viability of intrathecal lidocaine administration in canines, a technique used in equids for some time.  Why you ask?  In times of pentobarbital euthanasia solution shortage, it’s necessary to have a solid back up plan.  The 2021 shortage showed the veterinary profession’s ability to adapt and continue providing quality services, but it wasn’t without its stressors.  Intrathecal lidocaine euthanasia, while not likely to become a mainstream method in companion animal medicine, may prove to be reliable alternative to pentobarbital use.  For now, it’s necessary to understand the mechanisms of action, correct dosages, and practicality in the field. 

Here are a few more 2022 projects CAETA is working on:

  1. Personality traits of end-of-life veterinary specialists
  2. Owner-present euthanasia in animal shelters
  3. Dysthanasia case review
  4. Hospital training and clinical practice guidelines

CAETA is doing our part to understand and respond to the needs of pet owners and our patients at such a delicate time.  Interested in helping with companion animal euthanasia research?  Contact CAETA to get involved. 

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Dr. Kathleen Cooney

DVM, CHPV, CPEV, DACAW resident Founder, Senior Director of Education for the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy

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