CAETA’s Euthanasia Review Department

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For many years, veterinarians and pet owners have reached out to me to talk about euthanasia experiences.  They seek to understand if what they witnessed was normal, expected, unexpected or concerning.  Veterinarians tend to look for answers that will shape how they deliver a euthanasia technique the next time. Pet owners want to know if their pet was in pain or distress during final moments, and to prevent it from happening again should the answer be yes.  Both groups ask me to listen to the details, then weigh in using my expertise.  Verbal reports are thorough but I keep feeling that more can be done to support veterinary teams and pet owners, especially when their mental health is in question.

With calls increasing, it feels like the right time to improve how these cases are handled.  The Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA) is developing a formal Euthanasia Review Department.  With the help of Francesca Tocco, a licensed veterinary social worker, CAETA has created the following system for pet owners, veterinary teams, and even veterinary state boards.

Euthanasia Review Department

  1. Website landing page with department information
  2. Intake form to gather case details
  3. Meeting arranged with a veterinary social worker to understand the full scope of the situation
  4. Case review by an expert CAETA instructor 
  5. Feedback and recommendations

Pet euthanasia is complicated.  Talking through successes and challenges should help with these complexities, and assist those who may be struggling with what occurred.  Goal #1 – open up communication.  Goal #2 – understand expected or unexpected reactions of the procedure.  Goal #3 – establish best practices to enhance patient, pet owner, and veterinary team well-being.  CAETA will follow veterinary professional ethics and focus our recommendations on euthanasia best practices as referenced in the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Euthanasia Guidelines and the Veterinary Oath of Practice.  

It is my sincere hope that this Euthanasia Review Department changes the lives of those who reach out.  From what I’ve seen so far, talking about euthanasia and understanding exactly what happened, and why, relieves a huge burden.  A few weeks ago, a woman reached out to me to discuss the euthanasia of her dog, who died in 1994.  After reviewing the details, I was able to relieve much of her concern and the guilt she’d carried for so long.  Her relief was evident.  

Here’s hoping this Euthanasia Review Department will impact lives for the better, including our pet patients who deserve a good death. Keep an eye out for its launch in July 2022.

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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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