How to Include Euthanasia Services on Veterinary Websites; It’s important

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It’s 2023 and talking about death is still hard. Putting the topic of euthanasia front and center to clients, in parallel to other offerings like vaccinations or diagnostics, can feel uncomfortable to veterinary teams. Death can be perceived as a failure and lead vet professionals to avoid discussing it unless absolutely necessary. This is likely a large reason why very few veterinary companies list euthanasia (and aftercare) on their websites. And this includes pet emergency hospitals that have some of the highest euthanasia rates out there. The reality is that almost every veterinary hospital will perform euthanasia, and while yes, most clients understand that euthanasia is likely an option for their pet, it still makes sense to list the service on websites.

It’s been about 2 years since Lori Kogan published her article Mention the Unmentionables in Today’s Veterinary Business.  It drew attention to the low percentage of vet companies listing pet end-of-life services on their websites. As the article states, pet euthanasia is arguably the most common end-of-life service veterinarians perform, yet less than 35% included it in their listed offerings.  My guess as to why this is…death is a hard subject and putting it out there can feel too bold, even off-putting.  And clients know it’s an option right, so why spell it out?  Of course it may simply be an oversight by companies who have instead focused on other services or intentional for those who do not want to perform the procedure anymore than necessary.

A study from 2022 indicates that clients want more help with euthanasia pre-planning. They are often afraid of what’s ahead and have explicitly asked for more guidance. Including more detail on websites will help. Specialty pet euthanasia services do this very well so take a peek at their sites to see what they’ve come up with to inform clients. 

Let’s look at some ways to effectively describe pet euthanasia without overwhelming the reader.

  1. Create a page dedicated to Euthanasia. Use simple, gentle language to describe the what, why, and how to clients.  There is a time and place for highly academic descriptions of euthanasia but this is not it.  Here we give basic information on decision-making and the practical aspect of how it’s carried out.
    Example. “Euthanasia means to end the life of a sick or dying animal. Along with guidance from our veterinarians, your family will decide if euthanasia is the right choice or if continued care is appropriate. When medications and treatments are no longer keeping your pet comfortable, euthanasia may be the best option to relieve suffering. We can arrange for a quality of life assessment to discuss what’s next in the care plan, including euthanasia if everyone agrees.”
    Example. “Euthanasia means good death.  Once a decision to euthanize has been made, your family can decide if you want it performed in the home or hospital. Details important to your family can be shared with our team using the online pre planning form. We can accommodate many requests to make the experience safe and meaningful for all who wish to attend.”
    Example. “Euthanasia will include a series of two injections.  The first will help your pet welcome deep sleep, relieving them from any discomfort their body may be feeling from age or disease. Once your pet is sleeping, a second medicine will be given to help them to pass.  Our team will support you every step of the way.  You are invited to remain with your pet for the entire procedure.” 
    Example. “Children may be included in the appointment to say goodbye. We will use simple terms to explain what’s happening and they are invited to ask questions. Our team provides art therapy kits for children to create memorial items to keep or send with their pet for aftercare.”
  2. Add the word Euthanasia to your list of services. If creating a page feels like too much, just add Euthanasia to your dropdown menu of offerings.  This way clients know you have the ability to perform it, which is better than nothing.
  3. Insert the word Euthanasia on any page focused on end-of-life. End-of-life is a catch all for hospice, euthanasia, aftercare, and bereavement support. This is a good place to list many services, although the level of detail will likely be reduced when space is limited.

The findings from the Mention the Unmentionables article also touch on aftercare and pet loss support. It’s a good read and will help illustrate the scope of how we can improve the promotion of all aspects of end-of-life care. In a few more years, maybe the study can be done again to see how far we’ve come. In the meantime, the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA) includes business tips in our Master Program and other learning modules.

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Dr. Kathleen Cooney

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