Pet Euthanasia During COVID; a 2021 update

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With the COVID pandemic continuing on, CAETA would like to take a moment to address a bit of the new normal around pet euthanasia during this unique time. In a blog post from spring 2020, we reviewed some of the ways veterinary teams (including home euthanasia providers) can adjust and safely continue the work. Provide, Protect, and Preserve was the main theme. Provide euthanasia – it is an essential service to reduce the pain and suffering of animals. Protect each other – follow the recommended guidelines for safe interaction. And Preserve – preserve the human-animal bond and emotional well-being.

What’s new in 2021 and what can be learned thus far? Conversations with veterinary colleagues and associations reveal that yes, euthanasia remains an essential service. Necessary changes have come in the form of the way veterinary teams are managing appointments. Brick and mortar hospitals have modified who can be present and how long the appointment lasts, and home services may not be entering the homes, choosing instead to remain in garages or backyards. Here are a few more examples:

~ Increased pre-planning before the appointment to address pet owner needs
~ Shortened appointment times
~ Zero or few pet owners allowed – curbside goodbyes required
~ Euthanasias performed in larger rooms to allow more social distancing
~ Long extension sets placed with IV catheters so personnel can remain further away
~ Outdoor euthanasias
~ Team members in the room as little as possible

Many hospitals have found it easier to refer out to mobile pet euthanasia services rather than invite a dying pet and client into the hospital for a substandard experience. The common vibe is that if euthanasia is necessary, veterinary professionals still want it to be done the right way; with the human-animal bond front and center. The trick is how to make an emotionally rich procedure more efficient without removing the charm. CAETA advocates to maintain the following components:

~ Kindness and empathy
~ Pet owners able to watch/remain connected to their pet in some manner
~ Grief support materials
~ Pre-euthanasia sedation or anesthesia
~ Skilled delivery of euthanasia techniques
~ And as many of CAETA’s 14 Essential Components as possible

Post COVID, pet euthanasia will go on, ideally with the best of what we can take away from these experiences. It’s been hard on our profession and no doubt compassion fatigue has flared in many of us unable to practice the way we want. Moving forward with attention to the bond and practicing with this kindness and empathy will help us to Provide, Protect, and Preserve.

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Kathleen Cooney

DVM, CHPV, CCFP Founder, Director of Education for the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy
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