The Top 4 Things Pet Owners Want During Euthanasia

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Thanks to a recent pet owner survey, we can now say with certainty that a quality companion animal euthanasia is more than just the medical procedure itself.  Owners want (and need) more, and veterinary medicine is poised to deliver.  It just takes know-how and dedication to the modern approach.  For many years now, the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA) has been advocating for veterinary teams to provide the 14 essential components of good euthanasia.  While this is an important framework to follow, the top 4 things pet owners want is a good place to start.. Let’s see what they had to say.

  1. Remaining together – Pet owners want to be with their pet for the entire procedure. From start to finish, over 80% of owners shared how important it was not be separated.  It’s still common for pets to be brought to the treatment area for catheter placement, which can take anywhere from 3-20 minutes depending on numerous factors.  The concern is the pet may be fearful during this time, away from loved ones, and pet owners are left waiting for their return.  Every minute becomes more and more precious as the final moment together draws near. Euthanasia is unique among medical procedures in that owners want to be there. Not all will, but inviting pets and families to remain side by side is fast becoming the norm.
  1. Pain free procedure – A very close second is the desire for a pain-free procedure.  This is what everyone wants; the pet, the owner and the veterinary team.  Pain and euthanasia simply don’t belong together.  Pet owners are very aware of their pet’s emotions and feelings during the procedure.  There seems to be a general consensus that sometimes pain may be present.  As long as veterinary personnel proceed with compassion and gentleness, including taking their time to minimize discomfort, pet owners will trust everything was done to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Veterinary teams can take precautions to make sure handling and necessary injections are gentle and pain free.
    ~ Using more oral pre-sedatives
    ~ Asking if the pet is painful anywhere
    ~ Using the least amount of restraint possible
    ~ Choosing drugs with minimal pain on injection
  1. Sleep before the end – Pet owners overwhelming preferred pre-euthanasia sedation for their pet rather than euthanasia while their pet was wide awake.  Sleep provides a break from pain and other symptoms of disease and dying.  And owners were accommodating about how long it would take too.  Their pet taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep was acceptable as long as the pet was comfortable and the setting relaxed.  Providing the right sedatives before any technical aspects of the procedure (such as catheter placement) helps ensure the pet experiences less pain, and anxiety.
  1. Help with preplanning – Those who reported the most satisfaction with their pet’s euthanasia appeared to have more time to plan things out.  Emergency euthanasia ranked the most stressful, in large part due to the lack of preparations and the inability to say goodbye in the manner they wanted.  Preplanning was welcomed in the form of pre-appointment conversations, website information, and talking with family members.  Overall, preplanning their ideal pet euthanasia event reduced regret.  More people were able to say goodbye in their way, befitting the life and bond they shared with their pet.

Honorable mention goes to home euthanasia, the clear front runner on where pet owners want the procedure to occur. The only reason it wasn’t included as part of a Top 5 is that not every community has access to home services. Good euthanasia can occur in the hospital setting with the right details in place (quiet room, soft lighting, no rushing, loved ones close by), and of course the Top 4.

Learn more at DVM 360 article

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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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