By Kathleen Cooney, DVM, MS, CHPV
Founder, Director of Education for the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy
The Fear Free movement is alive and well thanks to the Fear Free Pet initiative, led my Dr. Marty Becker. The goal of the Fear Free program, within every veterinary appointment, is to reduce Fear, Anxiety, and Stress, known as FAS. In reducing FAS, the pet patient will feel safer in returning to the hospital or clinic for subsequent visits. Throughout the course of the patient’s life, the veterinary team has built up trust and demonstrated caring and compassion. The hope is that if and when the patient must return for a life-ending euthanasia procedure, the patient is as relaxed and comfortable as its state of health allows. Euthanasia is defined as a ‘good death.’ What is a good death? The first words that come to mind are likely pain-free, peaceful, quick, stress-free, comfortable, and even meaningful. In fact, if one considers euthanasia to be one of the most impactful appointments in a patient’s life, and in a veterinary team’s work, one might say that all Fear Free work has come to culmination during this time; that the euthanasia appointment itself is the most meaningful expression of love and gentleness we offer our patients. A strong understanding of Fear Free teachings will be called upon to make the patient’s last moments peaceful for them and comforting for clients.
The human animal bond is rich with emotions like love and trust. Everything we do during euthanasia must consider the potential depth of this bond and the importance of preserving our patient and client’s connection throughout. It is necessary to view our patient as a collective unit, both pet and client, as the loss will affect the client long after death has occurred. A Fear Free euthanasia takes into consideration the patient’s needs as well as the client’s, recognizing that reduced FAS in both leads to a more controlled and relaxed experience. A Fear Free euthanasia means exploring all possibilities on behalf of the patient, including performing euthanasia in the home setting rather than the hospital.
The Fear Free program has developed a euthanasia-centric module for release in 2019. Designed by Dr. Kathleen Cooney, the module will help students understand how to elevate the euthanasia experience the Fear Free way. Everyone benefits when euthanasia training like this is offered for the betterment of the pet, caregiver, and veterinary team.