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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Doctor Death

Some days are rougher than others when you're a vet.  One of the hardest things we do is euthanize pets.  Even when we know it's the right thing to do and will end their suffering, it can still be emotionally draining.  The worst part isn't that we're ending a life, it's the reactions of the owners.  Seeing people say goodbye to their loved ones is pretty hard, and no matter how many times I see someone break down in tears it never gets easier.  Frankly, I wish we had more training in grief counseling, as it is an important part of being a vet yet something that appears to be under-appreciated by vet schools.  It can be difficult to make it through some of these cases.

And then some days are even worse than others.  Like today. Most vets would consider it bad if we had to do four euthanasias in one week.  I had four of them in one day. 

Each case was very justified.  The first was a puppy with parvo that we had treated for four days and he began to worsen.  The second was an elderly basenji who had neurological signs and I had strong suspicions of a brain tumor or other central nervous system disorder.  The third was a 15 year-old schnauzer who had stopped eating and wasn't moving around much.  The last one was a dog I had seen for quite a while and who had multiple medical problems that had worsened.  I had no problem with the decision to euthanize each of these pets, but none were easy.  The owners cried with all of them, and like I said that's the worst part.

Days like this I feel like "Doctor Death".  Euthanasia isn't a bad thing, and it allows me to ease suffering and give a quick and peaceful end to an inevitable circumstance.  But I'm very glad to be home from work and trying to decompress from such a day.

Tomorrow I hope I get to see only healthy puppies for their vaccine boosters.


  1. I'm currently a veterinary assistant student (and hopeful future RVT or AHT). In the our curriculum we do spend a fair amount of time learning about grief counselling and the grieving process when we cover Euthanasia. I experienced my first euthanasia during a job shadow last week (a 17 yr old cat w/ acute renal failure), but the owner had elected not to be present. Grief counselling aside, I know it will be harder with the owners there.

    I just found your blog recently and have been enjoying it immensely, thank you!

  2. I work at a racetrack, and sadly, sometimes we have to euthanize horses with catastrophic injuries. It's never easy, but usually the only people present are myself, a track security guard, and the equine ambulance driver. A few weeks ago I had to euthanize a horse who was more "part of the family" than a simple "business asset," and with the owner and his family there the act took on an entirely different tone. We all cried.

  3. I can't imagine how hard it is but please know the service is so greatly appreciated.


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