Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When It's NOT Time to Say Goodbye

A euthanasia appointment is one of the hardest parts of any veterinarian's day. This is especially true if we know the client and patient well.  In any case, euthanasia is the number one reason I've heard for people NOT going into the field of veterinary medicine. They say "Oh I wanted to be a vet, but I couldn't put animals to sleep."

Honestly, I think it's a privilege. I don't "enjoy" it but I also recognize that I have the ability and ethical obligation to relieve suffering. 

I had a dog come in the other day that the owner was going to euthanize but after discussing it with him and examining this dog, I didn't feel right about it. He really didn't want to do it and while the dog is at the upper end of his breed's general life span, he looked GREAT!  There were SOME health issues and some other issues surrounding it (financial and situational/family). It's hard because I am the ANIMAL's advocate but I am not unaware that I am also dealing with the people involved as well. I feel it's important to LISTEN to what they are saying. Sometimes, they aren't really "saying" it either. 

So, in this case, we were able to work a few things out and get the dog some pain relief and some ear medications. The time WILL come for this dog but that day was NOT it.

Veterinarians have an obligation NOT to euthanize an animal if we feel it's not time or not being done for the right reasons. Sure, they can take the animal down the road to some other vet who, maybe, will just do it or they may even try some way of doing it themselves. Ultimately, I have to live with myself and be able to sleep at night. I can't be responsible for anyone else's decision but my own. 


  1. I know it is a difficult decision to make...been there and you and I have discussed it. It is the worst decision to have to make but when the time is right it is the kindest thing we can do for them...I hope things work out for this client and their pet...after years of fighting ear problems with my dog we stumbled upon the right combination of medication, for a young dog I doubt it is a good solution but for him at this stage of life it works and as long as it works we get to put off making that tough decision....

  2. I think this client felt put in a corner by others around him and another vet hospital that he felt "taken" by. I hate hearing that kind of stuff. I think he was relieved that he could KEEP the dog alive and feeling good.