Veterinary medicine is riddled with gray areas where compassion and legality walk a fine line. The debate over pet relinquishment to clinics has become a controversial topic. Prior to a recent case, I had not had much experience with the situation. I felt if we can help the animal we should in any way possible. If the owner cannot provide the care the animal needs and elects to give it to someone else to provide that care, what is the problem? Continue reading Pet Relinquishment: To Be or Not To Be?
While the economy may be on its’ way out of a recession, many clients are still hesitant to spend their discretionary income. These financial challenges, coupled with the availability of information on the internet is hurting veterinary clinics, both emergency and general practice. Clients will Google many diseases/problems prior to bringing their pet in. Often they will explain, “well I googled it and I got so worried I came in right away.” Unfortunately however, more often they will explain, “Well on Google it said to wait a few days…” For better or for worse, many people choose Dr. Google first and their veterinarian second.
So how do we as doctors and as a profession combat the ease and affordability of the internet? Communication, as usual is the key. Here are some resources to consider:
1. Partners for Healthy Pets- the face of the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare™, a committee of the non-profit American Veterinary Medical Foundation that was created to ensure that pets receive the preventive healthcare they deserve through regular visits to a veterinarian. This alliance of more than 20 leading veterinary associations and animal health companies is committed to a vision of improved overall health for pets.
Our Goals: We are dedicated to helping veterinary professionals provide the best preventive healthcare by:
- Addressing the increasing prevalence of serious diseases and the declining health of our nation’s pets
- Enhancing pet owners’ perceived value of preventive veterinary care
- Ensuring regular veterinary visits become the norm
- Increasing the understanding of the veterinarians’s central role in the health and happiness of pets
- Making increasing preventive healthcare of cats a priority
2. Direct clients to some good websites/resources, before they start searching.
At their first visit hand them a resource list for reputable websites. Some of the ones I like include:
- http://www.veterinarypartner.com/- run by VIN with approved content this a great, free resource for clients
- Let clients know they can call with questions anytime for free. You may even consider setting up an email account that either a technician or trained client service representative runs and answers in 48 hours.
- http://www.njveterinaryblog.com/- is run by Ocean County Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey and has great articles on pet health care.
- Direct clients to your state VMA (veterinary medical association). Many of them have great client resources.
One of my recent emergency shifts was what we in business reluctantly call”one of those shifts.” This is a shift in which almost every patient that walks through the door is here for euthanasia, or PTS (put-to-sleep) for those in the jargon know. Nights like these, no matter how the end result may benefit the owner and/or the pet, take an emotional toll on the staff and myself. The term for this is empathy fatigue.
What tends to bother me the most is when it is a problem that goes undiagnosed, but the owner feels the patient is older and usually states, “while it’s not the money, I just don’t want to put him through testing when we don’t know how much longer he has.” While that makes sense to me emotionally, as a doctor, I want to find out more. I have a need to form a diagnosis in an attempt to treat and provide a prognosis. I also feel that maybe we owe it to the pet to try some therapies, if the condition is treatable and the animal is not currently suffering, prior to ending a life. By offering diagnostics, I hope to give the client as much important information as possible to make an informed decision. The conflict arises because the amount of information needed is a personal choice and differs for everyone; and, ultimately the owner determines the right time for an animal to pass on.
If a client has a 13 year old dog and the dog started having some respiratory issues that clinically appear mild and a low grade heart murmur is detected, is that cause in itself for euthanasia without taking x-rays? What about if, in addition to those signs, the owner may have to undergo a long distance move?
If we suspect strongly that a portosystemic shunt is the cause of persistent hypoglycemia that is difficult to manage, is it time to give up on that puppy prior to definitive diagnosis with an ultrasound?
Some clients worry about what they will find out and prefer to remember their pet in their best condition and accept the inevitable. So where do we draw the line between treating too aggressively and not treating enough? When is the right time to let our best friend go, and when is humane euthanasia an opt out card versus a means to end suffering? These are very real and permanent choices and questions we must face as part of being a responsible and caring pet owner. There is, of course, no right or wrong answer. However, I know after nights of numerous euthanasias I start to wonder what my role should be in the decision process.
As a veterinarian, clients will ask you all the time, (especially with respect to humane euthanasia) what would you do if this was your pet? The truth is they usually already have a decision made and sometimes your job is to support them. After all, it is their pet, their loved one, their choice…or should it always be?