Monday, February 2, 2009

Emergency Euthanasia - An Oxymoron

If there was one service that 911 VETS offers that I would love to remove it would have to be the Emergency Euthanasia. 911 VETS is one of the only house call/mobile veterinary services that even offers this service. The only reason we offer it is due to the fact that we are frequently asked to provide the emergency euthanasia.

Deciding the best timing for pet euthanasia is admittedly very difficult. Many pet owners who have decided to not continue treatment of a terminal disease, or are financially unable to do so are left with this dilemma. There are few situations with a pet's disease process that will give a clear indication that the her or she is now "ready". Readiness depends upon the pet guardian's attitudes and beliefs as well as the outward appearance and symptoms displayed by the pet.

Here are the dispatch notes from a typical emergency call that demonstrates the agony of waiting for the last possible moment and a very clear sign that the pet is ready to go:


The breakdown in communication between veterinarian and pet owner may have been due to either the veterinarian's lack of informing the owner of the severity or inevitability of the condition and/or the disbelief/mistrust or denial of the pet owner.

We offer free euthanasia consult to help avoid this situation. We are on a crusade to reduce the need for emergency euthanasia. Although a complete evaluation/exam of the pet has not been performed by the consulting veterinarian, we can help assess the situation by a description of the disease and the current symptoms. If the pet guardian has stopped treatment or opted out of further diagnostics or treatments, AND the pet's quality of life has deteriorated to the point of rapid breathing (one per second or greater), cessation of eating, severe weight loss, inability to stand or bleeding, to name a few common observations, it is our duty as pet guardians to end the suffering.

Think about what medical care a human being would be offered. If the pet is unable to stand, for example: continual nursing care, sanitation, turning, physical therapy, PAIN MANAGEMENT should be provided.

Every situation is unique and deserves a discussion of the disease progression with your veterinarian. One of our recent members had a lovely terrier with a frightening bone tumor of the face. The tumor had broken through into the mouth and bleeding had become evident. A discussion with the owner revealed that the dog was still happy to eat, wagging his tail, was little tired and had some weight loss. The bleeding was most bothersome and based on the location it was feared that an artery of the face would soon be breached creating a massive hemorrhage. The decision was made to PREVENT this catastrophe, since no treatment was to cure the cancer, and an appointment was made for euthanasia in the comfort of his home with friends gathered to honor his life. The realistic attitude of the owner was greatly appreciated by all and the dog was spared an inevitable emergency situation.

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