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How Do Veterinarians Deal With Euthanasia?

Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Sunday 7 March 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
how do veterinarians deal with euthanasia
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Every pet owner has to one day deal with the loss of their pet. Sometimes our dogs will go peacefully in their sleep, or sometimes our vets will decide it is time for them to be euthanized. But how do veterinarians deal with euthanasia both mentally and emotionally? Is it difficult for them or are they able to dissociate their work from such an emotional moment?

Whether you are wondering if vets get attached to animals, or how they cope with grieving owners, we have answers. We all have our coping mechanisms for the loss of a loved one, as do vets, but let’s discuss a vet coping with euthanasia as a common part of the job.

How Do Veterinarians Deal With Euthanasia?

You must first note that vets adore animals and dogs, just like you or I. Therefore, euthanasia is difficult for every veterinarian. This is why they use different coping mechanisms in order to remain calm and professional whilst on the job. If a vet didn’t find a way to deal with the emotions that come with such a draining procedure as euthanasia, they would not be fit for their job. They may be too emotional to administer the injection properly and this could be dangerous. This is why each vet has developed their own techniques in veterinary school and on the job.

There are many different coping mechanisms that vets employ including crying, taking time for themselves, and reading counseling books. Kyle Palmer who works at the Silver Creek Animal Clinic discusses the aftermath of coping with euthanasia often allowing employees breaks to cry and feel better. “We allow them to take an extended break or let them leave for the day,” says Palmer. Many vets will try to support and give kind words to those that have lost their pets. So they can help the families that own the pet that they have euthanized. It is a way of trying to positively help a situation that is negative. Every vet has their own method of coping though.

Do Vets Become Desensitized to Euthanasia?

In one sense vets do become desensitized to euthanasia. The emotion that they feel during the moment of putting an animal down may be less raw than the emotion they first experienced as a vet. However, that does not mean that their overall emotions diminish, they just find their own way to cope with euthanasia. Vets will never get used to euthanasia, but they can become better at coping with the procedure and emotions that surround it. We also have to bear in mind that, as owners, our emotions are going to be so much more heightened due to losing a family member. Therefore, a vet will prioritize your emotions and the animal’s before their own. This can make them appear less emotional.

Often vets will have the mindset that, although this is the loss of the pet, the decision is the best for the animal at this time. This allows them to partially remove their emotion during the procedure and whilst you are there. However, this often means that they may become emotive once you have left the facility. Therefore, they may only feel emotionally desensitized during the procedure of euthanasia, and not about euthanasia as a whole. Also be sure to remember that every vet will deal with things differently, as will every veterinarian clinic.

When Does Euthanasia Become Necessary in Veterinary Medicine?

Euthanasia may be used for a dog that is very sick, has had a major injury, or is just very old and struggling. There comes a time in many dogs’ lives where they are not able to live life, merely survive. When a dog is unable to move, cannot control their bowels at all, or has constant pain, many vets may recommend euthanasia. As their life is limited, and they are no longer able to be independent or thrive, this option is often considered. Diseases that a vet cannot cure or are terminal may require euthanasia. For example, if your dog has terminal cancer, then your vet will consider euthanasia to prevent a painful or unfair death.

Vets will only consider euthanasia in the case of very severe injuries, and only as a last resort. If a dog is hit by a car, this can lead to some severely traumatic injuries with dire consequences. After this kind of accident, a dog could lose multiple limbs. Many vets will recommend euthanasia when a dog is going to struggle to live the rest of their life. The ultimate motive for euthanasia should only be if a dog is in severely poor health, incurable pain, or is not able to thrive in life anymore. Dog will not feel any pain when put to sleep.

necessary dog euthanasia
Vets will only consider euthanasia in the case of very severe injuries, and only as a last resort.

What Does a Vet Feel When Putting a Pet To Sleep?

When a vet is putting a dog to sleep, it will already have been a decision discussed with you and, most likely, other qualified members of staff. Therefore, the decision has been agreed that it is the best for the animal they are treating. This can often offer the vet comfort during this emotional time. During the actual procedure, the vet will be very aware of a pet’s condition. If they are as comfortable and as calm as possible. Then they will gather the appropriate equipment and administer the medication to the animal. Always being mindful to be respectful to the pet.

When a veterinarian is dealing with euthanasia, they will all do so differently. Although, it is likely that afterward, their mindset will most likely shift towards the owner. The animal is in good care and is gently drifting away. Whereas, if the owner is inside during the procedure, they will be understandable upset at this point. A vet may offer some words of comfort whilst repeatedly checking on the animal until they have completely passed away. At this point, depending on each vet’s coping mechanisms, they may become emotional. Of course, they may have become emotional at any point in the procedure. However, this is one of the most upsetting points.

How Do Vets Deal with Euthanasia – FAQ

With discussing such a delicate topic, we want to make sure you have all the information you need from one quick search. Here are some FAQs regarding how veterinarians deal with euthanasia.

Do vets cry during euthanasia?

Some vets may cry during euthanasia, but it’s for a variety of reasons. From feeling anxiety from being at the veterinarian practice to feeling unwell or in pain generally, it depends on the species and individual. Just know that your dog is not aware of what the injection is and what is happening. Many dogs will still be calm and wagging their tails after the injection. If you are worried about this happening, go in there as calmly as possible and support your dog. They are receiving the best choice for them and you and your vet are doing a great job. You can then grieve the loss of your pet a little more peacefully.

What do vets do after they put a dog to sleep?

After a dog is put to sleep a vet will often need a break to process their emotions. Depending on the clinic, they may be offered a break or be sent home for the day. Other vets prefer to put themselves fully into their work and deal with emotions at the end of the day. Ultimately, it depends on the individual and the clinic.

What happens to the bodies of euthanized animals? 

The bodies of euthanized animals may be cremated, returned to you, or taken to the appropriate place for a burial. It all depends on what you would like to happen after your pet has peacefully passed. Some services are only offered by certain veterinary clinics so be sure to check.

Is it a good idea to be with my dog when it is being put to sleep?

There is no right answer to this question, but we can tell you all the factors to consider. Firstly, ask yourself if you would feel guilty about not being in the room during the procedure. On the other hand, would seeing your dog like that affect you mentally? You have to gauge which emotion would affect you more severely. Your vet will support and care for your dog throughout the procedure regardless.

What do vets do to pets after euthanasia? 

If your pet needs cleaning up a vet will do so, especially in the case of an accident. They will then take your pet to either you or the crematorium or funeral care, whatever you decide.

Euthanasia is a difficult decision and an emotionally draining procedure for vets. Every vet has their own coping mechanisms for such a difficult time, and your dogs are in the safest, and most caring hands.

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