Human/Pet Bond (written Aug 2015)


One of the hardest jobs for a vet is to put animals to sleep but when it is done well, and for the right reasons, it gives a feeling of job well done. Our practice has a policy they we do not put healthy animals to sleep. We do realise that people’s circumstances change and sometimes it is impossible for the pets to remain with owners. Thankfully in this country there are plenty of people that have dedicated their spare time to help such pets and see them settled into new homes, and we help people get in touch with these organisations. We also use our Facebook page to re home pets, or find lost ones!

For many of my clients the pet is more than a pet, they have become child replacements, or the last connection to a lost love. I find it particularly sad when I have to put a pet to sleep for an elderly person who lives alone. The pet has fulfilled so many important parts of the owner’s life that they find themselves very lost and lonely when we have to put their pet to sleep. Their overwhelming concern is always for their pet’s wellbeing and quality of life. They are also very hesitant about getting another pet, worrying that the pet will outlive them. Sadly many charities have very strict rules about the age of the owner. I do find some of these rules a bit rigid, and think that older people make great pet owners for middle age to older dogs. They have more time to spend with the pet rather than it staying home alone when owners are out at work. 

Quality of life can also be difficult to assess and different people will assess it differently. For me the most important factor is pain. I think we have to make sure our pets are pain free, are able to move around, enjoy food and have some joy in their life. Many people are understandably very frightened or worried about staying with the pet when we put them to sleep. This can be due to a previous bad experience or a fear of the unknown. Seeing pets be put to sleep is probably the first experience most people have of death. I will never put pressure onto people to stay with the pet, it is actually easier for us as vets to put a pet to sleep without the owner. This is because we then only have to worry about the pet, and not the owner too. For me putting a pet to sleep has to be done perfectly, things can go wrong and we go to great lengths to avoid this. We now always place an intravenous catheter in the leg to make sure the medication goes straight into the blood stream. When owners stay and see how peacefully the pet went sleep they walk away with a sense of relief. They know they have done the right thing and the pet fell asleep peacefully. We are fortunate to have a secluded walled garden where we can put dogs to sleep, with the sound of bird song and trickling water.

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