Pain and death—and love

Pain and death—and love

This Leadership Challenge highlights the poignant end of a pet’s life.
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Aug 01, 2017

No one thinks about the end when they get a new pet. Whether it’s a puppy or kitten, adult dog or cat, guinea pig or cockatiel, few people caught up in the flush of new love think to themselves, “This is not going to end well. At some point this animal is going to die, perhaps with me as witness, and I will be heartbroken.”

And if they’re not dwelling on that, they’re certainly not imagining the weeks and months leading up to the end—the pet’s loss of mobility, its weakness and pain, the devastating diagnosis that ushers in the final chapter without warning.

Fortunately for these pet owners, there are veterinarians and team members who think of little else. Their mission is to understand veterinary pain and suffering—and, in accordance, the euthanasia process—so thoroughly that when a pet reaches the end of its life, they are able to ease its passage with the absolute minimum of pain and suffering (and support the owners in their grief as well).

We feature some of these hospice and euthanasia-focused veterinarians in this issue of dvm360, as well as in Vetted and Firstline and on dvm360.com, presenting their philosophies and best practices to their colleagues in the profession. Veterinarians are no strangers to euthanasia as the final service offered a pet and client, but this focus on hospice and palliative care, as well as providing a “good death” for pets, seems to be gathering force, and we thought it was worthy of attention in a dvm360 Leadership Challenge.

So what exactly is a Leadership Challenge, you may be asking? It’s an editorial series examining all aspects of an emerging topic in veterinary medicine—an invitation to veterinarians and team members to meet challenges and opportunities facing the profession in new ways.

While you might not agree with all the views presented here, we hope you’ll still engage with the ideas in ways that help you with your next end-of-life patient—or maybe even help you create a new niche in your veterinary practice or embark on a whole new career. However you are affected, I firmly believe that your patients facing death (along with their heartbroken owners, who didn’t see this coming at the beginning of the journey) will be better off as a result.