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Let’s Show Support, Not Scorn

A good friend who is a veterinary technician at an emergency practice mentioned the other day that she hoped she wouldn’t have another shift like the one she’d just finished.

When I asked why, she said it was because they had “put everything in the freezer” during that shift.

She was dismayed because even otherwise healthy pets were euthanized that day because their families could not afford a surgery or treatment that had very good chances of being successful.

For example, a 5-year-old athletic Labrador caught a Frisbee in the air, came down awkwardly and blew out a disc in his back. Surgery could have put him on the road to recovery--but only if the family had several thousand dollars to spend. He ended up in the freezer.

These difficult decisions are being made daily, as we know, and more often than before, euthanasia is the option families are selecting.

This is difficult for the veterinary staff as well as the family.

We are trained, educated and inspired to help and heal these animals. When we know we can help, but are not given the opportunity due to limitations such as the client’s finances, we are not able to use our skills and knowledge the way we feel compelled to.
This becomes disheartening, particularly when played out over and over again as in an emergency practice environment.
It’s easy to become jaded, judging these families harshly with thoughts or whispered statements such as “Why did they get a pet in the first place if they couldn’t afford it?” or “How can they euthanize that healthy dog just because it needs surgery?”

We have to be careful not to judge others by their actions, even during these difficult times.

Those families probably had every intention of meeting that pet’s needs, especially when they first obtained the pet. But people get laid off, houses get foreclosed upon, and the family pet may present unexpected financial challenges that weren’t present earlier.

Think about it. Even we have our financial limits. Even with generous employee pet discounts offered by many practices, veterinary support staff members likely don’t make enough money to spend thousands of dollars on their own pets at one time.

If we found ourselves in the same difficult position as some of our clients, we might have to opt for euthanasia as well. Does that make us a bad person, a horrible pet parent? Does it make the client a bad person? 

In these cases, it’s time for us to demonstrate our understanding and support, rather than scorn or indignation.

The fact is, for however long, that family provided a home to that pet.

Another unfortunate side effect of our economic woes is that pets are being abandoned at shelters (and other places) at alarming rates. Some will find new homes, but many will not.

While the country strives to find ways to withstand the current economic state, our profession tries to hold on to how we can help pets and their families. There will be times when this simply means being able to relate to and thus support these families in their time of need.

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