No one wants to think about saying goodbye to a beloved animal companion. Yet thinking about it in advance can make the difference in whether or not a pet has a “good death” – passing peacefully, in the loving presence of his or her family, without fear, restraint, or unnecessary pain.
Dr. Kathleen Cooney, DVM, CHPV, CCFP has led the ‘good death revolution’ within the veterinary community throughout her 18-year-career. As founder of the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA), she has authored numerous publications on euthanasia-related topics, and is an internationally recognized expert in animal euthanasia.
In her latest research, her team has conducted a survey of 2,000 pet parents in an effort to map client experiences in both “good” and “bad” deaths in order to evaluate best practices for veterinarians, whether they work in emergency rooms or as mobile euthanasia providers.
“We need a cultural shift to recognize that euthanasia is a blend of art and science. No other medical procedure is as observed or as complex,” Dr. Cooney said.
What Pet Parents Want – And Don’t Want
- A pain-free, fear-free, meaningful goodbye is paramount to pet parents.
- A vast majority (80%) of pet parents want to be with pet through the entire procedure, though 20% didn’t want to be in the room during the final stage.
- A growing number of pet parents want pre-euthanasia sedation so that the pet is sleeping when the second medicine is given, before an IV catheter is used.
- 80% of pet parents perceived their pet’s death as “good” when they knew exactly what to expect, making clear, compassionate communication a priority.
For veterinary clinics, the findings call for the adoption of fear-free strategies such as pre-euthanasia sedation and moving the entire procedure to comfort rooms with compassionate narration and moments of privacy for the pet family.
For pet parents, researching and discussing options before a crisis is the key to empowered decision-making, Dr. Cooney said. Whether choosing euthanasia at home or at a clinic, deciding in advance who will attend and how the pet will be memorialized will help create the meaningful goodbye and peaceful passing your loyal companion deserves.
Dr. Cooney’s Pet Parent survey summary is available at DVM360.com. A Vet Survey phase publishes later this year in an academic journal.