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My Pet World: Talk to your vet about your pet’s euthanasia before that day comes

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Dear Cathy,

This is not a question but a plea to other pet owners. Please advise your readers to ask their vets if they will administer sedation before euthanasia. Having euthanized many pets over the years, I assumed it was a standard veterinary practice.

Almost three years ago, however, my cat was lethally-injected directly into her vein without prior sedation while being held in a tight death grip by an assistant. Her screams haunt me to this day. When I asked the vet to use sedation in the future, he refused, saying, "I've been doing it this way for years." I filed a complaint against him but was told they cannot change a vet's practices. I suffer overwhelming guilt for not yelling "stop" before the entire dose was injected. All I can do now is forewarn other pet owners.

— L.L., Riverdale, New York

Dear L.L.

End-of-life questions should be discussed with your vet long before you need the service. You can ask the doctor whether they offer in-home euthanasia, if they sedate the pet before the final injection, or if they do anything special to make the pet more comfortable. If they say they don't use sedation, ask if they would be open to using it if you requested it. This is important to you, so if the vet says no, then find another vet.

There are also things a vet's office can do to provide some comfort during the experience. For example, my vet puts the pet owner and pet in an exam room, dims the lights, lights candles, and plays soft music. There is a plush comforter on the floor and a pillow for me to sit on. I am given as much time as I need to be with my canine/feline friend before and after. All the paperwork, payment, and decisions about the disposal of the body are made before I walk into that room so I can get up and leave when I am ready.

It's important to know the process now, so you can be sure you're giving your pet the best passing possible. Everyone should talk to their vet before that day arrives.

Dear Cathy,

I just read your column about rising veterinary costs. I have noticed a correlation between increasing costs and the proliferation of veterinarians going corporate. Not only are the costs higher with a corporate vet, but the care seems programmed and less personal.

I changed vets recently because my animal hospital of 30 years (and 11 dogs) was sold to a corporation. I began to notice a lack of concern as the vets diagnosed my dog. I received a corporate printout for a tooth cleaning ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. The vets seemed expected to diagnose certain things and adhere to predetermined treatments. It was sad to lose the personal touch. When I changed vets, the first question I asked was, "Is your practice independent or corporate?"

— Annette, Newport News, Virginia

Dear Annette,

You're right; in recent years, many corporations have bought out private clinics to create a franchise of corporate vet clinics. Most vets love treating patients, and dislike running a business, so they have been eager to jump on this bandwagon. Even so, this new model of vet care shouldn't mean a vet loses his compassion, so hopefully, your experience was an isolated incident. What it can mean, though, is a loss of flexibility in how to treat patients and what to charge for services since there are likely protocols across all clinics that must be followed. A private practice vet may have more freedom in these areas.

Dear Cathy,

Recently, one of your readers complained about vet costs. If they had followed their vet's advice to euthanize, some of this cost could have been avoided. The customer paid for ten days' worth of meds and then incurred an emergency visit because he failed to take the doctor's advice. That is hardly the fault of the vet. Their education is lengthy and costly, and clinic costs are high.

— Claudia, Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Dear Claudia,

People often expect pet care to be cheaper than human medical care, but it's not. If a pet breaks a leg, they have to get it x-rayed just like you and I would. Syringes, medications, surgery instruments, and supplies all cost the same, whether for humans or animals. While the cost of pet care has gone up, in fairness, so has everything else. The best way to cut pet health costs is to maintain good preventative care all year round.

(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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