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Best Writing: Editorial/Commentary/Opinion

Caring for Clients at the End - Published in Today’s Veterinary Practice, Finding Balance Column

by Dr. Kate Boatright | August 4, 2021 | Issue: September/October 2021

I experienced the death of pets in my childhood and have guided many clients through end-of-life decision-making in both emergency and non-emergency situations. But it was only recently that I found myself as the pet owner making the difficult decisions about end-of-life care.

As a veterinarian, I imagined how I might navigate being on the pet owner side of the experience, but I never could have prepared fully for what I would feel as my husband and I made the decision to euthanize our youngest cat, Echo. The experience was a reminder about how important clear communication and client care are at the end of a pet’s life. 

I believe the veterinary profession’s ability to provide euthanasia is a blessing—a final gift that we can give to our clients and their beloved pets. But just because I believe it is a blessing doesn’t mean that performing euthanasia or discussing end-of-life care is easy—in fact, it is one of the biggest challenges we may face in veterinary practice.

When we move into end-of-life care and discussions surrounding euthanasia, the rules shift. The clinical outcome for the pet will be death, regardless of how it happens. So, how can we measure a successful outcome? We must provide compassionate communication and empathy to our clients while minimizing pain and distress for our patients. 

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