One of the greatest responsibilities of a vet is to be an advocate for a voiceless animal, to be able to speak for the animal and push for what it is best for that animal. With all the technology and medicine available it is not a case of keeping the animal alive, but one of trying to balance the quality of life. Every vet student wonders how they are going to have that conversation, if they are going to get it right, and if they are going be able to do it. There is no exact science here, experience – which vet students lack – does help however it is still a guessing game, one where the doubts of if it is the right time find their way into the mind.
Euthanasia… The word actually is from the Greek language and means good death. Being able to relieve suffering is one of the vets greatest tools, yet is the one I feel that has most responsibility. Here you are not just a voice for the animal, you are a counsellor for the client who is saying goodbye to their best friend. This isn’t always easy, especially if it is an animal that you liked or a friend or family.
Over the weekend I gave a voice to a friends cat who had deteriorated again, its wasn’t a easy decision to make to raise this option. Not only because I knew how much the cat meant to her, but because I was not sure it was the right time. Clinically it was possible to keep him alive, it wouldn’t have been a good life though as I suspected he had entered end stage renal failure with the toxins in the blood attacking the digestive tract. I took a chance and spoke through this with her, not an easy conversation but one that was essential for my other friend, her cat Masik.
Taking Masik to the vets it was confirmed as renal disease, the kidneys not working, now clinical signs of renal disease do not appear until 75% of the kidney is diseased. Talking with her family my friend decided that it was time and today took Masik to the vets for the last time. Before the final euthanasia drug is administered it is common to administer a sedative and painkiller to ensure a comfortable passing. One of the side effects of this drug is vomiting, and this Masik did showing my friend how it contained blood, his last gift to her saying that it really was the right time.