My heart aches whenever I hear office staff offering condolences to pet owners as they leave the hospital with a leash and collar in their hands. I know the excruciating pain of making an end-of-life decision for a suffering pet. And I understand the heartbreak of holding a beloved animal companion as he or she takes the last breath.
Euthanasia is hard on veterinarians and their staff, too. They have to manage emotions surrounding ending an animal’s life while also dealing with the grief of the owners. Because of the lifespan of the animals they treat, veterinarians experience death at a rate five times that of physicians for humans. This can lead to high levels of stress, compassion fatigue and burnout. A report by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that as many as one in six veterinarians struggles with thoughts of suicide.