One of the worst (and best) things veterinarians deal with is euthanasia (from Greek roots meaning “easy death”), or the forced death of our patients. No one likes dealing with death, and none of us like being the dealers of death. But one thing I wish we could all remember is that…there are things worse than death.
When a cat is scared of her own shadow, hides from people who have shown nothing but love for her, wouldn’t know what to do outside if she were brave enough to walk out the door, and pees on the carpet to try to cope…that life is worse than death.
When a dog is so weak from arthritis he can’t get up without help, doesn’t enjoy seeing his owners come home anymore, and the only “normal” thing he does is eat (because his body tells him he should)…that life is worse than death.
Some owners have said it’s cruel to euthanize a pet "just because it's sick". Again, think of the pet with cancer, who hasn't responded to chemo or owners simply can't afford it. I think it's cruel to let that pet continue to decline. I try to remind owners to think about what their pet "lives for". When he or she can't or doesn't enjoy those things anymore, what's the fun in that? That is a life worse than death.
And, sometimes most importantly, pets don't know what they are missing by not being with us tomorrow. So I don’t really think there’s such thing as “euthanizing too soon”. They remember the time they had with us, and the fun stuff they lived for, and when they start to have more bad days than good, sometimes the best thing we can do is end their life.
So when I say euthanasia is one of the best things about our job, I mean that it's an awesome burden and honor that we hold to grant relief to our patients who need it. Sometimes owners need to understand that we really do have their pets' best interests at heart.