Dealing with euthanasia: a vet tech perspective 

I recently read a blog by a veterinary technician about how vet techs cry even though you may not see it. At the time I thought “wow this is so true” but today it hits home more than ever (I can’t find the link but once I do I will link to the post). 

Sometimes as a vet tech we have to deal with owners making the hard decision to euthanize their pet, sometimes we have to witness the owner unable to make that decision and therefore the pet essentially suffers until they make the decision for them. As an oncology technician I feel like we may deal with these decisions more often than we’d like to – not because chemo “doesn’t work” but because our patients don’t typically live for 5-10 years after treatment (don’t be mistaken, I’ve seen some beat some pretty grim odds). Typically our patients live anywhere between 3 months and 3 years after we see them, many come to see us for quite a long time and weekly to biweekly – so as you can imaging we become attached to our patients, and their parents. 

I personally feel like I get attached to some parents more than others, mostly because they come the same day at the same time so I tend to do their appointment. These last few weeks have been trying. First we lost one of our most favorite patients, he had lymphoma and wasn’t responding to treatment, his owners ultimately decided that they no longer wanted him to suffer and decided to let him go. I think of him often, and wonder if his sister (who always came in with him as a support buddy) is doing well as an only pup. I miss his mom and dad, they were dedicated and loved him very much but were also becoming like family – since we saw them so much. 

Then we lost one two many of our other patients – some from sudden deaths others from euthanasia. 

Last night one of our long term patients came in through the emergency service – when I saw him this morning my eyes welled up because he just wasn’t the same happy pup I have grown to know and love. He was just in the other day, bobbing along, wagging his tail. He’s always been so happy and today he just was not that way.  

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in the best of moods this morning, and selfishly stayed away from him as to not bring down my mood more. Before I left though, I made sure to say goodnight, and hug dad – the worst part of my job is when I see their parents crying. 

I consider myself a very strong person, I rarely cry in front of people, but what most people don’t realize is when I get in my car on my way home, I cry. I cry all the way home – I cry for my patient, I cry for their family, I cry for my team, I cry for myself. 

This is not an easy job – it’s not easy to love someone else’s pet like they are your own and not be able to make any life decisions for them – when a pet parent can’t bring themselves to end their suffering sometimes I wish I could make the decision for them – because it breaks my heart to see their baby (my baby) suffer – it breaks my heart to see them (as the owner) suffer. 

The next time you go to the vet, please remember that the people who are caring for your animals love them, and in time will grow to love you as well. Remember that we, as veterinary professionals may not cry with you, we must be strong – but boy do we cry… Even the strongest. 

Tonight I will pray for my friends dad, I will pray for him and pray that his suffering ends soon. For now, the kiss I gave him before I left work will be a “see you later” as I don’t like goodbyes.



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