How to Have ‘The Talk’ on End-of-Life Care

dog-vpnOne of the most difficult conversations to have in the veterinary industry is “the talk”—the end-of-life and euthanasia discussion.

How does one approach clients to tell them their beloved companion must cross the rainbow bridge after 15 or more years together? How does a veterinary practitioner discuss options or bring up memorial keepsakes? What do you do if euthanizing is the only ethical and humane option but the client doesn’t want to let go?

Veterinarians experience these scenarios every day, but no one ever warns them. Rarely is a practitioner given a heads-up on what to expect when she walks into the exam room—the client’s mindset, whether the owner has come to terms with the decision, the chance that Doctor Google was wrong. All these drastically affect the conversation a veterinarian is about to have with the individual.

Weighing the Decision 

Ultimately, the final decision rests with the client. However, it’s up to the professionals to guide the client to the appropriate and humane decision. Clients may do whatever they can if there’s hope the pet’s quality of life can be maintained through medical care, surgery or ongoing therapy. But what if the quality of life being maintained is quite poor, causes undue stress on the pet or cannot be maintained at all? Then the decision for euthanasia must be explored.

Approaching the subject of euthanasia can be difficult, especially for a new veterinarian. One suggestion is to follow the SPIKES model as a standard for end-of-life communication.

This article originally published on March 21, 2016 on Veterinary Practice News. To read the full article, click here.

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