Advising clients on treating or euthanizing pets with behavior problems


Advising clients on treating or euthanizing pets with behavior problems

We asked our Practitioner Advisory Board members how they respond to behavior cases in which clients aren't sure whether to treat or euthanize. Here's what works for them.


Dr. Philip VanVranken
Philip VanVranken, DVM, Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic Battle Creek, Mich.

Use your head, not your heart

First, take the time to learn what clients' wishes really are. Every single client is different. Sometimes clients are vague about what they want. Often families are divided. (Your staff may even be divided.)

Find out how knowledgeable the clients are about the problem. How long have they been thinking about it? If clients have reached a decision, ask them what their reasons are.

Pet owners are concerned about what their family veterinarian thinks of their intentions. If treatment is a realistic choice, give clients their options. But above all, let clients know that whatever decision they make will be supported 100% by the veterinary staff.

These decisions are always emotional. You need to make sure to use your head, not your heart, when helping these clients. In the end, try to do what's right for the pet and for the family.


Dr. Fred L. Metzger
Fred L. Metzger, DVM, DABVP (canine and feline practice), Metzger Animal Hospital, State College, Pa.

Fully prepare for the appointment

It's important to learn not to prejudge clients in regard to decisions involving euthanasia. It's impossible to know all the facts that lead clients to this painful decision. To better understand the circumstances, I recommend discussing the situation with clients before they come to the hospital, if possible.

If you feel euthanasia is not warranted, then decline the procedure before the appointment is scheduled. If euthanasia is justified, it's critical to understand the reasons for the decision and share them with your staff before the appointment to avoid conflict and provide the compassion our patients and clients deserve.