I heard that question more times than I can count in my nine years of practice. Clients seeking my advice on whether to treat
or euthanize a pet with a behavior problem. My response varied both with the situation and with the stage of my career. I
admit as a new graduate to being too judgmental. I sometimes said, "I can't tell you what I would do—he's not mine." I sometimes
had little empathy for clients who were at the end of their rope with cats that had elimination problems. On the opposite
end of the spectrum, I often wondered why anyone would attempt to treat a dog with aggression. Although I did not voice my
feelings, I am certain my judgment shone through. I now wince at the guilt I must have caused some of these clients. I did
not serve them well as their adviser.
Rory, Heather, and Robbie.
In this month's issue, you'll find advice to help you better deal with these difficult decisions. In our cover article "Treat
or euthanize? Helping owners make critical decisions regarding pets with behavior problems," Dr. Lore Haug says that clinicians
should never make snap judgments and that dramatic changes in an animal's behavior are often possible when owners are willing
to commit to a behavior modification program. In the accompanying article "Advising clinets on treating or euthanizing pets
with behavior problems" featuring further guidance on this topic from our Practitioner Advisory Board members, Dr. Gary Norsworthy
even suggests the possibility of making a cat that is refractory to treatment for inappropriate elimination an outdoor-only
pet as a last alternative to euthanasia.
However, if the decision to euthanize because of a behavior problem is reached, Dr. Haug and the members of our Practitioner
Advisory Board are clear in their advice: Clinicians should not judge the client harshly. The client—bringing all of his or
her experience to the table—is just as much a part of the equation as the pet.
As I matured in my profession and had children of my own (and a cat that ruined the carpet in my home), I began to empathize
with clients more and more. I tried even harder to treat serious behavior problems. And my compassion for clients going through
such a difficult decision grew.
I hope the information and insights in this issue will help you better address these all too common critical case decisions
with your clients. And we'd love to hear your insights on this topic. Please e-mail your thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
, and we'll publish as many of your e-mails as possible.