Advising clients on treating or euthanizing pets with behavior problems - Veterinary Medicine
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Advising clients on treating or euthanizing pets with behavior problems


Dr. R. Wayne Randolph
R. Wayne Randolph, VMD, DABVP (canine and feline practice), Countryside Veterinary Hospital, Flemington, N.J.

Facing a complex and variable situation

We first try to accomplish a number of things. We obtain a complete, accurate, and reflective history. Based on the patient's history and the findings from the physical examination and appropriate tests, we rule out concurrent medical problems that might have bearing on the behavioral situation. We try to determine the level of owner frustration, and then consider if this frustration level is consistent with the problem. If we have not resolved the issue by this time, we almost always recommend a consultation with a behaviorist.

After all this, if the problem situation so merits, we will go along with the client's request for euthanasia. We discourage clients from "finding another home" for the problem pet when the behavioral situation is highly problematic and unlikely to be resolved. We explain that such action would merely result in passing this problematic behavioral situation to another (potentially unsuspecting) owner or family.


Dr. Mili Bass
Mili Bass, DVM, DABVP (canine and feline practice), Bass Vet Consulting/Animal Acupuncture & Pain Management, Farragut, Tenn.

Make the decision guilt-free

Referral to a behaviorist is the first step. But when a client has done all that is possible—with commitment to the prescribed program—without success, the most important part I can play is to assist the client in making a decision to euthanize without guilt. Most veterinarians act as counselors, as well as doctors. A guilt-free decision-making process is my goal.


Dr. Corey Entriken
Corey Entriken, DVM, Kansas City Veterinary Care, Kansas City, Mo.

Help clients feel confident

These are always difficult decisions, and I try to remember that most clients have been enduring the behavior problem for some time before they make the decision to consult a veterinarian. Some clients may have extenuating circumstances they choose not to share that has led them to seek us out for guidance. Most have developed a genuine bond with even the surliest of pets. The client and I together discuss what may be the best option for the pet. I make sure the client understands there are behavioral specialists we can consult for evaluation and recommendations for treatment options if their lifestyle and motivation are compatible. Many times the knowledge that correction of the problem is possible is all the motivation a client needs to continue trying to help their pet.

However, it's not my place to judge them if their decision is euthanasia. Many do not possess the time, finances, or personality to successfully rehabilitate a pet with a serious behavioral problem. Oftentimes a client just needs to hear it may be more humane to euthanize an animal that is highly destructive or dangerous to people rather than pass the problem off to someone else who could potentially be even less capable of dealing with the problem. Finding an appropriate facility or organization to take these animals can be a daunting task. If we decide the pet is just a poor fit for the owner's lifestyle, then connection with a rescue organization may be more appropriate.

As always, obtaining a thorough history to pinpoint the problem and clearly outlining all the available options is important to allow clients to feel confident that the decision they make is the right one for them and their pets.


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