As a vet student, I frequently find myself speaking with people about vet school and vet med in general. I’m sure other vet students out there will attest to the commonality of the questions: “So what made you want to be a vet?” or “I heard vet school is like one of the hardest fields to get into; what are your tips for getting into vet school?” Somehow or another, a question pertaining to euthanasia seems to arise because people seem curious how I am able to cope with such an emotional aspect of the profession. I’d like to address these common questions.
Being a vet student is awesome and it makes me excited just to finish school because I’m sure being a vet is a million times better. I want to be a vet for a few different reasons. First, vets have a really unique opportunity to serve the community. The general public is beginning to hear more about public health in the news. This is a field where veterinarians play a tremendously important role. Most people are familiar with vets treating animals in private practice. But there’s more than simply helping the animals. Most people can relate to animals being family members. That’s how I feel. And as I’ve progressed through my vet education, I’ve come to recognize private practice as a merger between small animal medicine and public health. This is a role that I am passionate about.
One responsibility I sincerely enjoy as a professional student is speaking with people from all different backgrounds about my experiences, especially applicants to vet school. Vet school wasn’t an easy one-time application for me. In fact I didn’t get in on the first try, but was fortunate to have some options the second time around. In high school and college I wasn’t the most talented student and I needed time to develop as a learner. What I initially interpreted as a failure turned out to be a quite a blessing; the forced time away from school afforded me time to assess my professional goals and make a game plan to achieve them. Taking extra classes boosted my confidence and kept me engaged. I was relentless and I know that definitely helped my application. My answer to the question about the difficulty of vet school is that gaining admission to school is difficult but doable if you persevere and try earnestly to improve your academic and experiential records.
Finally, euthanasia seems to be a topic that people are curious about. From the conversations I’ve had, most people seem to have a connection to a pet that was humanely euthanized. I’ve personally had to go through it twice with my own family dogs. It’s not an easy decision and never taken lightly. My perspective will be generalized to small animal medicine and it is as follows. Euthanasia should be the result only when serious and careful consideration is given to the quality of life of the animal and the owner. I believe that euthanasia, when performed in this way is absolutely humane. Animals may develop conditions that dramatically reduce their quality of life. Some examples that make existing a struggle are the inability to walk, the inability to eat, the inability to eliminate, chronic or uncontrollable pain, etc. But it’s not always just about the animal; I also believe that owners need to be considered. For example, there are conditions where it is just not possible or feasible for an animal to be provided with adequate care. For example, a pregnant woman that owns a permanently paralyzed large breed dog that would require physical maneuvering to get outdoors. I am not making any recommendations but merely giving the example to illustrate my point that the quality of life of the owner or family must be considered. When I am able to conceptualize the animal and owner in terms of quality of life, it helps me cope with the end of a life. When the ailment is chronic or uncontrollable, the end of the pet’s life can be a release from suffering for both animal and owner. Ideally, I would like to see an end to all sickness and suffering, but for realistic solutions, I believe that humane euthanasia, while extremely difficult, is justified when all other feasible medical options have been exhausted.