Enhancing Communication to Elevate the Euthanasia Experience

In our recent webinar on enhancing communication skills during euthanasia, we were privileged to have Dr. Celine Leheurteux, a veterinarian with over 25 years of experience, and Rebecca Rose, RVT, a certified peaceful euthanasia professional with over 37 years under her belt, share their invaluable insights. This session was a candid discussion on how to handle end-of-life care with empathy, understanding, and professionalism.

Prepare Clients

Using “euthanese” – clear, empathetic, nonclinical language is crucial. Terms like “device in the vein” instead of “IV catheter” and “calming agent” instead of “sedative” help pet parents understand and feel more at ease. Don’t count on pet parents to ask questions when they feel uncomfortable doing so.

Quality of Life Consultations

Offering and following up on QOL consultations can significantly help pet owners when it comes time to make this difficult decision. These consultations can discuss the aging or disease process, signs to watch for, and emotional support. They can better prepare pet parents for the process and emotions of losing a pet and offer them the support they need.

One great resource to use with these QOL consults is the BEAP pain scale, available for cats and dogs.

BEAP Pain Scale for Cats

BEAP Pain Scale for Dogs

Recognizing Diversity

We must recognize that each pet owner’s relationship with their pet is unique, shaped by their cultural and religious beliefs. Avoid assumptions and ask open-ended questions like, “What would you like this experience to be like for your pet?” This approach fosters understanding and respect rather than judgment.

Aftercare Planning

Discuss aftercare options early and thoroughly, allowing pet parents to make informed decisions from the comfort of their homes. Making decisions for the remains of a pet can be difficult and overwhelming when emotions are heightened. Choosing a pet’s final resting place while people wait to purchase their cat food bag is never ideal. Utilize resources like the handouts and tools available at Euthabag.

Communication and Support

Using empathetic language, an even tone of voice, and maintaining eye contact are key. Use the pets name when speaking about them. Train your team to use supportive phrases. For example, instead of saying, “You’ll know when the moment will come,” say, “It’s extremely difficult to decide when.” Instead of saying, “There’s nothing more we can do for them,” say, “You’ve taken such amazing care of them.” Follow up with clients a few days after euthanasia to offer support and gather feedback.

Team Training

CE around the end of life is often forgotten. This is the most difficult visit these pet parents will navigate. Encourage continuous education for your team in all aspects of end-of-life. Consider certifications like the CAETA Peaceful Euthanasia Certification, which offers a $30.00 discount for webinar attendees. Join the CAETA Euthanasia Discussion Group on Facebook and attend the End-of-Life Communications Workshop on July 21, 2024.

Practical Setup of the Space

Create a comforting space with soft lighting, soothing music, and a few cozy touches like a fluffy carpet and a lamp instead of harsh overhead lights. Ideally, prepare everything before the client arrives or keep these items ready in a basket for when needed.

Continued Learning and Resources

For those who missed the webinar, a recording is available here. Further, explore the 7 credits End-of-Life, well-being, Pre-euthanasia sedation protocols, and injection tips on this free RACE-approved platform here.

Euthabag offers a variety of tools and handouts to help veterinary practices support their clients during the euthanasia process. These resources can help communicate aftercare options effectively and ensure clients feel supported. For more information, visit Euthabag’s Tools for You.

Certification and Community Support

To further enhance your skills and join a community of like-minded professionals, consider pursuing the CAETA Peaceful Euthanasia Certification. Additionally, joining the CAETA Euthanasia Discussion Group on Facebook provides ongoing support and shared experiences with fellow practitioners.

By considering pet parents’ needs and implementing these practices, veterinary professionals can provide much-needed support to pet owners during one of the most challenging times they face. Continuous learning, emotional intelligence, and creating a comforting environment ensure that the final moments between pets and their owners are handled with the utmost care and respect.

If It Should Be

If it should be that I grow weak

And pain should keep me from my sleep;

Then you must do what must be done,

For this last battle can’t be won.

You will be sad, I understand;

But don’t let grief then stay your hand.

For this day more than all the rest,

Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years;

What is to come can hold no fears.

You don’t want me to suffer so

The time has come, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they’ll tend,

But please stay with me ‘til the end

To hold me close and speak to me

Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree,

It was a kindness done for me.

Although my tail its last has waved,

From pain and suffering I’m saved.

Please do not grieve that it was you

Who had this painful thing to do.

We’ve been so close, we two, through the years;

Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

~ Author Unknown