Euthanasia: It's OK for you to cry

Euthanasia: It's OK for you to cry

The pain of euthanasia takes a toll on clients—and you. Veterinary team members and experts share experiences and advice to help heal the hurt.
Mar 01, 2011
By staff

Rose Jacobson, LVT, was 16 years old and working as an assistant at a kennel when a veterinarian asked her to help him euthanize a pet. "I remember a flood of emotions hitting me all at once," Jacobson says. "I was nauseous and upset, and it felt wrong and unnatural."

The family, which included two small children, had to put down their 19-year-old Persian cat that was in renal failure. "The family was crying, and I felt sympathetic toward them," Jacobson says. "I couldn't help but cry, too." She was surprised to see the doctor tearing up as well. "He explained to me when we left the room, 'We always attempt to stay strong for the clients and try not cry,'" she says. "But he did make sure to tell me that sometimes you just can't help the way you feel."

Coming to terms with reality

Jacobson now works as a veterinary technician at NYC Veterinary Specialists in New York City. She's done the job for 10 years and still struggles with the euthanasia process. "It doesn't necessarily feel wrong anymore, since most pets are suffering and are going to a better place, but it's never easy seeing someone lose a part of their family," Jacobson says.

Dealing with euthanasia can be difficult for many veterinary team members and certain cases end up impacting the entire staff. Rachel Connor, a customer care representative for Porter County Pet Clinic in Valparaiso, Ind., observes patients and clients from the front desk. "I see the owners enter the room with their pet and then again a few minutes later when they come out alone," Connor says. It's difficult for her to think about how, after only a few short seconds, a pet's life becomes nonexistent. Seeing people upset also takes a toll on Connor.

The idea of being involved in euthanasia procedures was so uncomfortable and intimidating for Lisanne Pessini, LVT, one of Jacobson's colleagues, it almost discouraged her from becoming a veterinary technician. "I remember discussing the topic several times in school," Pessini says. "It was one of my top fears and concerns about getting into the field."