I’m off shifts at the Animal ER due to impending knee surgery. My next shift will be on Christmas Day. My staff has already been teasing me about the euthanasia system. As the holiday season approaches, the world around us transforms into a festive and joyous wonderland. However, in my years of veterinary practice, I’ve observed a somewhat disheartening trend that often accompanies this time of year: an increase in pet euthanasias. It’s a reality that many pet owners and veterinarians must grapple with.
One of the significant contributors to holiday euthanasias is impending travel plans. Pet owners often find themselves faced with a tough decision when their beloved fur friends are dealing with serious health issues. In some cases, families are left with no alternative but to say their goodbyes before setting off on a holiday trip. This isn’t a bad idea to help with grieving either. I put Isaac to sleep before a three-week volunteer stint on the Iditarod trail. His brain tumor was getting worse, and chemo had done all it could do. I could have gotten a few more weeks, but he wasn’t going to get better, and he was hard for one person to deal with. The intense grief was better because I was there to say goodbye, and then I had time to get through most of it before I got back home.
The holiday season often brings adult children back to their childhood homes. This may lead to heightened emotional pressure on pet owners to make decisions regarding their pets’ quality of life. The desire to involve everyone in the decision-making process can sometimes complicate an already difficult choice.
The influx of holiday guests can be a double-edged sword. While they bring cheer and warmth, they may also bring well-intentioned but misguided gestures, like feeding the family pets with special treats. Unfortunately, these extra goodies can sometimes lead to pet illness, making euthanasia a tragic option. Older pets may not have the cost benefits of expensive hospitalizations.
The holiday season is also notorious for straining people’s budgets. Some pet owners may find themselves facing expensive veterinary treatments and decide against them due to financial constraints. The difficult choice between costly treatments and pet euthanasia can be heartbreaking.
Holiday traffic can be chaotic and unpredictable, increasing the chances of pets getting hit by cars. These accidents, abbreviated as HBC (hit by car) incidents in veterinary lingo, lead to tragic outcomes and heartbreak for pet owners.
With guests coming and going, doors are often left open unintentionally. This can result in pet escapes, sometimes with dire consequences. Preventing such incidents can be a real challenge during the holiday hustle and bustle.
Bringing visiting pets into a household with resident animals can sometimes lead to territorial disputes and even fatal altercations. This unexpected aggression can be a painful experience for families and can necessitate difficult decisions.
During the holiday season, our homes are often adorned with festive decorations and filled with delicious but potentially harmful food. Many of these decorations and holiday dishes can be toxic to our pets, inadvertently leading to poisonings and emergencies.
Some holiday-presented pets are not properly vaccinated or cared for by their prior owners. The stress of a new environment, different routines, and interactions with other pets can make them vulnerable to illness, sometimes requiring euthanasia as the only option.
In conclusion, while the holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and togetherness, they can also bring a range of challenges for pet owners and veterinarians. The surge in pet euthanasias around this time of year is a somber reminder of the complexities of pet ownership. As pet lovers, it is our responsibility to take precautions and make informed decisions to ensure our furry family members have a safe and joyful holiday season.
So, as we embark on this holiday season, let’s not forget to keep a watchful eye on our pets, prioritize their well-being, and ensure that the festivities are enjoyed by all, humans and animals alike. Let’s make my Christmas ER shift a non-traditional one.
MJ Wixsom, DVM MS MBA
Ashland, KY, USA
“Win-win or no deal.” Stephen Covey taught it, and I try to live by it.