Pet pain and death: A dvm360 Leadership Challenge


An important part of life for any veterinary professional.

As progressive veterinary care allows pets to live longer lives, the need to keep them comfortable in their later years and cross over the final threshold with ease and grace becomes ever more paramount. Some in the profession have even made this their life's work, with an entire focus on hospice and in-home euthanasia. And it's not just older pets who need effective pain control-veterinarians are ever more aware of the ethical requirement that pets experience as little pain as possible as well as the fact that freedom from pain is vital for healing and well-being. This dvm360 Leadership Challenge examines all aspects of pain and death in veterinary patients-including the fact that these areas can be some of the most difficult, the most unusual and the most rewarding in which to practice.



Confessions on pet pain, death and dying

Caring for pets in their final moments is a frequent reality for veterinary professionals. Here are 30 of the most raw, poignant, honest and sometimes rueful confessions to highlight this special responsibility you have to your patients.

Handouts for handling pet pain and death 

From the first signs of pain to helping children and surviving pets who have lost their best friend, here are veterinary client handouts to help explain many important questions throughout.

Pain in the clinic

The faces of chronic pain in the clinic

The last thing you want is to allow a pet to experience or subsist in pain. Take a trip through this photo gallery to make sure your pain detector is set on high and ready to take action.

2 tools to manage patient pain (Not what you think!)

That's your veterinary team and a good client questionnaire. Hear all about it from pain management specialist Dr. Michael Petty.

4 products I love for old pets

These items help my older patients-whether they're just slowing down or nearing the end-to live more comfortable, pain-free lives. How many do you already use or recommend?

Hospice in the home

Till the last good day: 3 pillars of palliative care

Every dying pet deserves a plan. Consider these inspiring case studies and tips that illustrate the power you have in veterinary medicine to help pets live longer-with a better quality of life-for days, week or months on their path to a peaceful death.

When death comes calling: Top diseases leading to veterinary euthanasia

Here are the most common conditions Lap of Love hospice veterinarians see in their mobile euthanasia practice-and pointers on how to ease clients and patients down this difficult path.

3 veterinary hospice care myths

Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice co-founder sets the record straight.


Death and the road to 'One Health'

Over and over again, we veterinarians hear it from our clients: Our pets die better than we do. In many cases, they're right.

The art of euthanasia and the science of death

Drs. Dani McVety and Mary Gardner give tips to not only assist the process of death, but also to do good and profound work when it comes to giving a pet their "wings."

Hospice and euthanasia: What's your role?

What can you do to help comfort the pet-and the veterinary client-during those final days?

Navigating unusual euthanasia requests

All good things must come to an end, and pets are nothing but good in their owners' eyes. Here's some advice from Dr. Mary Gardner on how to best handle those last moments, even when an unexpected entreaty arises.

'I am an angel of death'

I wear that title as a badge of honor. My value as a veterinarian lies in the art and skill of death at the heart of my mobile hospice practice.

Quality of life ... and death

How can you talk to pet owners about euthanasia when their immediate reaction is to flinch away from the very word? Here are some tips to help your veterinary team smooth the transition for clients.

4 ways to (politely) signal a euthanasia

Use these tips to help your entire veterinary team-and other clients-recognize when a euthanasia is happening in your practice.

The perfect ending to their story

The veterinarian performing euthanasia is the author of a pet's last chapter. Make sure it's full of gentleness and love.

Veterinarians: You put the 'comfort' in 'comfort room'

According to hospice veterinarian Dr. Mary Gardner, people-not pillows-hold the power to make euthanasia appointments better.

Talking to clients about euthanasia

Client handout: Help kids say goodbye to their pets

Age-appropriate ways of talking about veterinary euthanasia and honoring the life of a dear departing pet.

When a child's BFF can't live up to its title: Talking to kids about euthanasia

Hospice veterinarian Dr. Jessica Vogelsang realized her communication shortcomings when she had to explain euthanasia to her own kids-an experience that transformed how she now counsels parents.

Client video: Euthanasia-knowing when it's time

The hardest question you have to face as a pet owner. Dr. Mary Gardner wants to help your patients have a perfect ending to their perfect life.

Euthanasia: Too soon? Not soon enough?

Hospice and euthanasia are all about timing. Dr. Mary Gardner offers to guide clients through the process of their final gift to their pet-saying goodbye.

Death and other client kindnesses

Pet owners need hospice and euthanasia help in your patients' rough moments. Brush up on your client communication and manage these exam room and home encounters right.

Stand with clients on the path to "The End."

For us, veterinary medicine is a form of friendship, and caring for hospice and palliative-care patients is a team activity that asks for attention, care and skill from every single team member in our hospitals.


Pet loss: Help heal their hearts

Why you need a bereavement coordinator-and how it helps your veterinary team.

Marley's Garden: Our patient memorial

Our practice created a special garden to remember the pets that are no longer with us. This rock garden has become a foundation for our relationship with pets and their families.


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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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