“What Did We Do Wrong, Doc?”

Ya’ll brace yourselves. We’re about to embark on the Feelz Express…

Last week was a rough week at the vet clinic. Too many owners have had to say goodbye to beloved pets. The reasons are all different, varying from daunting age to severe and irreversible illness. No one cause makes the decision easier or the loss any less painful. And while sometimes the best medicine we can offer for an animal means putting an end to suffering, so many owners are left desperately looking for answers. More often than not, we hear the phrase, “What did we do wrong?”

Our dog Gus

We asked ourselves this question when our last dog, Gus, had cancer.

In this profession, I’ve found this to be one of the more trying questions that leaves us with a vexing dichotomy. Sometimes there is indeed something that could have been done. Sometimes we let injuries or illness go on for too long in hopes that the animal will overcome the odds. Before we know it, we pass the point of no return, even if appropriate care is eventually given. Sometimes the animal has a condition that is too complicated or expensive to treat, but we cannot bring ourselves to let them go. Not quite yet. We develop a form of selective blindness to their worsening ailments and convince ourselves that their depreciating condition “isn’t really that bad yet.” And unfortunately, when we finally see these animals, they have no more life left to give. Ashamedly, I can even say that I have fallen in category.

However, so often the answer to the question is, “…you did nothing wrong,” and “you are doing the right thing.” Ageing is not your fault. Severe or incurable illness is not your fault. Putting an end to suffering for a failing friend is not a fault. For the majority of the people we work with, it is evident they genuinely care for their pet and try their best to keep them comfortable and healthy. When they are no longer able to do so, they are so quick to blame themselves and even sometimes fear judgement from us as the veterinarian. They think if they just would have done _______, they wouldn’t be in this situation. But sadly, that is not always the case. And while it doesn’t make the pain go away or bring their loved one back, sometimes just hearing the words “you did nothing wrong”  can bring a little peace to their crumbling world.

I know this is a such a heavy topic and sometimes challenging to talk about. For those of you going through this difficult time, I am truly sorry for your loss. For those of you in the midst of making that decision for your pet, know that we’re not here to pass judgement. We’re going to stick with you through it all and give your pet the best care we can. And when that time comes, we’ll be there to tell you, “you didn’t do anything wrong.”