Saturday, February 21, 2009

A First

Today at work I was asked something for the first time. A dog, previously diagnosed with cancer was brought in for evaluation of quality of life. After discussing with the owner (a paramedic) what he was noticing at home and what I was seeing on the exam it was determined that the dog was very much ready for euthanasia. After putting the dog down and checking for a heartbeat (there was none) the owner, in the midst of his tears and grief, requested to borrow my stethoscope and asked where to listen. It didn't seem like he didn't believe me, I think he just felt better having heard for himself and he also seemed surprised how fast the euthanasia solution worked.

It was a sad situation but reminded of a time in vet school when an equine intern and I were sent out to the university farm to euthanize one of the older donation horses that had developed an acute case of laminitis. After we put him down and I found no heartbeat the intern insisted on listening too. She apologized and explained that she was sure I could make the diagnosis of "dead" but was paranoid and wanted to listen for herself. I didn't blame her. "Dead" is not a diagnosis you want to make a mistake on-and if it takes two of you to be sure then that's ok. No one wants to have an animal wake up in a bag, or freezer, or at home with an owner. Or in the case of the horse-a shed which apparently doubled as someones research lab. We didn't know about that when we decided to leave him there until the trailer could come for him. It seemed better than outside where wild animals could get to him.

Anyway, that is the first time anyone has asked to listen to their deceased pet's stopped heart. I sometimes let kids listen to their pet's heart if they (kids and pet) are relatively well behaved. It's usually a big hit and certainly a happier memory for the owner than the situation today.

4 comments:

Diana said...

When my cat died suddenly, I knew she was dead. But you know, there is this little voice in you head that says, "what if your wrong". I had to take her to the emergency vet just to make sure. They probably thought I was a crack pot. I told them, "I know my cat is dead but can you make sure" LOL Diana

manymuddypaws said...

how sad. you don't have an easy job that is for sure...

Sue said...

I did that with the first dog I had put down. I was a teenager and I hung around at the vet's office a lot. He's the one who first showed me how to pill a dog and take it's pulse.

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Gosh mom says she never even thought to check to make sure her cat was really gone when the vet euthanized it - she just trusted the vet completely!