Usually, when a patient dies or has been "put to sleep", there is a significant period of time beforehand when this outcome becomes increasingly clear to all those involved. The owner and the patient are both able to appreciate the deterioration that becomes apparent, allowing them to accept to some degree what is inevitable for us all. This period of time allows an opportunity for counselling and often repeated assessments of the patient's welfare to ensure that suffering is avoided.
This important period of adjustment is denied to those owners where a sudden and sometimes unexplained death of a pet occurs. Consequently, in those instances, the level of grief for the owners can be considerably magnified and overwhelming. Simply knowing that at some point we will all follow the same path offers no consolation from the abrupt trauma of a relationship which has ended suddenly without an obvious reason. A lack of explanation as to how a patient has died can only add to the emotional burden.
Recent cases in the national news from the BBC (opens new window ) of a cluster of dogs (19 in total) dying in mysterious circumstances illustrate that whilst these cases are rare, they can occur. The current theory relates to a toxin producing bacteria in the soil which has become more evident through heavy rains.
I was impressed that my veterinary colleagues at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists who have been in the front line in dealing with these unfortunate and tragic cases paid great tribute to the owners who allowed their pets to be post-mortemed >> more
This is a subject I have wrestled with over the years. On those few occasions where we have been faced with similarly difficult circumstances I can honestly say that even after almost 30 years I have yet to find the correct words to broach the subject of a post mortem with owners who are emotionally bereft after the unexpected loss of a companion. No matter the greater good for the canine population it can often be a step too far for many owners and I am at a loss as how to make it feel a more positive step. I am only grateful that it is a situation that we encounter very infrequently. At Fairfield, all our staff are pet owners which provides a valuable insight to the emotional rollercoaster that pet ownership can bring.