15-20% of pet owners change Vet Practice after the loss of a pet
Euthanasia is the second highest most performed procedure in practice and over 80% of pets will end their life in this way. We know that client attrition is high after pet bereavement. Typical losses are between 15 and 20 per cent. The reasons for this loss are multifactorial, but include those where the owners' experience of pet loss was made more painful by their experience in the veterinary clinic. Many can't face coming back into the same building where their pet was euthanized, due to overwhelming feelings of loss and guilt that may have been prevented by providing more proactive compassionate care to the client at that time. Equally, euthanasia is the only procedure that has its own category in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' list of animal owner complaints.
Evidence Through Research - Pet Owners' Grief Can Be Made Worse By Their Vet
There is clear evidence through research that pet owners' grief can inadvertently be made worse by their experience in the veterinary clinic. Whilst in no way deliberate, by focusing only on the clinical aspects of end-of-life care, we can forget that what's needed here is compassion and caring. Not giving end-of-life pet care the attention it deserves can reinforce owners' feeling of disenfranchised grief, and leave them feeling guilty and alone.
Sadly, our societal norms don't allow the expression of grief about pet loss in the same way as for humans. People are expected to 'get on' and 'get over it', as 'it's just a pet..'
Supporting Veterinary Practices
At Compassion Understood, we want to support veterinary practices in turning these pet bereavement experiences around. We want to help the veterinary team to feel empowered to provide best-practice in end-of-life care, and through this fully support their clients at this critical phase of their pet-owning journey.
Almost 47% of vets have end-of-life discussions with pet owners more than 11 times per month
Take a moment to examine your own beliefs, knowledge and attitudes, and the positioning of your practice in end-of-life matters. Do you have a detailed policy for client care that includes management of this sensitive stage? Are your clinical staff trained in the current approaches to palliative care and euthanasia? Are you confident that you can communicate with respect and empathy to clients at the end of their pet’s life? How we deal with end-of-life is a very true test of our commitment to best clinical practice as well as best client support.