The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association defines economic euthanasia as “a condition in which euthanasia is elected based primarily, principally, or to a large degree on the cost of veterinary medical care; a condition in which veterinary care is bypassed based on the anticipated cost of care, and the progression of illness leads to euthanasia; or a condition in which veterinary care is sought and minimal or no testing/treatment is elected based on the costs of care, resulting in eventual euthanasia.”
To further understand this, here’s a real-life example. A young family has a 5-year-old yellow lab named Brody, who they take everywhere- he loves romping on the beach with their younger children, playing endless hours of fetch, and even accompanies them on hikes. After developing a large mass on his abdomen, the family quickly brought Brody into his vet, only to find out that Brody has cancer. To effectively treat this, Brody would not only need surgery to remove the mass, but radiation to ensure the cancer is completely removed and minimize the chance of recurrence. This would cost the family around $10,000 in total. The family was heartbroken and distraught. Due to their financial situation, there was no way they would have been able to pay for this treatment. Knowing that treatment was not an option, Brody would eventually be brought back in to be humanely euthanized.
Without a doubt economic euthanasia is truly devastating. Not only has a family lost a member, but oftentimes they are left with feelings of shame and guilt. This impact also extends past the immediate family; it also includes professionals working in the veterinary field who witness this same helpless situation time and time again. Within an original research article by Frontiers in
Veterinary Science states that economic euthanasia can lead to significant emotional and moral distress to the pet owner as well as to the veterinary professionals involved in the euthanasia (Front. Vet. Sci., 08 December 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.590615). In fact this situation is a major cause of compassion fatigue and a reason many people at different levels are leaving the veterinary profession
In addition to affecting the emotional wellbeing of the family unit, studies have shown that removing a pet from the home has increased a family’s medical bills. This shows a direct correlation of owning a pet and the physical as well as emotional wellbeing to family members.
The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association offers some insight on how education and preparation can be helpful in case an inevitable situation occurs:
Consider pet health insurance. When doing so, be sure to research any exclusions for age, breed, length of hospitalization stays and/or pre-existing health conditions an animal may have.
Create a medical fund for your animal companion and start saving for the future.
Obtain a credit card that you use only for your animal companion's medical bills.
Include the cost of medical care for your animal companion in your family budget.
Ensure that you have the financial resources to care for an animal prior to adopting one
(Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM of HSVMA)
There will still be situations where even the most amount of planning can’t prepare you for, and when it feels as if there are no other options or solutions, organizations like ours at Compassion Animal Project aim to keep families together for longer. Through donations from compassionate individuals and organizations, we facilitate grants to loving pet owners who require financial assistance to avoid economic euthanasia for their pets in their time of need when faced with needing emergency/critical care and/or specialized medical care.
Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM of HSVMA