Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Reality of Life and Death

This week the farm vet had to euthanize two cows and a horse. The owners of these animals made the decision to have this done because these animals no longer had a good quality of life. It is a powerful thing to watch an animal be 'put to sleep.' This post is not meant to be morbid but more informational for those that do not raise farm animals.

One of the reasons we started this blog was to show the reality of being a large animal veterinarian and working with farm animals. The reality is that life and death happen on farms. In some cases, the animal owners have to make difficult decisions as to when an animal no longer has a good quality of life. This is not easy and is not taken lightly. Many times, this is when the farm vet will lend some advice and a helping hand. Trust me, no one likes this part of the job but rather accepts the fact that it has to be done.

There are times when the animal owners put the animals down themselves as the vet cannot get there soon enough or there may not be enough vets in the area to cover all of the work. It is not uncommon for farm animal owners to do this and it doesn't go without saying that many really struggle with it. The veterinarians can use a gunshot or an injectable barbiturate solution which they have a license to carry. Farm owners on the other hand, are not licensed to have this injectable solution so they will use gunshot or a captive bolt device. As approved by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, a properly placed gunshot can cause immediate insensibility and humane death. For people that are not used to this, it may seem barbaric but it is the fastest way to euthanize the animal humanely.

This is definitely not one of the fun parts of the job but it is a reality. There's something to be said for the people that have to carry out euthanasia's. There has to be a certain level of confidence that all feasible treatment options have been exhausted and it is for the betterment of the animal. It can be interpreted here in the Veterinarian's Oath:
"Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering..."


  1. We appreciate the feedback! Glad to know you guys appreciate the topic!