Watching pets suffer pain is a necessary part of my job. It’s never easy, but it’s inevitable. Watching animals suffer chronic pain is even worse.

Sometimes it’s all about the injuries and diseases pets present with: The broken limbs, hit-by-car bruises, lacerations and dog bite puncture wounds. Other times it’s all about the damage we necessarily inflict during spays, neuters, and surgeries to correct misshapen bits of anatomy. 

In my experience, it’s these latter procedures that stress owners out the most. They hate the idea of choosing to subject their pets to pain. 

One of my dogs recently underwent a very painful surgical procedure to correct his angular/rotational limb deformity (That's him in the pic). Though he was well medicated and his suffering was kept to a minimum with powerful opiates (morphine-like drugs), I believe the suffering he did have to experience was worth it for now … so that his future did not offer him years of chronic, debilitating pain. 

It’s a tough choice owners have to make sometimes, but it’s a necessary one for a great many of my patients. 

"I don’t want to put her through that," many of my clients say. "It’s cruel." I do my best to give them their options and respect their decisions. After all, no one is comfortable watching pets suffer pain. But when you can dispassionately weigh the alternatives, I believe the choice becomes clear in most instances.

This is where being the provider of care makes it easier to take. Sure, we all know people who declined to pursue the veterinary profession because they could not bear to watch animals suffer (maybe you’re one of them). And maybe there is some desensitization that has to take place in a veterinarian’s mind before she can undertake to knowingly elicit pain in an animal.

Nonetheless, I’d like to think that most veterinarians see it as I do: Do you want acute, manageable pain now or chronic, unmanageable pain later? 

Do we remove that tooth before it abscesses or wait till it hurts to do it? 

I don’t know about you, but I’d almost always choose the former. Especially when it comes to my own dogs. I wish everyone saw it that way. 

Dr. Patty Khuly