Unwell pets are being given painful and unnecessary treatments by owners who refuse to let their animals die, a campaigning group of vets has warned.
EthicsFirst, a group of veterinary professionals, said dogs and cats are now able to receive complicated treatments, often covered by insurance, such as chemotherapy and heart surgery without giving consent.
But the campaigning group voiced concerns that vets are helping owners give their unwell pets ‘overtreatment and unproven interventions’ when euthanasia is a kinder option.
EthicsFirst urged for there to be more debate about the ethics of giving animals painful and unnecessary treatment when they are unable to give consent, The Times reported.
EthicsFirst, a group of veterinary professionals, said dogs and cats are able to receive complicated treatments, often covered by insurance and can prolong pain (stock image)
The group argued that vets are helping pet owners to prolong animals’ agony and said there is a viewpoint among some vets that euthanasia is a failure and should only be a last resort.
A number of vets are also concerned that some in the profession are influenced by financial gain or a need to never to give up on the animal, which can lead to unnecessary treatments.
Last year, Professor Sarah Wolfensohn, of Surrey University’s school of veterinary medicine, wrote a paper arguing that owners are influenced by animals’ ‘cuteness’ when making vital decisions about treatment.
The paper, entitled ‘Too Cute to Kill? The Need for Objective Measurements of Quality of Life’, said: ‘I think what we’ve done is go down the route of treating animals like mini humans when they get ill or old.
‘Yes, they are part of the family, but a dog has its normal behaviour that it wants to engage in: running around, playing ball, that sort of thing.’
Speaking about her own experience, Wolfensohn said she had to put down her 12-year-old labrador Bentham after he lost the use of his hind legs to arthritis.
EthicsFirst urged for there to be more debate about the ethics of giving animals painful and unnecessary treatment when they are unable to give consent (stock image)
She argued that putting him down was the ‘kindest thing’, saying some younger vets believe that euthanasia means they have ‘got it wrong’, when it can be a ‘perfectly good treatment’ to end an animal’s suffering.
Meanwhile Dr Kathy Murphy, a veterinary surgeon and director of the comparative biology centre at Newcastle University, said she was worried that pet owners are not aware of the pain involved in some treatments.
She argued that pet owners are sometimes told by vets that their animal will die if they don’t try certain treatments, making it the most attractive owners for the owners.
She added: ‘My concern is how well informed those owners are, because in reality some of these procedures may have a 10 per cent or 25 per cent chance of being successful but a 100 per cent chance that your pet is going to suffer and be in pain as well as the chance of postoperative complications.’
It comes after medical experts said horse owners should consider difficult end of life options if their beloved animals show signs of deteriorating mental health.
Euthanasia could be considered for bereaved horses whose mental wellbeing suffers after the loss of their closest companion.
Experts conducted a study in which horses’ psychological health was examined in respect of an end of life treatment in 30 different scenarios.
Out of the 160-person panel, just 11 backed the decision to put down a horse for reasons other than physical injury.
And the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) appears to have backed such calls in the most ‘serious cases’ involving horses’ emotional welfare.
The survey was commissioned by the UK-based Equine Behaviour and Training Association – which is described as a group of ‘dedicated and experienced horse-owners, behaviorists and academics’.
It comes after medical experts said horse owners should consider difficult end of life options if their beloved animals show signs of deteriorating mental health (file image)
Dr Catherine Bell, who represents the EBTA and led the survey, explained there were certain scenarios in which horses facing welfare concerns should be considered for euthanasia.
‘We’re not suggesting the minute your horse looks a bit miserable you should be putting him or her down,’ she explained to equestrian magazine Horse & Hound.
‘But if your horse has looked miserable for a long time, even if there is no physical reason, this is something that should be looked at.
‘It’s not always a catastrophic physical factor that makes the decision obvious.’
The Telegraph reported that the findings of the study, Attitudes of the Equestrian Public towards Equine End-of-Life Decisions, may breach official RSPCA regulations, which state animals should not be put down unless in their ‘best interest’.
A spokesperson for the charity told MailOnline: ‘In some very serious, although thankfully very few cases, vets and behaviour experts may determine that an animal’s wellbeing is so seriously impacted by their mental health or that their behavioural needs are so severe that, despite best efforts, it’s impossible to ensure them a good quality of life free from fear, stress and suffering.’
The British Horse Society said euthanasia is an option that can be considered by owners following illness, accidents, old age or the discovery of pre-existing medical conditions.