Sick pets ‘kept alive with painful and unnecessary treatments’

Sick pets ‘kept alive with painful and unnecessary treatments’

Poorly pets are being given painful and unnecessary treatments by owners refusing to let their animals die, a group of vets has warned.

EthicsFirst said dogs and cats are sometimes given chemotherapy and heart surgery when euthanasia would be a kinder option.

The group called 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.

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 option.

‘Postoperative complications’

She said: ‘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.’

EthicsFirst called for:

  • Independent and prospective ethical review to be a prerequisite for extreme treatments​

  • Extremes should be critiqued rather than sensationalised and associated use of financial facilities (e.g., insurance, crowdfunding) examined

  • The health and welfare of animals should always be prioritised in the course of ethical veterinary decision making

  • The recommendation for euthanasia to end an animal’s suffering should be restored as an ethical, legitimate, effective and appropriate option

EthicsFirst describe themselves as a group of veterinary and non-veterinary professionals who share common concerns about related areas of companion animal clinical practice in which boundaries are being pushed to extremes.

These include:

  • Use of unproven interventions
  • Unregulated ‘research’ (including that to ostensibly advance One Health initiatives)

  • Overdiagnosis and overtreatment

  • Selective interpretation of “Recognised Veterinary Practice”

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