As many as one-third of clients may experience negative veterinary interactions during companion animal euthanasia, possibly resulting in intensified grief. Communication is an important aspect of this experience. However, little is currently known about the management of communication during euthanasia. A better understanding of these practices may assist in informing protocols which improve client experience and reduce the likelihood of intensified grief.  

To explore and identify current companion animal euthanasia practices before, during and after euthanasia; including communication, technical protocols, client and veterinary support mechanisms.  

As part of a larger project, methodology followed a two-phase mixed methods study design. Phase one: Qualitative focus groups and interviews (n=10) were conducted with companion animal clinics and analyzed by thematic content analysis. Phase two: An online questionnaire informed by phase one, was distributed to veterinary professionals (n=773) Ontario-wide who perform or assist with companion animal euthanasia.  

Participants described communication practices, style, language and detail varying at each stage of euthanasia based on staff roles, personality and objective. Preliminary results from phase two suggest that non-verbal communication is the primary method used to assess clients’ emotional state. Verbal communication was identified as the primary method of client grief support and was central to veterinary-client euthanasia discussions, while interpersonal staff communication was highly ranked as a veterinary support mechanism.  

The use of effective language, appropriate detail and open communication between staff and clients is essential for a successful euthanasia which may in turn, support clients’ grief and the emotional burden upon veterinary professionals themselves. 

*MATTE R, Alisha A1, KHOSA B, Deep B1, MEEHAN P, Michael C1, COE B, Jason D1, NIEL E, Lee E1   1 Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada