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Compassion Fatigue in the Veterinary Profession
Veterinarian Performing Scan on Cat

Veterinarian Performing Scan on Cat

Photo Credit: © DBVeterinary Clinic

In his outstanding book, "Cat Daddy," Jackson Galaxy describes his first encounter with compassion fatigue, when a longtime cat shelter veterinarian lashed out in anger as she perfomed a late-term birthing (abortion) of five puppies, who were only a week or two from live birth, had the pregnancy been allowed to continue. Her anger was because of people's failure to spay and neuter, the direct cause of this current heartbreaking surgery. This was a classic example of compassion fatigue in a veterinary professional, although it might also manifest in other forms, depending on the veterinarian, the shelter, and the circumstances. In a "kill" shelter, the abortion might have made room for five older dogs or cats

I have known a number of veterinarians and their staffs over the years. I have seen a male veterinarian shed tears when he pronounced my Bubba gone after we agreed it was time to let him go. More than once, I have had a vet tech hold me close when I sobbed at a diagnosis of a terminal illness of a cat. Forgive me when I take affront at comments that "Vets are only in it for the money," because I know better.

My cats have been treated in small, privately owned clinics with one or two vets; in a larger private clinic with a staff of four or five veterinarians, with an on-call specialist and a total staff of 10 to 15; and a large practice with over 10 veterinarians, including a veterinary oncologist, lab technicians, specialized hospital attendants, and a large office staff, which was part of a nationwide chain of vet hospitals. Without exception, I have found them all to be dedicated, caring professionals. We have not always agreed on treatment plans, but have always listened to each other and agreed on a final plan. I firmly believe that for our cats' sake, all cat caregivers need to form a partnership with their veterinarians. The photo here shows Dr. D and my cat Joey. We worked together in a partnership of mutual respect with the common goal of successfully treating Joey's hyperthyroidism.

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