Predictors of Opting for Advanced Medical Care versus Euthanasia for Companion Animals with Severe Cardiac Disease

Samantha Siess1, George A. Kramer2, Dar Ozer2, Nikki Gaudette2, Brienne Williams2, Brittany Antal2, Anne Moyer1

1 Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University
2 Department of Cardiology, Atlantic Coast New York Veterinary Specialists of Bohemia

This study examined predictors of opting for advanced medical care versus euthanasia for a critically ill companion animal. These included holding an optimistic bias for poor prognostic information, level of attachment to one’s companion animal, and satisfaction with one’s veterinarian. Eighty owners of companion animals with a diagnosis of a severe cardiac disease were asked to indicate what they believed their companion animal’s chance of survival and quality of life would be if they opted for intensive treatment. Participants showed an optimistic bias in their interpretation of the chance of survival (but not quality of life) of a companion animal with more severe prognoses, suggesting that this may serve as a self-protective strategy in the face of losing a beloved companion animal. Client satisfaction with communication and with the cost of care, but not attachment to one’s companion animal, significantly increased the likelihood of approving the recommended course of hospitalization and intensive treatment. This is of particular importance in that, of those who did not approve the recommended treatment, the majority elected to take their companion animals home against medical advice, rather than opt for humane euthanasia, this likely resulted in undue suffering and an uncomfortable death. These findings support the need for training in communication in veterinary schools.

Key words: veterinarian communication, decision-making, end-of-life, euthanasia, attachment, companion animals

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Keywords: attachment, companion animals, decision-making, end-of-life, euthanasia, veterinarian communication
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