Veterinary Values

We asked two prominent vets who face veterinary medicine's routine ethical dilemma.

Dr. Sheldon Rubin is the director of Blum Animal hospital in Chicago, and a past president of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. The author of six books, including "Practical Guide to Dog Care," Dr. Rubin will be remembered by "Oprah" viewers as Winfrey's veterinarian, who has appeared on her show to discuss dog nutrition. Find out more about Dr. Rubin and the Blum Animal Hospital at www.blumvet.com.

Dr. Allen Schoen has been a pioneer in acupuncture and alternative therapies since 1981. He divides his time between large and small animal practice, teaching acupuncture and complementary veterinary medicine, and writing books for the public and other professionals. His latest is "Kindred Spirits: How the Remarkable Bond Between Humans & Animals Can Change the Way We Live." Find out more about Dr. Schoen and his practice at www.drschoen.com

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What's the most common reason people ask for a pet without a terminal illness to be put down?

Dr.Rubin:

For cats, usually behavior [problems] and uncontrolled urination. Following that is the "I'm allergic" excuse, or they may be moving and unable to take the pet with them, such as senior citizens moving into a home. Most vets are very reluctant to euthanize an animal for convenience.

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Dr. Allen Schoen:

Behavior problems are by far the biggest reason. Most of the time it's the owner's problem, not the animal's. The owner hasn't taken the time to properly train the animal. Some vets will put animals down because of uncontrolled urination and the owners don't want them. [Dr. Schoen absolutely will not put down animals due to behavioral problems.]

How often does this happen?

Dr. Rubin

: It doesn't happen very often, but it happens. We try to disuade the owners and will often take the animal into the hospital. We're not into putting perfectly healthy animals to sleep for the convenience.

Dr. Schoen:

It isn't very frequent and depends on the economics of a particular practice. People who are more financially challenged tend to let go of animals quicker.

Is it better to put down an animal with a long-term but treatable disease, or to let it go back to a home, even if you suspect it won't be cared for?

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