Objective: The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore veterinary professionals’ use and perceptions of grief resources and services to support companion animal caregivers following companion animal euthanasia.
Background: The loss of a companion animal can be a source of great sorrow and grief. Like human loss, many companion animal caregivers may seek out and benefit from grief resources, of which veterinary professionals are often important providers. Yet, little is known about how, when or for what reasons veterinary professionals provide these resources.
Methods: A qualitative study consisting of group and individual interviews involving 38 veterinary professionals and staff from 10 veterinary hospitals in Ontario, Canada was conducted. Verbatim transcripts were evaluated using inductive thematic analysis to identify themes and subthemes.
Results: Results indicated that typically resources were only provided if a caregiver requested information, or when veterinary professionals recognised that the caregiver may benefit from these resources. To assess a caregiver’s need, participants reported considering their age, the strength of the human-animal bond, their previous and ongoing life circumstances, and their emotional state. Several barriers limiting veterinary professionals’ use of grief resources were also described including perceptions that few adequate resources existed and a lack of knowledge of existing or new resources.
Conclusion: Overall, findings suggest that there are substantial opportunities to improve and embed a provision of grief resources within the veterinary profession. There is a need to develop adequate resources to meet caregivers’ supportive needs and implement these resources within the greater veterinary profession.
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