Not your grandpappy’s vet – Catching up on the years between ‘Old Yeller’ and ‘Marley & Me’

By Dr. Ryan Llera

Veterinarian Ryan Llera with puppy patient, Enzo.

I’m not your grandpappy’s vet. We’re also not living in the age of the infamous Disney movie ‘Old Yeller’… No spoiler alert here, but the movie doesn’t end happily for the kid or his dog. We’re in a different time than we were 40 years ago… Heck, it’s even been12 since I graduated!

A few years ago, I got a letter from an upset client. Why where they upset? I had to euthanize their pet and it didn’t go as they had planned or envisioned. It was a sad moment for the family and I genuinely felt bad about it. It eats at my very soul to have to euthanize a beloved pet; but even more so when the family isn’t granted the circumstances they wish to say goodbye in. But from this instance, we can all learn something.

Their letter was not the first time I heard from a client “my previous pets never needed a catheter or sedation to be put to sleep.” And I understand.  In the last generation, medicine and the perception of pet health care has advanced. So why the catheter and sedation now? Many pets come in sick and finding a usable vein to give the euthanasia drugs can be difficult. The veins can collapse due to poor blood pressure or dehydration. If the solution goes under the skin outside the vein, it can be uncomfortable for your pet. Having that catheter in place prevents your pet from unnecessary pain and if they happen to move their leg, we don’t have to poke them in front of you.

As far as the sedation goes, this component of veterinary medicine (vet med) branches out further than just euthanasia. Some pets are anxious or scared when they are in the vet clinic. X-rays, nail trims, clipping out hair mats, cleaning ears, and more can be a stressful time for your pet, you, or the clinic staff. Sedation allows your pet to not be afraid and helps procedures happen in a safer and more efficient manner. Getting back to the euthanasia component though, it’s a peaceful way to ensure your pet’s final moments are not stressful.

Times are different and we, the veterinary community, are asking for your patience and understanding when it comes to your pet’s health. Yes, we have to see your pet to prescribe any medication. Yes, we need to examine your pet before they get a vaccination. Certain medical conditions are now treatable and it’s our job to advocate for your pet and their quality of life. Things have changed such that our medical records must be detailed for others to follow them, but also to erase any doubt of what was discovered, performed, or discussed in the care of a patient. We don’t set these rules, our licensing board does. It’s changed and no longer are we practicing in a time like that of James Herriot.

It would be nice to turn back the clock sometimes and get back to a simpler time. Instead, we have the benefit of years of experience to make pet care a better, safer, and less fearful experience for you and your pet.  And that’s more valuable than any of us may yet realize.


Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with two cats, two dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes writing to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can find more of his writing at, or see what else he is up to on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

If there’s something pet-related you’ve often wondered or have questions about, let us know by email at [email protected].

*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian. Disclaimer: All columns are personally written and my opinion and may not necessarily reflect those of current or former employers.

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