Remember, Compassion Fatigue at Your Next Vet Visit

I love my job. I wake up in the morning, and I never dread going to work.
Though, as I pursue further down my career path, it has become undeniable that at times, it can be incredibly stressful and sad. I feel that the most challenging part is that our clients don’t fully understand what we go through in the run of a day.

Often, clients only see our interactions with adorable puppies and kittens and not the fractious cat in the treatment area trying to eat us as we try to give it medical attention, or the hideous cry we had in the bathroom because we had to say goodbye to a patient we truly cared about. It poses a challenge to our team because we can’t discuss our days with other clients.

Compassion Fatigue is best described as someone who cares too much. Constantly being around people or animals that are suffering or in distress and it’s frequent that you become preoccupied with the suffering of others. It can take over your life and can cause secondary trauma and stress to the person giving care to these patients. Veterinary professionals deal with these traumatic events, unfortunately, on an almost daily basis. Aside from the animals, we see that are hurt we also have to see their owners that are suffering a loss in their family. Though we often try to conceal our sadness, it often becomes overwhelming to see family members hurt and helpless as they say goodbye to their best friend. I’m tearing up just typing this, but I digress.

If an owner is lucky, the only time they will have to deal with sadness in their pet’s life, is at the very end. This is often times when owners will talk with us during the catheter placement for the final injection. I hear a lot of “this must be difficult for you, I’ve never thought about it before but you probably do this all the time.” I tend to feel awful when owners say this because I don’t want to take anything away from them, but at the same time, they’re right. Yes, this is sad and difficult for me (and everyone else at the clinic), I never want an owner to think that I am just going through the motions and that their loss doesn’t affect me because it indeed does. All animal lives matter and every single time we send one to heaven, I am consumed with how terrible I feel for the family of that pet – we do not become numb to your pain because we deal with this on a daily basis.

Many things in the run of a day can lead to compassion fatigue in a veterinary hospital; factor in there that many people have things going on in their personal lives as well, and you’ll understand a bit of what we’re going through. So, although your veterinary team member will be smiling and doing everything they can to make you and your pet happy – please keep in mind that they are people too and that compassion fatigue is a real thing that many of us are dealing with on any given day. We accept compliments, as well as hugs!

If any veterinary professionals are reading this and you are concerned you may have compassion fatigue; there are a lot of resources out there! Talk to your office manager when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Don’t feel embarrassed. It happens to us all at some point in our industry. It’s also not something that is going to end. Just remember that you got into this field for your love of animals and doing everything you can to make their lives better. Take care of yourself, eat well, sleep more, get regular physical activity, and the rest will all fall into place. And if all else fails, snuggle your pooches or kitties, that’s what I do! 🙂

Written by Kirsty Riemersma, Registered Veterinary Technician

Absolutely amazing staff. They were fabulous with the first cat I brought in but I was extremely impressed with my…

Tara Lee Mackenzie

This was a very good experience for my very sick dog and myself, the staff were so very kind to…

Stephen Bonang

So friendly, always on time. I ended up here because of their expertise in exotics (bird) and am sad…

Stephanie Glendenning


Not One More Vet

DID YOU KNOW – Veterinary professionals are more than twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts as other Canadians are?

Read More
See All Articles