Balancing Animal Welfare and Client Needs: Ethical Considerations for Veterinarians

Animal Welfare and Client Needs

Vets take ethical oaths to take accurate care of the animals once they enter this profession. Vets’ ethical decision-making is highly dependent on what is right for the animal in danger, whether it is someone’s pet or just a roadside squirrel that is injured in a car accident.  

In this post today, we would introduce you to how vets balance animal welfare and client needs based on their learned veterinary ethics. Vets are under great obligation to serve the animals and the human community, therefore, they have to suffer a high emotional toll when making the right decision. 

Importance of Ethical Considerations in Veterinary Medicine

Just as ethical practice is mandatory for doctors who check human patients, it is of high priority for veterinary doctors as well. When veterinarians are in the process of completing their educational years, they gradually formulate an approach toward ethical clinical practice so that their overall capacity of handling challenges in the practical world is strengthened along the way. 

Why it is critical to know veterinary ethics? Because knowing the legislation and professional etiquette would turn around great steering in what we call ‘professionalism’. The ethical and legal responsibilities of the vets towards animals and their owners shed light on their informed decision-making styles as well as animal welfare-related ethics. 

The Role of Veterinarians and Why Ethics is Important for Their Profession

The two most prominent responsibilities of veterinarians are taking care of animals and protecting people from diseases. For the promotion of animal welfare, vets are the only doctors who would make the diagnosis for animal diseases, make a deep evaluation of their animal patients, and offer the best treatment that would help in the alleviation of animals’ pain and stress. It would not only put the animal to ease but also relieve their owners of the tension.

Protecting people from diseases is another visible responsibility of this profession since preventing and treating zoonotic illnesses, starting from avian flu and dengue fever which is highly fatal, are only on the shoulders of the veterinary doctors. Indulging in unethical veterinary practices would risk their professional license and many lives in the real world, including both animals and humans. 

One more crucial role of veterinarians is to maintain a healthy veterinarian-client relationship, also known as the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). In accordance with the principles of veterinary medical ethics, being honest with pet owners is important so that diagnosing an animal, analysing its condition, and suggesting the correct treatment is a hassle-free process, which should be in the best interest of the animal’s health. 

Ethical Considerations

Some examples of ethical issues in veterinary practice inculcate killing healthy animals, euthanasia of extremely sick animals, and dealing with clients’ financial limits when the animal needs critical care even if it is expensive.

Here, these examples show a clear contrast between what the veterinary ethics have taught them about animal welfare and what the client wants. Keeping a trustworthy relationship with the client while still thinking about the suffering animals creates moral stress for the vets. 

Let us present you with a scenario that might elucidate further what ethical considerations vets have to take care of on a daily basis:

One example of an ethical issue in veterinary practice is the difference in treatment between insured and uninsured animals. If the pet owners have covered high pet care benefits in their insurance plan whereas another pet owner comes with an extreme case of ear infection that might require, in the worst case scenario, chopping off the ear probably and hospitalizing the pet for days, what do you think the vet should do? Whether the four ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice would be different for insured and uninsured pets? 

Clients’ Perspectives versus Veterinarians’ Perspectives

Clients expect veterinarians to strictly adhere to the principles of veterinary medical ethics. While seeking veterinary care, clients value those vets who value animal welfare and Providing high-quality veterinary care is our top priority, no matter what the circumstances are.

Clients expect the vets to be honest, open in communication, and provide clear explanations of the medical processes that would naturally depict their free of unethical veterinary practices.

As mentioned earlier, the emotional toll that vets have to undergo while making serious ethical decisions involving animal welfare is a daily challenge that vets cannot ignore. Some conflicts of interest between the client’s needs and animal welfare would bring a clash in the veterinarian’s perception of their ethical clinical practice.

Issues like respecting client autonomy about their pet’s treatment or life continuation treatments, or sometimes informed consent for their pet’s best health is the real hardship for vets when they have to balance between clients’ needs and animal welfare. 

Based on the concept discussed above, VCPR, both clients and It is only through transparency that vets can participate in shared decision-making and decision autonomy for both parties. Since the pet is the property of the client, It is his right to express himself and whether his budget would allow for the vet’s suggested treatment.

Patient outcomes would then be evaluated based on the decision delegation to prevent maximum animal suffering, or in serious cases, its termination. In the future, it would assist the vets heavily in facing the legal punitive charges if their assessments of animal welfare risk had gone wrong or if zoonotic illnesses are overlooked while only keeping the client’s needs in mind, which is a grave immoral and unprofessional behaviour.


Striking a balance between meeting clients’ needs and upholding animal welfare is a crucial aspect of veterinary practice. Vets must ensure that they provide quality care to their patients while addressing the concerns and expectations of their clients. At the same time, they must support the ethical principles of their profession by promoting animal welfare and preventing unnecessary suffering.

Communication with clients is key to achieving this, adequate training and education on animal welfare, and the implementation of best practices in veterinary medicine. Ultimately, by finding a balance between clients’ needs and animal welfare, vets can improve the well-being of their patients and strengthen the trust and confidence of their clients in their practice.

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