‘The Incredible Dr. Pol’: The Reality Of Euthanasia – ‘I Rarely Cry, But I Still Feel It’

One of the hardest parts of any veterinary practice is when an animal has to be euthanized because of illness. It’s certainly not easy on the pet’s owners but it’s also not something the animal doctor likes doing.

Dr. Jan Pol of 'The Incredible Dr. Pol'
Dr. Jan Pol of ‘The Incredible Dr. Pol’ | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Dr. Pol opened up about this most difficult part of veterinary work. Find out what he had to say.

Dr. Pol has had to euthanize his own pet on camera, and it wasn’t easy

Dr. Pol chose to euthanize his own pet on-camera, something he was very reluctant to do because of the obviously emotional moment he would rather have in private.

He told Hollywood Soapbox in 2019, “In the show, I had to put my own dog down,” Dr. Pol continued. “I didn’t want to have it filmed, but Charles [his son] says to me, ‘Dad, other people are filmed. Why not you? You’re a pet owner, and it shows that pets do not outlive humans many times.’”

“It’s real, and I think this is what attracts people to this show. Nothing is made up for TV, and I think that’s what makes the show so popular.”

How Dr. Pol learned to euthanize humanely

One wouldn’t think of it, but euthanasia actually can be done inhumanely. That is, if it’s not done correctly, what could end up happening is the needless suffering of the animal. Dr. Pol unexpectedly learned in one case how to compassionately end an animal’s suffering.

“We were taught how to administer the euthanasia solution into a vein in school” Dr. Pol said in his 2015 book, Never Turn Your Back On An Angus Cow, “but I learned by accident that if you put it directly into an artery instead of the vein, it acts much faster.”

The owner of a horse rescue organization brought a pony to Dr. Pol for euthanizing. She explained to the 77-year-old vet that the animal was simply not capable of being domesticated. For the safety of people and other animals around him, she decided it would be best to have him euthanized.

“He was so dangerous that I was going to do just one injection. . . I had a good size needle ready, and as he jumped up, I hit him with it in the side of the neck and pushed the plunger. Instantly, that pony dropped dead. . . I realized, ‘Wait a second, that wasn’t in the vein; it was in the artery.’ From that time on, I began doing the euthanasia procedure differently.”

The reality of euthanasia hit the camera crew

Dr. Pol is used to witnessing, as many a medical professional ultimately has to, the balance between life and death on a daily basis. For the NatGeo WILD crew in his clinic, it took a lot of getting used to.

“I think what has been the hardest thing for members of the crew to deal with is the fact that in this ‘real reality’ show,” he said in his book, “the cases don’t always have a happy ending. . . I’ve had several members of our crew tell me how tough it is for them, at least at first, to see me euthanize an animal.”

A couple of members of NatGeo WILD’s camera crew on ‘The Incredible Dr. Pol’

“I rarely cry, but I still feel it; a lot of crew members have cried, and occasionally when we’re dealing with an old animal they still do. . . For the crew this is all new, and sometimes I see the tears coming down their faces while they’re running the camera.”

“Normally there is always a lot of chattering going on – we’ve always got a lot to talk about – but after I’ve had to put down a beloved horse or a dog or a cat or almost any kind of pet, the silence can get very, very loud.”

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