Euthanasia in Denmark

The primary reason for euthanasia is either because the dogs have become old and no longer have a dignified life or because they are sick. In second place are behavioral problems. This is shown by a Danish study published as a scientific article in the Danish Veterinary Journal, which is the professional journal of Danish veterinarians. The study is based on the registration of 2,500 euthanasias.

If the reasons for euthanasia are ranked, it looks like this:

Nearly 30% are euthanized due to old age.

21.4% are euthanized due to behavioral problems.

11.6% are euthanized due to cancer.

6.8% are euthanized due to joint and muscle disorders.

4.4% are euthanized due to heart/lung diseases.

4.0% are euthanized due to liver/kidney diseases.

21.4% of all dogs are euthanized due to behavioral problems, and nearly half of the dogs that are euthanized are not yet three years old. Less than 16% of the dogs with behavioral problems have been treated before being euthanized, and less than 6% of dogs with behavioral problems receive professional behavioral counseling. In the US, where there are veterinarians who are experts in behavioral counseling, only 10% of dogs with aggression problems who come for treatment are euthanized.

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21.4% of all dogs are euthanized due to behavioral problems

One-third of all euthanasia is due to behavior, which is a very high number and a cause for concern. Most dogs euthanized due to physical problems are typically older and in the age group of elderly dogs, despite exhibiting behavioral problems. This means that mostly very young dogs are euthanized due to behavior. Almost half of the dogs that are euthanized are not yet three years old, which is appalling.

The study also reveals how many of the dogs euthanized due to behavioral problems have been treated. Less than 16% have been treated before being euthanized. Most of these dogs have either been neutered, treated with hormones, given medication, or referred to obedience training. Less than 5% have received actual professional veterinary behavioral counseling, which is a shockingly low number.

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Only 6% of dogs with behavioral problems receive professional behavioral counseling

Knowing that there is a solution to most behavioral problems, this is a shocking discovery. Realistically, about 50,000 dogs are euthanized each year in Denmark, of which about 12,000 are due to behavioral problems. Less than 600 of these dogs have been offered actual behavioral counseling. More than 11,000 dogs have been euthanized without actual behavioral modification treatment, which means changing the dog’s behavior pattern.

The reason for this may be due to the dog owners’ lack of knowledge that veterinarians can also offer behavioral treatment, possibly through referral to colleagues with special insight in the area. Or it may be due to the dog owners’ embarrassment in seeking such advice, or other factors that remain unclear.

One thing is certain: the sooner one recognizes that there are behavioral problems, the easier it is to correct them. At the University Hospital in Pennsylvania, where there are veterinarians who are experts in behavioral counseling, only 10% of dogs with aggression problems that come in for treatment are euthanized.

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