A hand holding a dog's paw

The decision to euthanize a beloved pet is one of the most heart wrenching decisions pet lovers have to make. I am quite certain every pet family with an ill or aging pet hopes their pet will die peacefully in their sleep. I am also certain pets rarely die peacefully in their sleep, forcing most pet families to decide to euthanize their favorite fur person. Not only do they have to decide when, but also where. I frequently talk with pet families about the pros and cons of home euthanasia.

The Pros of Home Euthanasia

As someone who needed dark glasses and a hat to cover up my swollen eyes and disheveled condition when I had to euthanize my own cats, I understand completely how others don’t want to be seen in a public place, like the veterinarian’s office, in that state of disarray. A home euthanasia prevents a rickety pet from making one more trip in a car or taxi while allowing the family to stage a peaceful and loving goodbye for their pet – something more difficult to do in the sanitary and stainless environment of a veterinary hospital. For pets with an aversion to the veterinarian’s office, a home euthanasia allows them to spend their last minutes in comfortable and familiar surroundings.

The Cons of Home Euthanasia

Not all pets can or should be euthanized at home. If your pet is critically ill and in the hospital, a home euthanasia might be more stressful. Take for example the dog or cat in heart failure requiring oxygen therapy. Removing a pet in respiratory distress from the oxygen cage and heading home is a really bad idea and would result in unwanted suffering for your pet.

Also consider the temperament of your dog or cat. A dog that protects your home against strangers may come unglued when a veterinarian and assistant arrive for a home euthanasia. And unless you corral your scaredy cat before the doorbell rings, she is likely to hide. Extracting her from under the bedwith brooms or other long handled appliances could end up being worse than simply putting her in her carrier and driving to the veterinarian’s office. Lastly, some clients do not want their pet’s death to be their last memory of their pet at home. If you feel that way, a home euthanasia is likely not the best choice for your family.

Sage Advice for Owners of Senior Pets

Plan ahead. As maudlin as it sounds, consider which setting for euthanasia feels right for your family and investigate home euthanasia services. Does your regular veterinarian provide this service? Is there a veterinarian in your locale specializing in home euthanasia? Ask how much lead time they need to schedule an appointment. If your dog or cat takes a sudden turn for the worse, does the veterinarian have a flexible schedule? If you decide home euthanasia is not right for you or your pet, ask your veterinarian if they have a room specially designed for families who are saying goodbye – many veterinarians including AMC have such rooms. If a special room is not available, take your pet’s favorite blanket or bed and treats along. Throw some candles in your bag and add a portable speaker to play soothing or meaningful music. These steps will help to make the sad day just a bit more bearable. If you have children, consider whether or not they should be present at the euthanasia. For guidance on this, see the resources below.

  • Children and the Loss of a Pet
  • Supporting Your Child Through the Loss of an Animal Companion
  • Honoring the Memory of Your Pet

Are you struggling to make the decision on when to euthanize a beloved pet? Read my thoughts on when to euthanize.

For a veterinarian’s personal reflection on the euthanasia of their beloved cat, read this NY Times article.

If you need help navigating this difficult life transition, see the pet loss resources section on our website, including our free pet loss support program.

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