Do At-Home Euthanasia for Pets. The Tough Decision Pet Owners Face

Introduction

Many pet owners face the difficult decision of whether to have their pet euthanized at home or at the veterinarian’s office. Choosing at-home euthanasia allows your pet to pass away in a familiar, comfortable environment, surrounded by family. However, this option also comes with emotional considerations for the owners being present during the process. This article provides an overview of pet euthanasia at home, including the reasons people may choose this option, how the process works, things to consider, and alternatives like hospice care.

Reasons People May Want At-Home Euthanasia

Many pet owners opt for at-home euthanasia because it allows their pet to be in a familiar, comfortable environment during their final moments. Being at home eliminates the stress and anxiety a car ride to the veterinary clinic may cause for an already ill or fragile animal. As noted by one source, “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 in familiar surroundings” (Home Euthanasia: The Pros and Cons). Staying at home can help create a calm, peaceful setting for the pet as they pass.

Additionally, being at home allows the pet owner and family to be more involved in the process if they choose. They can hold and comfort the pet in his/her final moments in a personal way that may not be possible in a clinical vet setting. The ability to say goodbye on their own terms and timeline is meaningful for many pet owners. As one pet owner stated, “She was calm, sleeping in my arms when she passed. I wouldn’t have changed a thing” (DailyPaws). In-home euthanasia offers owners the unique opportunity to memorialize their pet at home through rituals or remembrances after passing.

Evaluating Quality of Life

As a pet owner, evaluating when it’s time to let your dog go is one of the most difficult decisions you may face. Quality of life scales, like the Lap of Love Quality of Life Scale, can help provide an objective way to assess your dog’s wellbeing across factors like hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, and more. Using a scoring system allows you to numerically rate your dog’s quality of life across multiple criteria.

quality of life scale helps decide

An overall score below 35 out of 100 suggests a dog’s quality of life may be compromised to a point where euthanasia could be an act of mercy. However, quality of life is complex and scales should be used as a guide rather than a definitive decision maker. Have candid conversations with your veterinarian about your dog’s health issues, their ability to participate in beloved activities, and overall signs of happiness or suffering. Pay close attention to changes in their quality of life compared to younger, healthier days. In the end, focus on prioritizing their comfort and dignity.

Making the Decision

Making the decision to euthanize a beloved pet is never easy. It can help to discuss all options with your veterinarian and family first. According to Petlossathome.com, at-home euthanasia can cost between $400-$800, depending on the services included. This is generally more affordable than euthanizing in a clinic. Your vet can explain what will happen during the process and help determine if your pet’s quality of life is declining. They can provide guidance on the right time to say goodbye based on your pet’s health and any suffering. Lean on family for emotional support during this difficult decision as well.

consult vet on decision to euthanize

The key is assessing your pet’s condition honestly. If they are in significant daily pain that cannot be managed with medication, it may be kinder to let them go peacefully at home. However, if your pet still enjoys some quality of life and good days, you may have a little more time together. Weigh the options carefully with your vet’s advice. Focus on your pet’s comfort and wellbeing above all. Though heartbreaking, choosing euthanasia can ultimately be an act of love when your pet’s health is failing.

The Euthanasia Process

The process of euthanizing a dog usually begins with a veterinarian administering a strong sedative or anesthetic drug, such as pentobarbital, to quickly render the dog unconscious and block any pain or distress (Source). The medication is typically given through an IV catheter in one of the dog’s front legs. Pentobarbital quickly shuts down the dog’s brain and nervous system so they fall asleep and their heart and breathing stop within minutes.

sedative leads to peaceful passing

Once given the sedative, most dogs will peacefully fall asleep within 10-30 seconds. Their breathing will slow down and then stop, followed soon after by their heart. The veterinarian will use a stethoscope to confirm the dog’s heart has stopped before declaring them deceased. The entire process is designed to be gentle, painless, and minimize any distress to the dog.

The dosage of sedative given is based on the dog’s weight and health condition. Additional sedative doses may be administered if the dog’s heart rate does not quickly decrease. Veterinarians are trained to ensure the process goes smoothly and the dog passes away peacefully.

Being Present

Many pet owners struggle with the difficult decision of whether or not to be present during the euthanasia process. While it is ultimately a personal choice, there are several reasons why being present can help both you and your pet.

being present can help pet and owner

According to the ASPCA, the majority of veterinarians agree that owners should be allowed to stay during euthanasia, as long as it does not add anxiety for the pet (Should Pet Owners Be Present for Euthanasia). Your presence can provide comfort and reassurance for your pet in their final moments. Some vets feel that pets may show signs of looking around for their owner if they are not present.

Being present also allows you to have closure. You can say goodbye, provide comfort through petting/talking, and feel assured that your pet passed peacefully. According to psychologists, witnessing the euthanasia can help some owners accept the reality of the loss and assist in grieving (Should You Be Present for the Euthanasia of Your Pet?). However, this may be too difficult for some owners.

Ultimately, you must do what feels right for you emotionally. There is no right or wrong choice, as long as your pet’s needs are prioritized. If being present would cause you anxiety/prolonged grief or prevent you from focusing on your pet, it may be better not to be present. Discuss your concerns with your vet to make the best decision.

Aftercare

After your pet has been euthanized at home, you have several options for their aftercare. Many veterinarians can arrange for your pet’s body to be cremated or buried through a pet cemetery. According to RalphSite, some vets will allow you to keep your pet’s body for a day or two so you can have it buried in your yard or arrange a home cremation. Always check with your vet about aftercare services and costs.

If opting for cremation, you can choose to have your pet’s ashes returned or scattered in a pet cemetery. Some vets also work with companies that will press your pet’s ashes into keepsakes like paw prints or urns. Another memorial option is a pet casket for home burial. Be sure to check local regulations on home burial first. The vet may also be able to provide referrals for pet loss support services.

Taking care of your pet’s remains can bring a sense of closure. Discuss aftercare options with your vet beforehand so you can honor your pet as you wish after their passing.

Alternatives to Euthanasia

For pet owners struggling with end-of-life decisions, euthanasia may seem like the only option. However, there are alternatives that allow pets to live out their final days in comfort at home.

One alternative is hospice care. Like human hospice, pet hospice focuses on maximizing quality of life through pain management, while foregoing invasive treatments. A veterinary hospice team can guide you through the difficult process and help provide care at home.

To manage pain, vets may recommend medications, physical therapy, acupuncture, or other integrative therapies. Dietary changes may also help pets feel more comfortable. The goal is to allow pets to live out their final days surrounded by family.

Hospice can provide pet owners more time to come to terms with their pet’s prognosis. It also avoids premature euthanasia of pets who still have joyful days left.

Making the Decision Easier

Making the decision to euthanize your beloved pet is never easy, but focusing on your dog’s quality of life and cherishing happy memories can provide comfort during this difficult time. According to the One Health Organization, it’s important to consider things like your dog’s physical health, mobility, appetite, interest in daily activities, and overall happiness when evaluating their quality of life. While euthanasia may seem like giving up, it can actually be the final act of love we give our pets by ending their suffering.

As recommended by the American Humane Society, take time before the euthanasia procedure to say private goodbyes and create lasting memories with your pet. Capture paw prints, gather fur clippings, or take photos with your dog. Reflect on all of the joyful times you shared together. Though heartbreaking, reminiscing on the happy moments and special bond you had with your dog can bring peace.

While certainly difficult, focusing on celebrating your dog’s life and ensuring their comfort until the end can provide solace. Your veterinarian and pet loss support groups can also offer guidance for coping with this immense grief. With time, the pain will ease, and you will be left with cherished memories of the pawsome times spent together.

Conclusion

Deciding when to euthanize a beloved pet is an extremely difficult and emotional choice. While some pet owners may wish to have it done at home for various reasons, this option is not available everywhere. The focus should be on ensuring your dog’s quality of life is properly evaluated, that you have given the decision the time and gravity it deserves, and that your pet’s interests and comfort come first. Euthanasia, whenever and wherever it occurs, aims to minimize suffering and allow a peaceful passing. This final act of love and kindness, while devastating for owners, can provide pets relief and dignity at the end of their lives. Take time to grieve, cherish your memories, and know you honored your dog by providing care throughout their life and up to their last moments.

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