|Gentle, in-home euthanasia may be
the right choice for some.
By John M. Pacy, D.V.M.
One of the hardest decisions that a pet owner is ever faced with, is when
to euthanize their pet.
For many people, the family pet is more than just an animal. It is a
much-loved member of the family. For some, it is their sole companion,
and many people have told me that they consider their pet to be like a
child to them.
So one can understand why the decision to euthanize a pet is a time of
great stress, grief and a terrible feeling of loss.
Often times I am asked, “when is the right time?” Sometimes that is easy
to answer. For instance, a cat in kidney failure that hasn’t responded to
several days of treatment, or a dog with bone cancer that is no longer
responding to pain medications, has stopped eating and is in a lot of pain.
Other times, there is no clear-cut answer. For example, the very old pet
that can barely get around, has multiple health problems, and lost a lot
of weight but is still hanging in there. Or the animal that has been
diagnosed with a terminal illness but again, is still doing “okay”.
In those cases I counsel the owner to provide pain medications as
necessary, and to keep the pet as comfortable as possible for as long as
possible, and when they can honestly answer the question “is my pet
enjoying life anymore?” with a “no” – then it is time to euthanize.
Once the decision to euthanize is made, many owners don’t realize that
they have another option available to them at this difficult time, and that
is to have the euthanasia performed in their home, rather than at a
As a housecall veterinarian, gentle in-home euthanasia is on of the
services that I provide to pet owners. And many other veterinarians will
perform this service for their clients too, if asked.
In-home euthanasia is a much more personal affair. There are no phones
ringing and no other clients or employees milling about. It allows the
owner the opportunity to grieve more openly and freely and it gives them
the comfort of knowing that their friend’s last moments were spent in
familiar surroundings. The owner can play a favorite song, light a candle,
or hold a little service for the pet with the whole family gathered around.
It also allows for other pets in the household, if any, to be present and
view the deceased pet. Animals can sense death and seeing the deceased
pet may help the surviving pet to better cope with the loss of its
For owners such as the elderly, who may have a hard time getting around
or owners whose pet absolutely hates to travel, in-home euthanasia is the
better choice, as it eliminates the need to travel or cause the pet
unnecessary stress by bringing it to the veterinary office.
Veterinarians who provide in-home euthanasia can arrange to handle the
pet’s remains in a dignified manner, just like at a regular veterinary
hospital. Pet owners can choose to bury their pet themselves (where
legal), or have the pet cremated with or without having the pet’s ashes
returned to them.
Deciding when to euthanize a pet is the hardest decision that a pet
owner ever has to face. But knowing that when the time comes, the
choice to have it done in the privacy of one’s own home may help to make
the decision just a little bit easier to make.
Dr. John Pacy is the owner of Healthy Pets Housecalls, Veterinary Housecall Service.
He can be reached at (561) 909-7953