Posted on June 4, 2017
Euthanasia Outside of the Veterinary Hospital
When you determine that euthanasia is the right choice for a pet, a question to consider is where this process will occur. The ability to perform euthanasia in a professional and humane fashion is not restricted to the veterinary hospital setting.
More and more veterinarians are dedicating their house-call practices to providing an in-home euthanasia service. To do this job well, a very special doctor is required, one who is uber-gentle and compassionate with the animals as well as the human family members involved. In addition to playing the role of psychologist/social worker for folks who are in a profoundly vulnerable emotional state, euthanasia house call veterinarians must be adept at calculating just the right amount of the various drugs used along with placement of an intravenous catheter in a patient whose veins may be compromised and difficult to find because of debilitation, dehydration, and low blood pressure. Additionally, the veterinarian whose practice is devoted to house call euthanasia must be quite resilient from the psychological downfall that can arise from compassion fatigue.
Dr. Kathleen Cooney, veterinarian and author of Veterinary Euthanasia Techniques has been passionate about home euthanasia for the past decade. Her business, called Home to Heaven, provides a house call euthanasia service as well as home hospice care. After starting this practice in 2006, business took off quickly and she now employs more than a dozen staff members, including other veterinarians. “The reason veterinarians are choosing this work is that it is very rewarding and enriching, but also a way to get back into practice,” Cooney said. A euthanasia practice doesn’t require updating a huge bank of medical knowledge and the scheduling is flexible. This might be a good choice for a veterinarian coming out of a research setting or returning from maternity or paternity leave.
During the euthanasia procedure Dr. Cooney describes her goal of facilitating a calm more relaxed patient “where I’m just a friend who’s come to visit, I’m not a threat, and they have no memories of me.” She describes that only approximately 25 percent of her work involves ensuring the animal has a stress-free, pain-free death. The other “seventy-five percent of what I do is for the family,” said Cooney. “A big part of the reason people choose home euthanasia is they want a more enriching experience. These families are looking for more of a ceremonial feel with euthanasia.”
For some animal lovers, neither the home front nor the family veterinary hospital feels like the right setting. They prefer that the euthanasia procedure happen at a place they won’t need to frequent again. For this reason, Dr. Cooney has created The Pet Euthanasia Center in Loveland, Colorado where she lives. In addition to performing euthanasia procedures at the center, she also holds training classes for veterinary staff members pertaining to techniques described within the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals. More and more such centers are now popping up around the country.
Might you be looking for a house call euthanasia provider in your area? Check out the directory provided on Dr. Cooney’s website. This doc has thought of just about everything!
Have you had a pet euthanized outside of a veterinary hospital setting? If so, how did it go and would you do it the same way again?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook
Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.
My two are 14 now and I know the time will come at some point. Just reading these comments got me emotional to the point where I just had to go give them a hug!
Almost all my animal companions have been euthanized at home. Only one passed on her own, and that was thanks to a great vet who diagnosed her with hemangiosarcoma 2 weeks earlier. She told me the timeline, and that my Denali would collapse and bleed out…and NOT to try to get her to a vet because she would die on the way. It happened just as she said it would, and it was a very good death.
The only time I have had my animals euthanized at a clinic is when they suddenly went into a great deal of pain, and they could not wait. (one had hemangiosarcoma: a very different death than Denali).
My previous vet, with whom I had a falling out, did not charge clients for a home (or office) euthanasia. My fabulous new vet charges quite a bit; and it is worth every penny, even though I had to borrow the money.
Animals are more relaxed at home, and since all of mine are rescues it is important that they see the body…so they do not wonder where I took their friend, and why they are now gone, and what did I do with them?
Dying at home: it is what we all want.
My Blue Heeler girl,Rose,was aged and suffering and I asked my vet to come to my house. It went so well and she died with our tears on her fur.
When the vet came the other two dogs ran out the back door feeling betrayed and paprnoid but after he left we let them come in and say their goodbyes.
I manage a dog park and she is buried outside the side fence. I can visit whenever I want.
I could have kept her alive,confused and distraught. She could only move by turning in circles. I made the decision and will not ever forget the kindness of my vet,Dr.Eric Sienlage of Rogers,Arkansas.God bless the vets!
I held my 14 year old Wheaten Terrier in my lap on our screen porch. My husband was with us. Our vet came and helped him cross over. I made a promise I’d never let anyone go through it alone.
As an animal communicator and Healing Touch for Animals certified practitioner I was present during many home euthanasia sessions. We are very fortunate in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to have MN Pets (http://www.mnpets.com/) who specializes in home euthanasia, hospice, and grief support. The vets are the kind and so understanding
My client called them and we sat in the garden with the family and a few friends. As I performed energy work, the family told their favorite memories. The vet arrived and it was a calm, beautiful experience.
Another time it was a very cold November Minnesota day. The Husky spent the last week or so with her person in a cozy tent, because the dog would not go in the house. To keep her comfortable, we all crawled in the tent and said our goodbyes. Again the tears flowed and you could feel the peace and calm as she left the world.
Clients are grateful they don’t need to go to the vet for that final visit. It is never easy to say goodbye to your best friend.
In order to find a house call veterinarian, consider checking the directory I mentioned in my blog post. Additionally, try calling your local veterinary emergency care facility. Chances are they keep a list of house call practitioners.
I am not a vet, but having smooth collies for 57 years and being active with them in the show ring, obedience ring, herding, tracking, etc, as well as having trained guide dogs for the blind and also having worked for 30 some-odd years as a toxicologist in pharmaceutical research, I have had the responsibility to put many animals down, including assisting in the euthanasia of my own dogs.
One things I learned the hard way thru the years, if you are putting a pet down in a household where there are other pets, after the pet has succumbed to the euthanasia, (not in the presence of the other pets), but AFTER, let the other household pets, see the deceased animal. Animals understand death (probably primarily by smell alone) and they accept that fact and will probably NOT be searching the house for their missing buddy. It is a very humane thing to do.
Also, I noticed, if another household pet is hospitalized for any length of time, and the house mate is searching for it’s buddy, I take them to visit the hospitalized pet. Then they will know where their buddy is and will be happy to welcome the hospitalized pet home, even though the returning pet may not be enthusiastic about being greeted home right away.
Our beloved golden retriever was euthanized at home using a mobile vet recommended by both our regular vet and our pet sitter. It was a peaceful experience for all. We also used a local pet crematorium and the mobile vet and the crematorium provider often coordinate so he arrived right after she was done. I would definitely do the same again, it was the right thing for our dog and for us.
I took my first Love to the vet for euthanasia. She was in a great deal of discomfort and since it was the weekend, I didn’t want to wait until Monday. It was a fine, if sterile, environment. The vets, whom I didn’t know, were good.
The next time, I prepared better and Ginger was able to stay at home. She was still frightened because she didn’t know the vet, but it was certainly better.
I will always try to stay at home with my fur babies if they aren’t in acute distress.
Our black lab died at home in his bed in our family room. He had surgery previously at the vet’s office. We did not realize that was going to happen. We found comfort in the fact it was peaceful and our family was with him.
A few years later it was time for our 15 year old yellow lab to leave us. Our vet and her tech came to our home when it was time for him to leave us. He passed very peacefully in his bed in front of our first place in the family room. We found comfort again that he was with us to the end.
We now have a yellow lab who is 13 plus years old. I hope our current vet will be able to come to our home when it is his time to leave us. What a wonderful service for special vet’s to provide.
My first 3 dogs were euthanized in a veterinary office setting. None of them enjoyed visiting the vet office so it was very traumatic for all of us. There were no home vets at that time many moons ago 🙂 The last of those dogs trembled every time we drove in the parking lot and to make matters worse the vet had us wait for over 30 minutes in the room before he came to administer the meds. I was beside myself that they could do this and be so unsympathetic. When I moved from FL to GA 5 years ago the practice I chose to use had a mobile vet on staff. With 4 dogs and 4 cats in our family I chose her for home visits for the cats and two of my dogs who again did not appreciate office visits. Her manner and empathy were always welcome and she became a friend as well as their vet. In the last two years we have said goodbye to all our cats and 3 of our dogs. Dr Susan came each time and made our grief so much more bearable. She felt each loss as well and her special way of spending the last moments with all of us made it seem less painful. There was never a rush and always a box of tissues in her bag. I would never ever euthanize any other way. God bless the vets who can give us this kind of experience in some of the most painful moments of our lives.
How can I find a vet that will come to my home?
My first dog was euthanized in a veterinarian office setting. The vet was compassionate but it was difficult — my dog ended up screaming. My husband couldn’t stand it and left. I thought it would never be over. My second dog was also euthanized in a vet’s office. She too cried, even though she had been good about blood draws in the past and was generally comfortable with this vet. That was a surprise and emotionally devastating as I’d done as much as possible to prepare to be calm, supportive and loving as she passed. With both dogs, I was left with regrets since I had hoped for a peaceful and loving transition. I hope when it comes time for my current dog to leave me, that I will be able to arrange something better for her, in a more private setting.
When my beloved border collie was dying of liver cancer, it was very important to me that she not suffer any more than she was. Going to the vet’s office did not feel like something we could handle.
Our vet and a tech came to our home and Maddie died in my arms on my bed. Some would have said it was peaceful though for me it was agony. I guess it was both.
Our vet had let me know this was an option and said just call when it’s time and we will come. I’m grateful for this service and yes, I would do it again. .
Reading your article I feel very “lucky” and grateful that over the past 40 years or so nearly all of my 4 legged friends have been euthanised at home. For both the human family as well as for the other dogs I feel that it is so much more comforting … and since moving to Belgium /-10 years ago, each of the 3 dogs (I took in older dogs for a while) were not only euthanised at home but stayed here for a couple of hours so that the other dogs could say good bye in the way they wished to – some lay next to the body , others just sniffed as they walked passed and some ignored it completely. every time was very peaceful – I am lucky to have some great compassionate vets in our lives.
We have had many pets and have had to have many euthanized, unfortunately.
Two of our dogs were euthanized at home. The first one was in 2003, outside in her yard on a July day. Dixie was 13, could no longer walk and we didn’t want to cause her any more pain. So, we asked the vet to come to the house. We were all there, even my six-year-old daughter. It went well and was fast. I did get a little upset at the 70€ fee, which was added on because he came to the house (the vet office is in our same small town). To me, it felt like adding insult to injury when the whole procedure took 15 minutes tops.
The second was in 2016 with my nine-year-old Cane Corso who had developed an osteosarcoma on her right front leg. The cancer was extremely painful and we kept her on pain meds. She became a shadow of her former self. It was not a life any of us wanted for her. I upped the dose the morning of the intervention. Both vets came this time. They could feel our pain and only charged us for the meds, not the house call, but by that time we had been longtime clients with quite a few patients for them to care for. Chili went to sleep on her favorite couch downstairs and we buried her under the apple tree with all of our other beloved fur babies.