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
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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.