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At-Home Pet Euthanasia

What to know if you're considering at-home pet euthanasia.
By Pamela Babcock
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Bob, a Maine Coon mix, was never fond of the ride to the veterinarian. While the cat would purr placidly through the vet's exam, he pitched a fit and cried during the trip there.

"Riding in a car stressed him out terribly," says owner Sandy Volkman of Lakeville, Minn.

When Bob went into kidney failure at age 18, Volkman couldn't fathom driving him to be put down through her tears and his cries. Her veterinarian recommended Minnesota Pets, a Twin Cities-based mobile euthanasia service.

In October 2010, owner Rebecca McComas, DVM, put Bob out of his misery on his favorite blanket in the living room.

"It was so peaceful,' Volkman says. "He never had to leave his home and his familiar surroundings. We laid him on the couch between us and I just petted him and she gave him the injection."

These days, a growing number of services are available to euthanize your pet in your home. Some veterinarians say it's less stressful to allow a pet to pass more quietly and peacefully in familiar surroundings. 

At-home euthanasia isn't for everyone. It may be difficult to schedule. Constant reminders of where your pet died may be upsetting. And things can go wrong that might be better dealt with in your veterinarian's office.

A Growing Field

Experts say interest in at-home pet euthanasia and the number of services offering it are increasing.

"Anecdotally, this is a growing trend, particularly since some pet owners prefer to have their animal pass in a familiar setting, at home, surrounded by members of the family," says David Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Only those registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration can perform euthanasia using a barbiturate. Generally, it should only be done by veterinarians and licensed euthanasia technicians. But who can do it varies based on state law, Kirkpatrick says.

Ask your veterinarian if they provide this service well in advance of deciding whether to euthanize your pet. If they don't, they may be able to give you names of mobile vets or vets from other practices that do.

How It Works

Shannon Stanek, DVM, owner of Exton Vet Clinic and Stanek Veterinary Housecalls in Exton, Pa., says she gets requests for home euthanasia weekly and sometimes daily. Appointments last 30 minutes to two hours.

Stanek typically brings a veterinary technician. After she arrives, she and the client take care of required paperwork. That includes a consent form and cost estimate.

Much is the same as it would be in her clinic. Stanek does a brief exam, particularly if she isn't the animal's regular veterinarian. The pet is then sedated using an intramuscular injection.

About five to 15 minutes later, a catheter is placed in the animal's vein and the euthanasia solution is given. By the time the injection is done, the pet's brain is usually no longer functioning and its heart has stopped pumping.

"You can get extra gasps by the pet or vocalization, but this is uncommon if sedated prior to final injection," Stanek tells WebMD.

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