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Healthy Pets

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At-Home Pet Euthanasia

What to know if you're considering at-home pet euthanasia.

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.

Pros and Cons

One advantage to at-home euthanasia is that if local laws allow home burial, owners don't have to drive their pet's body home from the veterinarian's office. Stanek and most others also will take your pet's body back to the clinic for cremation or disposal.

Owners also can grieve alone rather than in front of other pet owners. They also don't have to worry about driving while distraught afterwards, Stanek says.

Minnesota Pets does only at-home euthanasia. McComas has three other veterinarians and a social worker trained in pet loss and grief support. She began her practice in 2010.

"I really think end-of-life experiences can be very positive," McComas says. "Death is really a part of life. For me, it's very much a privilege to do this work. I get to witness a very special and meaningful moment for the pet owner and their pet."

There are also drawbacks. Duffy Jones, DVM, owner of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta, isn't a fan of at-home pet euthanasia. He encourages most clients to come to the office since it's a more controlled setting.

"The last thing that I want is for something to go wrong or some sort of catastrophic event that will make this event harder for the pet owner and their pet," Jones says.

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