Veterinarians have privately known for years that dogs are scared, and look for their humans when they are being put to sleep. As one broken-hearted veterinarian wrote on social media recently, animals “don’t understand why you left them.” We’ve heard the same from veterinarians writing into our site — when it comes to leaving this world, home euthanasia dogs just seem to do better.
There is no doubt in my mind that dogs have emotional needs that we have a responsibility to meet. If you are at the point of considering euthanasia for your pup, consider doing it at home.
Home Euthanasia = Good Death
The word euthanasia literally translates to “good death.” Whew. That’s a tough concept, isn’t it? But a good death is entirely possible.
A good death is simple, relatively painless, and peaceful. When my aunt died of cancer in 2005, she died with her entire family around her and a member of the local chamber orchestra playing the harp. There were quiet tears on the part of my mother and other people in the room, but they were all fully present as my aunt slipped from this world to the next. The passing was quiet and lovely. And, of course, devastating.
Luckily, there were hospice workers present in the room, ready to take care of the transportation and other necessary duties. My aunt’s family had plenty of space to grieve without having to worry about “doing too much.”
That was a good death. It is what I would wish for any of my loved ones. Particularly, my dogs.
Home Euthanasia Dogs — Veterinary Services
Many veterinarians now offer home euthanasia appointments with similar services to what you would expect from Hospice. Your own veterinarian can arrange for services at home, or refer you to someone else who will perform them. You can also contact Lap of Love, a national organization that will connect you to local resources (see video below).
When you use home euthanasia dogs don’t have to go to the vet — eliminating a major source of stress. Having someone come to the home is a lot less stressful than going the vet and being in a cage or a cold table!
Typical home euthanasia services are individualized for you, your dog, and your home situation. You can basically expect the following:
- A good overview of the whole process, with the veterinarian answering your questions in as much or as little detail as you need.
- The use of a mild sedative to make your dog very relaxed and pain-free, calm and comfortable. Your pup will usually sleep after a little while.
- The actual euthanasia injection, usually pentobarbital.
- There is often a clay paw print taken, and sometimes a lock of fur, so you have a memento.
- A death certificate that memorializes what happened.
- Transportation, if you want it, for cremation.
- Updating any other veterinarians who need to know of your dog’s passing.
Here’s an excellent video from the founder of Lap of Love about what to expect at the moment itself:
Everyone Can Say Goodbye In Their Own Way
Everyone handles grief differently, and having home euthanasia allows each individual to make their decisions. Other pets often seem to want to be there for their pack member when they pass, and we know for certain that they understand the concept of death. By letting your other dogs and cats inspect the body, you help them to process the knowledge that their buddy has gone on from this life, and to start their own grieving.
Yes, animals grieve. From what I’ve personally seen, animals seem to understand death — and how to handle it — better than we do. So if you feel like your other pets should be there, they should have the option.
Of course, other family members, friends, and even children might want to be there, too. I was far away when my aunt died, and one of my only real life regrets is that I was not able to be in that room as she passed. This is a very important, sensitive decision, but one of the nice things about home euthanasia is that you have control over who is there.
You’re not in the back office, with only room for one or two extra people.
You’re at home, cuddling your dog, holding her while she passes. Where on earth else should you be?
Let your beautiful and beloved face be the last thing he sees.
Many blessings to you,
Molly Jacobson is a writer and also the editor of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, published by Maui Media. A lifelong dog lover and self-professed dog health nerd, she is all too familiar with dog cancer. She has been supporting readers of this blog since the beginning. Molly earned a BA from Tufts University, and after a career in bookselling and book publishing attended The Swedish Institute to become a licensed massage therapist in New York State, licensed by the medical board. Her fascination with health is both personal and global, and she is most proud of how this site and the associated publications have revolutionized not only our approach to dog health, but our own health.