Debunking the Myths of In-Home Pet Euthanasia

One of the most difficult parts of being a pet owner is when we realize we must say goodbye. It is such a heartbreaking decision to make, and thinking about taking that final trip to the veterinary clinic can be overwhelming. In recent years, another option has become much more common: in-home end-of-life services. Many families have found that being able to say goodbye in their own home, and not needing to make that final trip to the clinic, has been a very valuable alternative for them. Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions associated with in-home pet euthanasia, many of these discouraging people from considering it as an option for their pet. And while the decision will always depend on personal preference, we feel it is helpful to “debunk” some of the myths of in-home pet euthanasia, to clear up some of the misconceptions, and answer some of the questions we frequently hear.

Why choose in-home pet euthanasia?

Traditional veterinary clinics provide an invaluable and irreplaceable service. They help our pets not only with routine care and emergency services, but they are also there to help our pets when they need help passing away. However, some of our pets may not enjoy going to the clinic, no matter how valuable it is for them. Some pets associate the clinic and staff with being poked and prodded or experiencing unfamiliar smells and people. Many pets are very nervous when they are in the clinic. Of course, there are other pets who love going to the vet and love the people they see there!

Some pets are terrified just to go in the car (cats, especially), or can be very large and difficult to transport. Sometimes the act of trying to get your pet into the car, or into a carrier, is a daunting one. Many of these challenges can be eliminated when a doctor can come to your home.

When it seems that a pet has reached the end of its life, the idea of taking a final trip into the vet can be overwhelming, especially if we have pets who grow very anxious when they have to go into the clinic. Requiring them to spend the last moments of their life in a place that has been scary and unsettling can be very upsetting, and even traumatizing for the pet owner. Though many times this is the only option (especially in emergency situations), MN Pets presents an alternative to this. By allowing the visit to take place in your home, your pet can be in the place where they are most comfortable, surrounded by their familiar smells and people.

We understand, however, that you may still have questions and concerns surrounding the idea of euthanizing your pet at home. We hope to address some of those concerns and provide helpful information.

Common Questions and Concerns

Where will the visit take place?

The visit will take place in your home. Many families wonder if “mobile practice” means the doctor will bring a van and the visit will take place in the van or elsewhere outside of the home. Our doctor will, in fact, come into your home for the visit. This way your pet can be in the place he or she is most comfortable and peaceful and you don’t have to worry about taking him or her outside of your home.

Won’t it be too upsetting for family members to have this experience at home?

One of the concerns we most commonly hear is that it might be very upsetting for the family to see their pet pass away at home. It may be a bad memory for family members, or they will never be able to look at the spot where the pet passed in the same way. We completely understand these concerns. This is an emotional, heartbreaking event, and it seems like it would be difficult to go through in one’s home. However, by allowing a pet to be in the place where they are most comfortable and peaceful, and not asking them to be in the clinic, we are giving the gift of a peaceful passing. Though it may be sad for us, it is so much more peaceful for them. We like to think of it as a final gift to our furry family members – to be able to say goodbye in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by the love of their family.

Should my other pets be present?

Sometimes family members are concerned that other pets in the household may distract from the experience (getting in the way or being too energetic) or that the death of a companion may possibly be upsetting for other pets to witness. To address the latter, this is an understandable concern. It will be upsetting enough for our pets to lose their friend – should they witness it as well? After being present for thousands of home euthanasia visits where other pets have been in attendance, our experience is very much the opposite.  The process is very gentle and peaceful and being present allows other pets to be aware of what happens to their friend. Of course, the decision is always up to the family. Each family knows their pets best.

Additionally, if a family has a pet who is very energetic, and if they are afraid that their pet may try to be too involved in the process or get in the way, it is perfectly fine if they feel the pet should hang out elsewhere during the majority of the visit. If a family decides for any reason not to have their other pets present, we would recommend they allow their other pet to see their pet’s body after the pet has passed. By being able to see and sniff their friend, they are able to understand what has happened and have closure, and not be left wondering where their friend has gone.

Should my children be present?

Another very common concern we hear is whether or not children should be present. This is another decision that is completely up to the family, and we are happy to offer some guidance and helpful resources. We feel it’s most helpful if children are always informed. Parents can present children with the option of being present or not.  Its important that they feel aware and informed of this decision regarding their furry family member. Honesty is very important, and while it can feel so much easier to keep upsetting things from our children, it is essential that we are open and honest about this. We have some resources that we would be happy to share with you that are very helpful for knowing how to approach this topic with our children. We even have an article that addresses each developmental stage, how children of different ages process and cope with pet loss, and how they may express their grief.

How does the doctor give the medications?

The doctor administers medications in two steps.  The first is a sedative and the second medication brings about a peaceful death.  Both the sedative and the final medication are given by injection.  The location of the injection varies depending on what the doctor feels would be the most comfortable for the pet and can be in the front leg, hind leg or side of the body. The first sedative injection may be a little uncomfortable, and your pet might feel a little prick as with a vaccine injection.  We use the most comfortable and effective medications available.

Is it messy?

Many people wonder if the visit will be messy. In general, it is very peaceful and not messy. Because the sedative that the doctors give is so relaxing, our pets will sometimes let go of their bladder or bowels during the visit.  Our doctors come prepared for this with potty pads to place under the pet in case this happens

How long does the visit take?

In general, our visit lasts about 45 minutes. Our doctors will never rush a family through the visit. This is such an intimate, emotional time for the family, and our doctors are there to support and help every step of the way. Our doctors love to listen to precious stories about the sweet pet, and they are also happy to answer any and all questions the family may have. Especially when children are present, our doctors make sure to be clear and informative, and they patiently and compassionately answer any and all questions a family may have.

Will my pet be able to hear me after they have been sedated?

We don’t know for certain if our pets can hear us, but we do feel that speaking to them, petting them, and giving them so much love during the visit is a very good thing to do, if the family is comfortable doing this. While we can’t say for certain that they can hear us, we also don’t know that they can’t, and for that reason we feel that being there with our pets and loving them through every moment is a beautiful thing to do. I have spoken to some doctors who do believe that our pets can hear and feel our presence even after the sedative is given.

This brings us to our next question…

What if I don’t think I can stay and watch?

Many people feel like they can’t bear to stay for the visit. We understand this as well. It is such a heartbreaking thing to have to say goodbye to our pets. If you feel you can’t stay to watch your pet say goodbye, that is perfectly fine. Some people prefer to step out of the room while their pet is peacefully sleeping, after the sedative has been given. That is just fine. Our doctor will gently stay by your pet’s side and will love and support them as they pass away. If you feel you cannot see your pet’s body after they have passed away, that is okay too. We understand this and our doctors are happy to accommodate this.

If you have any other questions regarding an in-home pet euthanasia visit, please feel free to ask us. We feel that it is so very important for families to be fully informed about all the options that they have for their precious pets.


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