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Dog Euthanasia: Putting a Dog to Sleep at Home

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.

Putting dog to sleep at home

Putting dog to sleep at home

Man's Best Friend Loves Its Home Sweet Home

There is no doubt that dogs love our homes—they live, play, and eat there, are surrounded by familiar smells, and generally cherish it immensely because it is the pulsating heart of their lives where many happy memories have taken place. Your dog has likely lived within your precious four walls since puppyhood, or if your dog was rescued, they have learned how good it feels to call your place home.

Because dogs are so attached to our homes, it makes sense to want to help your beloved dog go to a better place in the comforting and familiar surroundings of his home. For many dog owners, this can be the ultimate act of kindness and proof of love. Whether your dog is very old or affected by a devastating illness, your dog may be much calmer if you put him to sleep at home.

My Experience at the Vet's Office

Working alongside veterinarians, I have seen my fair share of euthanasia appointments. The first appointments in my career were very hard for me to witness and resulted in countless trips to the restroom just to shed tears. It took several minutes for me to regain the composure necessary for looking professional again so to charge the owner's credit card and let them know when the ashes were back from the cremation services.

Euthanasia appointment after euthansia appointment, I started getting a hang of it and no longer needed to run to the restroom to hide my tears, but I must admit that feelings of deep sorrow were still seeping inside, almost as if crawling around my body and waiting to discharge. While I was able to keep my tears at bay, this feeling never left my body...

The routine was always the same; I prepared the exam room by looking at the chart. If the dog was small, I placed a soft blanket on the examination table, while if the dog was large, I placed it over the floor. I then called the owners and dog in the examination room and helped them fill paper work. Depending on the dog's level of health, some were carried or others were simply on leash. In severe cases, the dog was carried on stretchers.

Some dog owners were very composed, while others were barely able to write because their hand shook so much! "What day is it today?" was a common question I was asked, an incontestable sign to me that the owners were too overwhelmed to remember something as futile as a date. I therefore got into the habit of checking the date before heading for the euthanasia appointment so I could be ready. When time permitted, I often pre-filled that section.

Once paperwork was done and I verified the dog did not bite or scratch in the past 10 days to abide to the local rabies' law, I gave them a few minutes alone with their pet and told them "the vet will be with you shortly." Time always seemed to go too fast. As the vet entered the room, the family members were likely still embracing the dog in a last hug or caressing his fur and giving kisses. These seconds were often the most touching for me as the dog seemed to have no clue as to why the owners were crying and so worried.

As much as the procedure was peaceful and the dog slipped away in a deep sleep, I can say that not all procedures were completely peaceful as the dog owners may have wished. Dogs who have learned to associate the vet with medical procedures, shots, and pain were visibly nervous. Some were panting, some were shaking, others were giving lots of calming signals. In some cases, the dogs were so fractious that they were given sedatives. Some dog owners who knew their dogs well actually asked their vet to prescribe sedatives to give their dog prior to the appointment. This seemed to help tremendously.

Once the dog was put to sleep and the vet confirmed a lack of heart beat, the dog owner was left again in the room with the dog to give their final farewell. This was very difficult for many dog owners; I believe that leaving their dogs' lifeless body behind was probably the worst part. Countless times, the dog owners remained there for hours, and we had to close and tell them in the kindest way to leave. I could not bare doing that and so did many of my colleagues, so the task was left to the main supervisor in charge of closing that evening.

Once leaving their best friend behind, the clients often stopped by me to pay for the charges but often this had to be postponed because that was the last thing the owners wanted to think about. In that case, I would put the bill in an envelope for them to receive in the mail. In the meanwhile, the vet assistants placed the dog's lifeless body in a black bag and stored it in the big freezer, ready to be picked up by the cremation company that came twice a week.

As the dog owners left the hospital, we noticed many were very distraught. Some left running in tears, while others mistakenly used the wrong exit door. At times, we were concerned about them driving home in those conditions. So we had a meeting and after discussing about it, we made it a habit to recommend having a friend come along for emotional support and to drive them safely back home. This was reminded by all of us upon scheduling any euthanasia appointment.

To learn more about dog euthanasia appointment read: What happens During Dog Euthanasia Appointment.

A Favorable Alternative: Dog Euthanasia at Home

More and more dog owners were calling our veterinarian office asking for alternatives to scheduling a vet appointment to put their dog to sleep. Initially, this was the only option, until one day a mobile vet stopped by to give us business cards. The mobile vet explained to us that part of his job also entailed putting dogs to sleep in the comfort of their homes. I was impressed by this vet's description of what he did and was glad to refer several clients to this vet and many came to the office to personally thank me. They often reported the procedure at home was very peaceful and serene. These appointments seemed to save the dogs and owners lots of anguish.

The following are many benefits in having a dog put to sleep at home:

  • The dog is obviously calmer in familiar surroundings.
  • The dog can rest comfortably in its favorite sleeping spot.
  • The dog does not have to go on a car drive which can be distressing to a sick, old or fractious dog.
  • The dog does not have to be forced to walk in and out of the car or carried up a flight of stairs.
  • The owner does not have to worry about driving the dog to the hospital.
  • The owner does not have to worry about appearing emotional in front of a bunch of strangers.
  • The owner does not have to worry about their dog getting nervous from remembering unpleasant former vet visits.
  • The owner does not have to worry about driving back home in distress.
  • The owner does not have to leave his/hers dog's lifeless body behind.
  • The owner can ultimately spend as much time as wanted with the dog by coordinating pick-up services for cremation or burial at a later time.
  • The owner can bury the dog directly in the yard or farm if local laws permit. To learn more about this read: What to do When Dog Dies at Home.

While putting a dog to sleep at home offers many advantages, there are a few disadvantages to keep in mind. Not all apply as scenarios may be different from one case to another. The following are some disadvantages.

  • Some dogs are more collaborative when not in familiar surroundings. Because some dogs feel more confident at home, they may make the procedure more difficult than at the vet's office.
  • At the vet's office equipment and help is handy. If the dog needs muzzled they have many muzzles, if a dose of Valium is needed, this is not a problem, and of course, an assistant is always within earshot.
  • Arrangements are taken cared of. If you have the procedure done at the vet's office they will likely take care of freezing the body and having the cremation or burial services pick it up.
  • Putting a dog to sleep at home is more costly. Because the vet has to come to your home, expect to pay more than having the procedure done at the hospital.
  • It may be difficult to find a mobile vet or a vet that does house calls. Some vets that have known clients for many years may come to the owner's home to put a dog to sleep as a courtesy favor.

As seen, there are many advantages in putting a dog to sleep at home and a few disadvantages. There are ultimately no right or wrong answers; it really depends on your pet and yourself. Some dogs do perfectly fine at the vet especially if they have grown to love the vet and have associated the office with good things. I have seen my fair share of tail wags, as the vet caressed the dogs they have watched grow since puppy-hood. These dogs appeared calm and felt as if at home. Only you know your dog best so you can ultimately make the best choice for yourself and your dog.

For Further Reading

  • When to put a dog to sleep
    When should a dog be put to sleep? Warning signs a dog is dying and comforting thoughts about dog euthanasia. Post your questions or share your experience.
  • Dog Euthanesia: Everything Pet Owners Should Know
    It may just feel like days ago when your best friend was just a puppy romping around and now you wake up to find a white muzzled friend, with a touch of arthritis but still happy to see you around. It is a very sad fact to acknowledge this, but our..

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: So where can a guy get a good home euthanasia kit? Whatever the cost, I just don't want my dogs last moments of consciousness to be fearful.

Answer: The euthanasia solution used to euthanize animals is a strictly controlled substance. You cannot find it in stores and it only can be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Question: How much is the kit to euthanize a dog at home?

Answer: There are no kits to euthanize a dog at home. The drug used to euthanize a dog is a controlled substance that is highly regulated and made available only to veterinarians due to the high chance for abuse, not to mention this drug is highly dangerous in the wrong hands.

Question: I don't have the money to take my dog the vet what can I use at home to euthanize my dog?

Answer: Unfortunately, there is no humane way to put a dog to sleep at home. The drugs used to put dogs to sleep are controlled substances that only veterinarians have access to. However, if you don't have money, you can try to contact your local shelter and see if they have a low-cost vet they can refer you to or you can try to apply for Care Credit.

Question: Should I have my other dogs present for my dog's euthanasia? They are very close!

Answer: If they are very close, it can help them bring a sense of closure versus waiting for your dog and not seeing him/her come home. Many vets are accommodating for this and encourage dog owners to bring along their other pets for the euthanasia. They can be present during the procedure or right afterwards for a last sniff and goodbye. Usually, they get the idea rather quickly.

Comments

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 27, 2020:

Costs for putting a dog to sleep vary and are based on weight and what type of cremation you want. In general may range from $120 to 400.

Chelsea on July 27, 2020:

How much does it cost to put your dog to sleep

tigermann9mm@gmail.com on June 19, 2019:

Took my best friend to the Emergency Pet Hospital a few nights ago and

received his death sentence which turns out to be a month to less than , a year . Seems he has a tumor on his spleen and it has spread .

Ace is a Red Min-pin , I chose this breed for thier longevity , 14 - 17 years .

Ace has given me 11 fantastic and most enjoyable friendship filled years ,

and has helped me in so many ways , I am having a hard time with this !

He has always been there for me , and now it's time for me to step up .

I do not want him to suffer or be in pain for one millisecond , but I do not

want to want to jump the gun and put him

Cathywendel69@gmail.com on July 06, 2018:

I have a 14 year papion. She is so sweet. However, has a spin injury and arthritis and has no control of pooping and urinating. She can't see nor hear. Her sense of smell is also failing. She still drinks and eats. Her quality of life has diminished dramatically. What to put here down but can't bring to do it.! What do I dooo?

cybersleuth58 on December 30, 2012:

I put my 15 year old beagle mix to sleep a while ago. Afterward, I adopted a few rescues in her honor because she was always such a kind and welcoming soul to homeless & abandoned animals. Even though it has been several years, I still miss her and cry when I think about her. I worry that I acted too soon... When she got to the Vet's office she rallied and wanted me to take her home. I live with the guilt of not having done so. Now my rescues are getting older; I dread having to face having to make that decision for them. I love my dogs more than life itself. With no living family they are all I have.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 28, 2012:

Sorry to hear about your loss. Being in the car, with familiar smells, and a history of many fun times together, is like bringing a piece of home along, a better option than a vet's office where dogs are often stressed and there are memories of shots and possibly painful procedures. My deepest condolences.

jimmar from Michigan on September 27, 2012:

Thoughtfully written. Thanks. We recently put our 14yr old Chocolat Lab to sleep. I folded the seats down in my SUV so he could ride close to us on the trip the the Vets office. I had to lift him into the car. The Vet was very thoughtful and came out to the car to do the proceedure. I was holding his head when he slipped away, thought I would be able to handle it but the tears were uncontrollable. I brought him home and burried him in the woods on our property, which is also another emotionally difficult task. Thanks again.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 22, 2012:

Thanking you for commenting on my hub on putting a dog to sleep at home. I think it is even more important with cats which are even more attached to homes than dogs.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 22, 2012:

Thank you blaeberry, when my dogs' time comes I hopefully will be able to arrange it this way if necessary..

Gloria from France on April 22, 2012:

What a wonderful hub, It really does make sense when you read it to have your dog put to rest at home. Like you said with the familiar surroundings and smells.

I never got the opportunity with our last dog as they had to operate to see what was the problem (won't go into details) but will definitely consider it next time.

Thank you for your caring approach on this subject.

blaeberry from Scotland on April 21, 2012:

This is a useful hub. It's not something I want to think about but there will come a time when I need to. Thanks for handling the topic with such sensitivity.