Dog Euthanasia: Putting a 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, he has 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 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 kissed. 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 in all cases the procedure was 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 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 post-poned 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.
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, of course apply, as scenarios may be different from one case to another. 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.
Where would you prefer to put a dog to sleep?
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
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