Rene and I were chatting the other day and she brought up the subject of at home euthanasia. I was fortunate enough to be able to do this for my cat Em who was dying of cancer. I know many people are very uncomfortable with this topic, but we take on pets knowing their life span is designed to be shorter than our own, and this will inevitably be something we will have to deal with. I hope you find some benefit to this discussion.
What I know about at-home euthanasia
Disclaimer: This post will contain difficult-to-read content about euthanasia done in your home. I will not post graphic photos, but please know there will be honest, explicit content about the process.
|The last photo I took of our Tucker, the day before he died|
For anyone who owns a cat, there will come a time when the end of their life is near. Sometimes, your cat will pass on his/her own, but unfortunately, many times they will need help in passing. Most cat owners know that vet offices offer euthanasia, but few know that some vets will come to your home and perform the same procedure.
We had to make this unfortunate decision with our Tucker in July 2014. He had lung cancer, and his breathing was labored. If my husband hadn’t made a comment about having the euthanasia at home, I would not have known to consider it.
Why consider at-home euthanasia?
• Your cat is traumatized by car rides or trips to the vet
• Your cat is having difficulty breathing or is injured and you don’t want to move him/her into a carrier or the car.
• You want the comfort and privacy of your own home
• You want your cat to have his/her final moments in familiar surroundings.
How to find a vet who offers this service:
• Start by asking your regular vet. If he/she doesn’t offer it, they may have a suggestion of someone who does. We were lucky to have a recommendation from our regular vet’s office. You can also search online.
• Call ahead to inquire about their services (if possible), even if it’s just a few hours ahead. The vet we used was wonderful in coaching and offering information during this stressful time. Here are some questions to ask when you make a query call:
What services do you offer for the body? (Our vet contracted with a local pet cemetery for cremation. In some areas you may be able to keep the body for your own burial.)
What are your fees? (I must admit, I didn’t ask this question, but our vet offered the fee structure. I honestly didn’t care. Know that at-home vets may charge mileage, and an at-home euthanasia will probably cost more than an in-office one. I felt the extra charge was fair, given it was 10:30 on a Friday night.)
What types of payment do you accept? (Our vet took only cash or checks. We wrote a check and went online to transfer the funds from our bank.)
How will you deliver the remains? (if you choose an individual cremation) (The vet we used lived a good 45 minutes away, so I was fine with meeting at a park and ride.)
What is your general schedule? (One of the vets I called would not come during evenings.)
How will you perform the procedure? (Though this is a difficult question, it is good to know ahead of time so there won’t be any surprises.)
After you make “that call,” it is helpful to have these items handy to help with the procedure: a plastic garbage bag and a large old towel.
When the vet arrives
The vet will allow you time to say goodbye (we had waited an hour before she arrived and had already done this). You may also choose to pay before the procedure is done—I recommend doing this. We paid around $400 for the mileage, procedure, cremation, and an extra $25 for a paw print medallion like the photo below.
Choose a place in your home with some floor room. Position the cat near you, your spouse, or any loved one who wants to be with your cat. The vet will administer an injection that puts your cat to sleep. Our vet injected without an IV. Given that Tucker was most likely dehydrated from not eating much, I preferred this method. It would have been difficult and stressful to find a vein.
While the injection is fast-acting, it isn’t instant—it may take a few minutes to take affect. I wish I had known this ahead of time. After that injection, Tucker got woozy and tried to get away. If you can, gently hold your cat in place or pet him/her and talk to him/her to comfort him/her while the vet is giving the first injection.
Your cat will slowly relax and appear to fall asleep. His/her eyes may not fully close. After your cat is asleep, the vet may ask for the garbage bag and towel. The garbage bag will act to protect your floor (after death, your cat may release his/her bowels or bladder). The towel will lie between your cat and the bag as padding. When you are ready, the vet will administer the final injection. Ours injected directly into the heart. It was immediate—his heart stopped right away and then he was gone. The vet checked to make sure there was no heartbeat.
The vet will allow you time to be with your cat’s body, if you choose. We chose to let our other cats smell his body, but of course, this is up to you. Our vet went to her car for a little while when we did this.
You may select a special toy or item (like a small blanket) to be cremated with your pet—we chose Tucker’s favorite yarn ball.
|We chose to have Tucker cremated with a favorite toy. This is optional.|
When you are ready, the vet will gently take the body away and place it in her car. She gave instructions on when the remains would be ready (about one week). In total, she was at our house about 20 minutes.
While this isn’t a pleasant subject, I hope this has shed some light on the procedure. I feel that knowledge is power, and while no one wants to make this decision, knowing what to expect made me feel a bit more comforted.