17 February 2012

At-home pet euthanasia

Excerpts from a story last fall in the Washington Post:
Like a growing number of vets in the region, Rabinowitz, who is based in Baltimore, decided a few years ago to build her practice on end-of-life house calls for those who want more for their pets’ last moments than a frightened scrabble on a cold steel exam table. At $200 for a sedative followed by the killing barbiturate, she charges more than twice what most vets do for an office euthanasia. But she has found no shortage of owners willing to pay the premium.

“Going to the vet was always stressful,” Schenning said. “I didn’t want her last day on this Earth to be, ‘Oh, no, we’re going into that white building.’ ”...

Back in the day, of course, it was common for family animals to die at home, whether from natural causes, a shot from the family rifle or a needle from the bag of a vet who routinely traveled from house to house and farm to farm. But the rise of clinic-based animal care meant that the most common scene of a pet’s demise shifted to an office setting.
Now it’s shifting back, according to Kathleen Cooney, a Colorado veterinarian who works as a consultant to practitioners getting into the home-euthanasia business. On average, three vets a month sign up for the national service she runs, the In Home Pet Euthanasia Directory...

The home setting allows for some very personal expressions of pet love and loss, Erwin said. In the three or four euthanasias she does a week, she has put animals to sleep in “favorite spots” ranging from front porches to under trees, even on the couches and cushions that might have been forbidden them in life.

At one Leesburg house recently, the death watch was more of a party. Grandparents and neighbors sipped wine and told stories about the old dog. The children had drawn pictures to be cremated with him. A 9-year-old boy never left his pet’s side until after Erwin had applied two sedatives and, when they were ready, the final shot. Then the boy went up and got the blanket off his own bed to wrap the still body.

“It’s so sweet and profound,” Erwin said. “The kids saw that death doesn’t have to be this horrible monster at the end of the book.”
Related:  Scott Adams puts his cat down.


  1. My last two cats -- aged 17.5 and 18 years respectively -- were euthanized at home, one year apart. My vet performed both euthanasias as house calls, and charged me the normal rate plus a $25 premium for the house call, a bargain at four times the price.

    There is no comparison between a home euthanasia and the trauma of doing it at the vet's. One of my cats died on her window hammock in the sunshine, the other died on my lap. Both were peaceful and utterly without stress -- to the cat, that is. But my stress had only to do with my own grief, and not with the guilt and horror that comes from watching your pet die on a steel table.

    I'm glad I didn't have to pay a special service to perform these euthanasias. It meant a lot to me to have my vet, who had known these cats for over a decade, come to my house and assure me that yes, it was time and I was doing the right thing. And to top it off, he sent personalized cards a week or so after each event. That kind of deep, long-term connection cannot be matched by a special service. (It might be a small town thing, now that I think about it.)

    But if I hadn't had a vet who provided this final, priceless service, I'd have called up someone like Rabinowitz in a heartbeat. Where it exists, that is a niche desperately in need of filling.

  2. My vet came to my house to euthanize the last two dogs that I lost. I don't remember how much extra it cost--my mind was elsewhere at the time--but it was worth it. He calls putting down an animal "the worst part of the best job in the world." The fact that he'll make house calls for this distressing event makes him the best vet in the world to me.

    1. I hear you. Our vet made a house call to put our 17-year old tabby down a few years ago. She went to sleep in the same favourite spot she'd slept for years - lying in the spring sunshine on the doorstep of my wood shop. I don't know if the vet even charged a premium, but it didn't matter.

  3. As a veterinarian that has limited my practice to just In Home Hospice and Euthanasia, I have been blessed to meet the most wonderful families and to help them during one of the most difficult times. Helping families with Quality of Life questions is a big part of what I do. But when the time is 'right' it is wonderful to be able to do it at home.

    I know Dr. Cooney personally and Colorado is lucky to have her!

    I'm proud to say that we (Lap of Love) now have 24 vets in 5 states offering this service. It's been a wonderful growing trend and one that I am proud to be apart of.

    Mary Gardner, DVM
    Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice and In Home Euthanasia

  4. I too have had this done in my home with one of our beloved family members. I sincerely appreciate that it was a small house call above the regular price and not a 400% premium price. I may have had to reconsider otherwise.

    Our little girl went to sleep in the sunshine on the family bed surrounded by her family and purring to her last breath. Her passing was one of the less-difficult losses we've faced as caretakers of the little ones. Now that we've moved to a new city, I need to find another service provider to have on hand for our others. They deserve this.


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