There have been a number of wonderful advances in veterinarian services in the last decade, but the one I find most comforting is the inclusion of at-home euthanasia. In most parts of the country the implementation process has gone from an obscure practice (usually only granted by veterinarians with a long established relationship with their clients) to a mainstream service. So much so that some practices devote all their attention to helping clients say their final goodbyes to their companions in the comfort of the animal’s home with ‘mobile’ clinics.
The decision to end a life is never an easy one. Many guardians resist having to bring their companions into the clinic where the animal has previously demonstrated stress, whether by the car ride (cats are notorious for not liking vehicles), the noise of the clinic, prior experiences within the clinic or the sterile, decidedly un-home like surroundings of steel tables and background noise and smells. Not to mention the energy of the clinic. That is not to say in any way that our vets do not try to provide a quiet, comfortable room with the empathetic staff in attendants. But they cannot make it ‘home’ no matter how hard they try.
The at-home transition has pros and cons and both should be considered in order to make an informed decision. For some seeing the place where their companion spent her last minutes is disturbing to the point of avoiding the room where it occurred. Not all at-home transitions go as smooth as one would like, especially if the companion is dehydrated where a vein is difficult to find or drug administration has caused a seizure or convulsion for any number of reason having to do with the individual companion’s biological make up. The risk of a ‘messy’ transition can be minimized by administering a sedative prior to the lethal drug. There is the possibility of bodily functions being released during or shortly after the death such as a gasp, urine or pooh and the guardian should be made aware of this. There are other logistical issues such as transport of the body. If the companion is a big dog, many at-home vets bring minimum staff and it can be upsetting to watch them struggle with the companion. There is the issue of timing. Most at-home euthanasia requires, understandably, an appointment. So if your companion suddenly becomes distressed, whether in breathing or some other issue that does not allow time, the compassionate release may not be able to be conducted at home. Most of these previously mentioned conflicts can be resolved by having a pointed discussion with your veterinarian in advance.
That being said, at-home euthanasia can be a comforting venue for our final minutes with our companions and well worth exploration. The companion is in favorite chair or our on our lawn in the sun, surrounded by the family they love. (Discuss who will be in attendance in advance). The day is as peaceful for him as it can be made. There are no odd smells or stresses of other animals, no noise that does not belong. All these things are home to the companion and though it is a stressful time for the guardian, many guardians find it a bit easier to help their companion transition in the privacy of their home where they do not have to worry about other eyes on them or driving under the influence of an overwhelming loss.
In the interviews I conducted for this article none of the guardians experienced any negative issue before, during or after the at-home assisted transition. They overwhelmingly agreed that at-home euthanasia was a more peaceful experience for both them and their companion and left them feeling a relief in the fact that they had done their very best for the one they loved. There are some links that follow this article to help find an at-home euthanasia vet. You can also ask your veterinarian (if he/she does not perform the service) for help in finding one in your area.
Consider all aspects. It is not an option for everyone or for every companion, but when it is right the decision to be at home in this trying time can make a difference in the transition and the days afterward.