A Gentle Goodbye

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As a veterinarian, I am always grateful that we have the option of ending our patients’ suffering when there is no more hope, when there are no more treatment possibilities to explore or when there is simply a poor quality of life.

I would like to call attention to an additional option for families with animal companions- euthanasia performed in the home. This choice spares the sick or dying animal from having to make that last stressful trip into a veterinary office. It allows the animal to pass away with peace and dignity in his own bed amidst the familiar sights, sounds and smells of his own home. The animal’s family can create the environment that they believe will be most soothing for the animal as he passes away-some families may read a poem aloud or play music, others may put the animal’s “favorite” TV show on in the background while still others choose to lie next to their animal and whisper how much they love them into their ear. Additionally, by carrying out the euthanasia in the home, all family members that want to be present can be present-often large groups of friends and family are there to support the beloved animal family member.

It is an especially valuable option for large dogs that are no longer mobile, animals that are in pain when they move or when they are handled, cats (since most tend to be nervous whenever they leave their familiar surroundings), anxious, fearful or aggressive animals, and animals suffering from conditions that could be exacerbated by stress (e.g., trouble breathing, heart failure.) Also, it is a helpful alternative for people who might have difficulty bringing a sick animal into the veterinary office-elderly people, those with decreased mobility or those who do not drive.

Furthermore, in-home euthanasia affords the utmost privacy for the family for saying that final good-bye and for grieving. An at-home euthanasia allows the family to avoid making that sad walk out of the exam room carrying only their dog’s leash and collar or an empty cat carrier, while the other clients knowingly look on sympathetically.

A family’s decision to euthanize a beloved animal family member is an extremely tough one, but we should all be grateful that it’s an option that exists. Once that decision is reached, I believe that a euthanasia performed in the home can make those final moments as peaceful and dignified as possible.

Sarah Barnes, DVM

Eleos Veterinary Service

Roseland, NJ