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What Will Happen If Your Pet Passes Away at Home?

June 16, 2013
Shaved Seal-POint HImalayan cat perches on a carrier and urrs loud enough to hear across the room.

Hi There!

What Happens When It’s Your Pet’s “Time?”

19-year-old Randy visited Doc Truli twice yearly for his physical exams and blood tests. Once a year from the time he was 6 until he was 19, he stayed for a day at the animal hospital and went under anesthesia for a deep dental cleaning. He lost his first tooth at 17 1/2 years old! He really stayed in good health for an ancient Himalayan house cat.

Now, at 19-years-old, the seal-point Himalayan gentleman started to slow down. His kidneys were not as strong as they used to be and he absolutely refused to let his family give him treatments with fluids at home (subcutaneous fluids). He would bite and scratch and run and hide for days if they even tried to holds him for treatments. Doc Truli and Julia, Randy’s mom, knew he would eventually become uncomfortable from the kidney disease.

Cat with breathing tube, IV fluids, and monitoring equipment getting ready for a yearly tooth cleaning

Kitty Dental

The question became, when it is his “time,” should Randy pass away naturally at home, or should we meet at the house or at the hospital to put him down?

5 Advantages of Hospital Pet Euthanasia

1) Easy to plan. Usually, once you reach the decision or your pet suddenly takes a turn for the worst, your vet clinic is open or, if your live near an animal ER, you have  a 24-7 option.

2) Predictable. With a sedative and intravenous administration of a barbiturate overdose (commonplace method in the US), your pet will lose consciousness and pass away without feeling anything stop in the body (like the heart or the breathing.) In some countries, other methods are used like potassium bromide, which stops the heart first and pets may experience a moment of panic because they feel their heart stop. You can ask for anesthesia or heavy sedation to counter this effect.

3) If you are squeamish, you can hand over your pet and have the hospital staff you trust do it for you. Basically, you do not have to see your pet die if you can’t or do not want to see them that way.

4) For the doctor, there’s electricity, good lighting, clean, firm footing, a table at a good height for the knees and the back, space for helpers to hold your pet properly, extra supplies at hand and everything is much more predictably and reliably executed (pun slightly intended.)

5) The hospital can handle the remains of your pet for you if you wish with burial, cremation or private cremation services on site and either their own crematorium or a contract with a respected pet crematorium.

5 Disadvantages of Hospital Pet Euthanasia

1) Not strictly private. Some hospitals have a side door or a back door and can process your paperwork and payment in a private room. But some require you to visit a public waiting room. Many animal hospitals in America will have a grief room with comfortable seating, lighting, and a home-like environment to help when its time.

2) May be noisy and stressful for you and your pet.

3) Your pet needs to travel to the animal hospital. If he or she cannot walk or get into your vehicle, it may not even be possible for you to go to the hospital.

4) You will probably feel disoriented and lost after the procedure. You need a hospital team that understands and guides you through the building (even if you have been there 100’s of times, it is normal to lose your bearings during grief.)

5) You should have another person with you to help drive you home and be sure you are not alone. It is difficult to do normal daily functions, like driving, after you lose a pet. Often, our pets are closer to us and more consistently a reliable friend than most humans and the strength of your grief can be profound and unexpected. You need help at these times.

Next week, VirtuaVet will discuss home euthanasia, and the week after that, allowing your pet to pass away naturally at home. These are highly personal subjects and your philosophy and experience are welcomed in the comments in order to help guide other people. If you would like more guidance for deciding when is the right time, please read VirtuaVet’s Quality of Life information.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. CAROLINE HARDIN permalink
    June 16, 2013 2:08 pm

    This month I lost two of my best friends within two weeks of one another. Snowy a 17 year old bischon toy poodle and Cokey a 16 year old Chihuahua. each one I received from neighbors when they were a year old. we shared many good years together. Two years ago Snowy needed several teeth pulled and during the examination the Dr. told me he had a heart murmur. Snowy made it through the surgery and had been on diuretic and heart medication faithfully until several weeks ago during grooming he had an infection from bite from puppy. I rushed him to Dr. and they checked him out and gave him antibiotics oral and for the ears. he seemed to be doing good and he took the turn for the worst and lost his eye sight and began having seizures. it was late in the evening and I could not go any where. You see, I am a senior of age with Macular degeneration in both eyes. He passed away before I could get him to the dumb friends League. It was horrible watching him die. Then a week later Cokey had lost sight in one eye (She loved Snowy very much and was missing him, looking for him). She could not make it up or down the doggy stairs. I took her to the Dumb friend League and said my good byes after her 16th Birthday.

    I am saddened by my double loss and find myself looking at the toys and were they slept constantly. My neighbors chihuahus had 3 puppies and I am helping them raise them. They have been looking for the seniors they grew to love for five months. It took them a month before they would go on Snowys been (I have cleaned it up). They still look for them. It is heart breaking, but I think of the funny and great times we lived through.


  1. What Happens During House-Call Pet Euthanasia? | VirtuaVet

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