Twice in as many weeks I’ve been asked whether I would authorize the at-home euthanasia of a pet…with a household stash of controlled drugs.
Both individuals asking are in the human medical profession. That’s why I’m guessing their query emerged out of (1) an expectation that a house call option was not available; and (2) an understanding that these things can be done at home by someone who knows what they’re doing.
While wrong on number one (several vets in my area make themselves available for at-home euthanasias, including myself), they’d be right on number two — by referencing number one. Some things are best left to the healthcare providers who do it on a regular basis.
Though it is indeed possible to usher your pet from this world on an overdose of oral barbiturates or expired oxycodone prescribed for your last surgery, you won’t catch me recommending it if someone asks me how to euthanize a dog or cat at home — even to my good friends (in fact, one of those asking about this possibility was a human doc and a friend).
And it’s not just the legal angle here that makes me a naysayer when it comes to DIY home euthanasias — nor the money thing (in case you think me mercenary enough to protect my profession and its precious euthanasia income stream). What makes me nervous are the possibilities…
Imagine what would happen if things didn’t go just right.
Let’s say your cat refuses to take more than six of the pills and you’ve somehow calculated that twenty would be a sufficient dose. Let’s say he then has a hard time breathing and you can’t for the life of you get more into him now that he’s so stressed. That’s a nightmare scenario.
Or how about the dog who throws up her load of (how many?) pills while you’re sitting around waiting to say goodbye. What do you do then?
The possibility of something going horribly awry is too great — even if it’s a minor risk — to ever chance it. Not when other options are so readily available. I mean, we don’t live in backwoods Bolivia. This is the U.S., where anything can be had safely, painlessly and conveniently when it comes to pet euthanasia.
Not just that, but it’s like fast food at my place when it comes to euthanasia. "Have it your way" is my motto. I’ll do it at a park in the dark, on a train in the rain…
You get the picture. I’ll customize the entire experience to your taste, as I know other vets will. Want to sedate your pet before I arrive? Let me know, I’ll make it easy for you to do this. I’ll sit at the Starbucks sipping coffee while it takes effect. Want to be in your favorite park? I’ll meet you there.
When questioning how to euthanize a dog or cat at home, understant that there’s no need to take these matters into your own hands (as we hear humans do when faced with end of life issues no healthcare provider will sanction). Talk to your vet to see if they're willing to work with you and your needs.
While I understand the desire to control a pet’s death personally, it’s fraught with too many pitfalls owners might never consider. Some things are, inevitably, best left to the professionals.