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What to Expect

Understand the in-home euthanasia process.

What to Expect


A source of enormous anxiety in many pet owners is the unknown.  When your pet nears death, it can be a very scary time.  It may be that your pet is simply very elderly and you know that something is going to give, or perhaps your pet has already been diagnosed with a terminal illness and you are trying to get ready for something you can’t possibly be ready for.  You may not know what happens after death, but you can at least understand the euthanasia process itself.

What this article will concentrate on is exactly what will happen when the time comes that you elect humane euthanasia.  I highly recommend that you consider planning for an in-home experience, and not just because I do that for a living.  I have found that the experience can be far superior for everyone involved.

If you elect to have an in-home euthanasia, by the time of the procedure itself, you will already have spoken to a mobile vet such as Doorstep Vet to schedule this visit.  Generally this can be done with fairly short notice (often same-day), however if you know the time is near, it is a great idea to reach out to a housecall vet ahead of time so they are aware they’ll be hearing from you and will be able to meet your needs more easily.  At Doorstep Vet we schedule our visits with an arrival window.  Your scheduled time will mark the beginning of that window and your vet will arrive within that window, which is typically one hour.  This allows for the demands of traffic and also unexpected needs of previous pets and their families. Your vet will call or text you when she is on the way so you aren’t left wondering when exactly to expect her.

Once your vet arrives, she’ll go over paperwork and bookkeeping items first, though we always offer the option of doing these things online ahead of time.  This usually just involves firming plans for aftercare (cremation) if it isn’t already decided, signing a form, and payment (which can be cash, credit card, Scratchpay, or check).

After we’ve gotten through that, the next step is the sedation.  Your vet will greet your pet and make sure they are comfortable with our presence and as relaxed as can be.  At that point, she’ll inject your pet with a very heavy sedative that can be administered on any part of their body, so you can hold them or comfort them throughout.  Once sedated, they will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to fall asleep.  Some pets require more sedation than others.  In the case that a pet does not become as sleepy as we would like, your vet will simply administer additional sedation.  This is generally ignored by your pet as they will already be pretty sleepy from the first shot.  As the sedation sets in, your pet will relax and all of their anxiety and pain will melt away.  As your pet become sleepy, we will place a potty pad under them to keep them and your home tidy.  We will usually also snuggle them up in a blanket.  Once your pet is sleeping and won’t be bothered, we will prepare any memorial items such as your complimentary paw impression and hair clipping.

When you are ready (or as ready as you can be, anyway) your vet will administer the euthanasia solution.  This is an injection that can go into a vein or as an injection in to the belly.  If using a vein, your vet may place an IV catheter first.  We will always tell you what we’re doing with each step so you don’t have to worry that your pet will pass without you realizing.  Most pets will pass away during or directly after the euthanasia solution is administered.  We will listen to the heart afterwards to confirm that they have passed.

If Doorstep Vet is going to be providing aftercare for your pet’s remains we will take them to our vehicle after you have said your goodbyes.  For larger pets, we do need a family member to help us transport your pet to our vehicle.  We use a stretcher for this process and we think of it as being a pall bearer for your beloved pet.

If you’ll be getting your pet’s ashes back, we either let you know when and how to pick them up or we will be shipping them back to you depending on what you’ve decided ahead of time.  It typically takes several weeks for your pet’s ashes to be ready to come back to you.

In the end, you’ll only get to spend your last minutes with your pet once.  The experience can be filled with worry and fear or peace and love.  You owe it to your pet and to yourself to try to make it a time of peace and love.