What to Expect During an In-Home Euthanasia

Author: Amber Vibert, DVM


Making the decision to euthanize your beloved pet is never easy and you never feel quite “ready” regardless of the situation. The experience can become even more difficult if your pet experiences significant stress being in a traditional veterinary hospital setting or if physically mobilizing your pet is difficult to do. In-home veterinary euthanasia service can alleviate a lot of that stress because you and your pet are in the comfort of your own home, where the focus can be solely on your pet’s peaceful and dignified passing. Since San Diego Neighborhood Vet recently transitioned from general practice care to strictly palliative, hospice, and end-of-life care, we wanted to take this opportunity to prepare you for what to expect during our in-home euthanasia appointments.


First, we will gather pertinent information about your pet and his/her current health situation when the appointment is made so our veterinarian will have an idea of what to expect regarding your pet’s physical condition. We ask that prior to our arrival, you do your best to have your pet in a space where he/she can’t run and hide or otherwise make it difficult to touch him/her. We want your pet to be comfortable where they are, but we don’t want to cause undo stress trying to extract them from a space that we can’t work in.


When we arrive (there will be a veterinarian and an assistant), we will introduce ourselves and accompany you to wherever you and pet are most comfortable. We can accommodate almost any situation as long as it is safe for everyone involved. We will introduce ourselves to your pet and take time to create familiarity and build some trust. Your veterinarian will explain the process from start to finish and what you can expect each step of the way. If there are kids involved, we always do our best to explain things in an age-appropriate way that is in-line with the narrative that their parents choose. Next, we review authorization paperwork with you and ask you to initial and sign a few items. At this point, most people also choose to get payment taken care of so the rest of the appointment can be focused on their pet.


You and your family can be as involved or not involved as you want to be during the euthanasia process. Some family members may choose to be present the entire time and some may want to leave the room at a certain point. We will support everyone’s choices and we will always take the time to answer your questions before moving on to the next step.


Your veterinarian will start by giving a small injection of medication under the skin between the shoulder blades. This is done in a similar way that a vaccine is given and is relatively painless. The injection is a combination of a sedative, pain medication, and anti-anxiety medication. It takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes to take effect. Your pet will become VERY sleepy to the point where he/she will not be aware of his/her surroundings and not feeling any pain whatsoever. Once this peaceful state is achieved, your veterinarian will let you know that your pet is ready and ask if there is anything else you would like to do or say before the final injection. We will always give you the time and space you need before proceeding. The final medication is then given into a vein in one of the legs. However, sick pets are often dehydrated and sometimes their veins are small and fragile as a result. If this is the case with your pet, your veterinarian will discreetly administer the injection in the belly or the chest. Again, your beloved pet will be in a state of unconsciousness and not feel any pain. The final injection can take 30 seconds to several minutes to take effect depending on the route it was given and your pet’s circulation. Your veterinarian will then listen for the heartbeat and let you know when it has stopped.


If you have made your own aftercare arrangements, we will quietly depart at this time. If we are assisting with aftercare arrangements, we will step away for a few minutes to give you time to say your final goodbyes before we return. We will then swaddle your pet in soft blankets and carry or stretcher them to our vehicle. Rest assured, every pet will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect every step of the way.