When the time comes to say goodbye, where will it be? A large and growing number of you seem to prefer that it happen in your own homes. After all, that’s where you and your pet shared the most time and feel most comfortable. 

Maybe you’d prefer not to risk an intractable memory of her last breath within the confines of the four walls you inhabit, but you feel you owe it to her, anyway. What’s one teensy sacrifice of potentially prolonged grief so that she can experience the least amount of stress in her last moments? 

These and many other issues guide owners in their decision to pursue at-home euthanasia alternatives to the standard in-hospital variety. The cultural shift towards pets-as-family and the personal preference of most humans to die at home conspire to make house-call euthanasia services an increasingly sought-after approach to end-of-life care.

Yet just as our society is shifting in this direction, veterinary hospitals are increasingly loath to send their veterinarians out on house calls, even for their very best clients with whom a personal relationship is unquestionably at play. 

As veterinary medicine comes into its own, the list of services we offer is large and growing. And I’m not talking about grooming, boarding and day care. Everything from rehabilitation therapy to weight loss programs and all manner of specialty care including non-invasive surgery, laser techniques, and telemedicine are rapidly consuming our time and energy. 

They’re all laudable directions, but sometimes I think the soul of veterinary medicine is cannibalized by this drive to bring bigger and better medicine to a pet near you. 

That’s because the certified technicians, specialized equipment and careful attention to protocol required by better medicine means hospitals are larger, more efficient and more professional. And sometimes that translates into “less personal,” particularly when it comes to concessions like taking the time out of a busy schedule to come to your house to euthanize your pet.

Not that I condemn my profession for its advances––indeed, I’m proud of them––but when it means that scheduling conflicts, low profitability issues and insurance concerns trump the very sensitive, highly emotional, and undeniably unique aspects of euthanasia in veterinary medicine, I get to worrying about the direction we’re headed in as a profession. 

Sure, some practices will always retain a palpably personal feel. They’re driven hard by their core values: ministering not only to your pet but to the almighty “human-animal bond.” Knowing they can’t necessarily send out their veterinarians and staff on house calls, they’ve taken a new approach: creating “death suites.”

No, we don’t really call them that. But I do. These are rooms tricked out with low lighting, soft furniture and tissues aplenty. They’re designed so that even if your pet has to be euthanized in-house (because they can’t come to you), you can have as close to a home-like experience as possible. This is a great approach, one I wish more hospitals would adopt in lieu of standard hospital euthanasia. 

Similarly, the advent of euthanasia-only house-call veterinarians in some areas means that veterinarians with a soft touch and a kind way with words can serve as a stand-in for your regular veterinarian at this critical time. No, it’s not ideal, but it does underscore that many in the veterinary profession feel as I do: Sometimes there’s no substitute for the personal house call. 

Yes, there’s something about home that makes euthanasia more soothing. But I also understand it’s not for everyone. Still, the choice to have your veterinarian come out to render final care is one I believe every pet owner should have access to.