Scottsdale member Sharon Laahs says for 19 years her Persian cat, Tomba, filled her house with friendship and love. However, when Tomba stopped eating, couldn’t use the litter box and slept the majority of the day, Laahs says she knew he was approaching the end.
“I always thought I’d never let him suffer, but it’s not easy to let go,” she says.
Not wanting Tomba’s last experience to be a visit to the vet’s office, Laahs researched her options and found Dr. Anthony Gilchrist, owner of Vet to You in Scottsdale, which offers in-home euthanasia. Gilchrist says allowing pets to pass away in their own homes ensures a more relaxed and comfortable experience.
“After doing this in an office for years and now in the pet’s home, I know in-home is easier for them and their owners,” Gilchrist says. Owners opting for in-home care can avoid taking sick pets in the car or bringing them into a new environment with unfamiliar smells, Gilchrist adds.
“The hardest thing in the end is asking yourself if you are making the right decision,” Laahs says. Gilchrist performs an examination, observes a pet’s behavior, asks whether treatment options were exhausted and what led to the choice for euthanasia. If possible, he says he will work with the pet owners if the pet can be treated and maintain a good quality of life. “Sometimes, the pet just needs pain medicine or physical therapy,” Gilchrist says, adding that he found an alternative to euthanasia for nearly 50 current patients whose owners sought end of life care.
“Age is not a disease — just because a pet is old doesn’t mean their life is over,” says Dr. Beth Bielsker of Creature Comfort Veterinary Housecall Practice in Gilbert, who charges an average of $300 to put down an animal in their own home. Bielsker says she only offers euthanasia to current patients, as that provides assurance that all options for treatment were pursued, and that she’ll be a familiar presence at the end.
For $200, Gilchrist determined that Laahs exhausted all treatment options for Tomba, who was put down in his favorite spot surrounded by his loved ones. Laahs decided to take Tomba for cremation herself, although Gilchrist offers the service for an additional $100.
Dr. Veena Khunkhun of Angel Veterinary Services in Phoenix, says so many Phoenix-area pet owners prefer the in-home method that her mobile practice focuses solely on euthanasia. “I’m privileged to help them get out of pain,” says Khunkhun, who performs an average of three procedures a day. She charges $300 to $350 for euthanasia and cremation.
Phoenix-area veterinarians recommend talking with your vet to make sure in-home euthanasia is right for you and for the pet. “I ask owners if they can handle going into the house or room again after the procedure,” Bielsker says. Gilchrist suggests creating a plan for care after a pet’s death, whether it be cremation or burial, he says. Pinal County, for example, allows at-home pet burials, while Maricopa County does not. Check your local municipal offices for information on area laws if you are considering laying your pet to rest at home.
Sunnyslope member Alice Wilkinson contacted Gilchrist when her 19-year-old cat, Ecco, began having trouble walking, refusing to eat and losing weight. Wilkinson unexpectedly lost her dog several years ago during a routine medical procedure. “I wish she had the same peaceful ending Ecco did,” she says. Wilkinson says Gilchrist gently put Ecco to sleep and then allowed her time to grieve afterward. “I wanted this quiet ending for her — she deserved that,” she says.