Dear PoPville – Advice for Treating Pets at the End of Their Life

Photo by PoPville flickr user Laura_Grageda

“Dear PoPville,

I know this is a bleak topic, but I have a question for the PoP community concerning “end of life” services for pets. I have a dog that’s getting up there in years and while hopefully she’ll be with us for a long time to come, I like to be prepared. Firstly, does anyone know of/ recommend a local veterinarian who makes house calls for euthanization? I found out that the one I had been going to doesn’t and for the sake of continuity of care as well as comfort for my pet I’d like to start going to one that will. Secondly and on the same dreary note, does anyone have any recommendations for cremation services? I’ve dealt with some awful places in the past and don’t want to have to go through that again.
Thank you.”

64 Comment

  • This SERIOUSLY is the 10 plagues.
    extreme weather, locusts, and death of the first born.

    I’d never put my dog to sleep on my house – too many happy memories in my home.

    Also, I’m hoping Lucy lives long enough for me to figure out how to have her cloned, because she is the world’s best dog.

  • City Paws down on 14th Streeet did a house call for me for my dear old cat. I was very glad they were able to do that, and they were as nice as they could possibly be. They took care of cremation, as well.

    • Friends had a bad experience with City Paws for cremation. They had wanted the ashes but CityPaws didn’t have them/didn’t make a note of it/etc. and were pretty awful about it.

  • My boyfriend and I, unfortunately, had to put our dog down on Monday. He was being hospitalized at Friendship Hospital for Animals and they took care of both the euthanization and cremation. The staff there were extremely kind and understanding and helped us through this difficult process.

    Not exactly the info you’re looking for, but just some food for thought. Hopefully you can get this planned and not have to think about it for many years to come.

  • I think the shelter on NY Ave will do it for free. They took care of our 20 year old cat Silver, may she rest in peace. Silver really didn’t want to let go.

  • we had Dr. Perl come to our house and euthanize our dog. He was really great and helpful and doing the process at home is so much more comfortable for the dog when its done at home. Hope this helps!

  • You’re smart to start getting used to the idea – it helps a lot with the final painful decision. I had to have my 15 year old girl euthanized last year. She slowed down, then just stopped eating – after 5 days of that I knew it would be cruel to let her starve.

    I checked into home visit vets – they are very expensive, plus extra for cremation – I think it would have been close to $500.00 I didn’t want to use my regular vet because my dog was always terrified to go there anyway.

    I wound up taking her to the animal shelter on New York avenue. It is not the most attractive place, but all the staff are exceptionally kind, compassionate, supportive and professional. Sad to say, they are used to doing the procedure. They give you the choice to be in the room or not, and as much time as you wish to stay there after. It was amazingly quick and she had no signs of distress at all.

    It is also totally free, including disposal of the body. I felt much better about going here, especially as I could then give them a donation of $300 to help other animals, than I would have paying that much or more to a vet.

  • I would recommend not being in the same room when the time comes.

    • Unbelievably selfish. Your dog or cat has been there for you his/her entire life, and to let them go through that alone? All so you can feel better about the process.. Shame on you.

      • I am with Kyle on this one…

        • I’m with Kyle too. If you can do nothing else, you have to be strong for them, and let go later, when you can.

      • There are different ways to grieve, my friend. You don’t know the whole story, and you needn’t resort to name calling.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          Totally agree with caballero

        • Not name calling in the least.

          Just saying I think it is incredibly selfish to send your dog to be put down by himself.

          @Victoria, how can you know he is “lethargic and at peace?” Regardless, how can you let his last memory be of you giving him a pet on the head, and then having two people take him away from you and into a small room and put on a cold table?

          All so you can feel better and preserve a memory. Seems unbelievably selfish.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Thank you for your opinion Kyle. I’d rather not have this debate here. I respect your decision, please respect others decisions as well. Thank you for understanding.

          • You are quite the altruist. I don’t know how I will react when it comes time to say goodbye to my dog, but I guess I’ll figure that out when it happens.

            I buried my dad recently and I wasn’t prepared, no matter how much I thought I was, for that moment.

          • I can see why it would seem selfish, but I’ve been through this twice before. The first time I was there and the image still bothers me. The second time I chose not to be in the room and I’m comfortable with that decision. No good dog owner is a selfish person and I know I was a good owner to these dogs. And what Jessica says below is true, dogs have a lot of dignity, they would prefer to run away and not be seen when they’re time is up.

        • I agree with caballero.

      • This is a cruel and ignorant remark. The pet isn’t “going through” anything except a quick shot. A pet in the end stage of life is pretty much already lethargic and at peace. It is perfectly fine that some people don’t want their last memory of a beloved pet to be of this scene.

        • True that. This anthropomorphic idea of the Beaches/Steel Magnolias death bed makes no sense to pack animals. They are programmed to be alone to die, as a corpse in the midst of a pack is just plain unsanitary. That being said, if you want to be there for your own comfort – I was for my dog – then that’s your choice. The dog might find it disturbing, but they’re kind of drugged out before the final dose anyway.

      • Dogs do not want to be seen at the end. If you’ve owned a dog that died, they tend to hide to go die.

        I want to remember my dog alive, not sobbing at her dead body. She is one of my best friends (sure, laugh, but after all we’ve been through and will go through in the next few years, she deserves that title). They don’t want you to watch them die, it’s just not what dogs would chose.

  • My best friend Sally passed away on her own last October in our apartment. She lived a long, fulfilling 17+ year life.

    Since she passed on the weekend, we were unsure of what to do since we were not prepared ahead a time for her passing. My husband found Best Friend Cremation, a 24/7 pet cremation service online, and although their website is pretty rudimentary, they are an amazing company.

    Fortunately, they were already in DC and came within the hour to pick up Sally (they placed her on a stretcher in a body bag, out of respect), transport her to their location and individually cremate her.

    They provided a lock of hair, a certificate of cremation and Sally’s remains in a bag within a small white container.

    I believe we paid $200 for her cremation, which was more than fair since they were willing to pick Sally up and drop of her remains within a 3 day period.

    I’d highly recommend them, especially if you don’t want to wait at the vet’s office.

    Their website:
    Phone: (443) 929-0670

  • binpetworth

    Thank you for this thread. I have a similar concern regarding my elderly pet, and I am going to look into some of the recommended resources to have on hand when necessary–which hopefully won’t be for a long time yet!

  • When my 19 year old cat (and companion since childhood) was in rough shape last year, we called Dr. Dan Teich. After a couple rushes to Friendship earlier in the fall, we decided on a home call so as not to put the cat through the trauma of the much hated car trip.

    The cat ended up dying just 10 minutes or so before Dr. Dan arrived. He was really nice about it, even though we made him trek all the way over for nothing.

    I buried him in the yard rather than spend the money to cremate him. I actually found the digging/burial pretty cathartic.

  • I put my dog of 11 years down at Adams Morgan Animal Hospital. They’re good vets. The situation is never going to be perfect. My dog was on her last legs, but it was nice walking her for one last time. And she was pretty comfortable there. If you have it done at home, there’s still the untidy matter of transporting the remains, along with the fact that you might associate a room in your house with the death of your beloved dog.

    I’m a dog lover and don’t mean to be cavalier about this, but I will write that dogs aren’t like people. After a few weeks of mourning, you get past it and start to realize you’ll have the memories of your dog forever, and that you made your dog’s life better and your dog made your life better.

    Also a great cure for dog mourning: puppies. Seriously.

  • I had to take my elderly cat in a few months ago – he had been ill, but failed very quickly. I went to Friendship Hospital at Tenleytown – it was 10PM on a Friday night, which actually made it easier. I think it would have been harder during normal vet hours, with so many people. They took us to a private room to say goodbyes, and I had the choice of whether to stay with him.

    They use Heavenly Days cremation service, and the remains are delivered back to Friendship for you to pick up if you wish.

    I’ve had several friends go this route, and honestly – the staff were excellent. So sorry you are facing it, but I agree that the more you prepare the less stress it adds.

  • We used Heavenly Days for cremation, and because we also use Friendship Animal Hospital, the remains were sent back to Friendship for me pick up. They were really wonderful, calling me to ask if I wanted a fur clipping or paw imprint. Anyone I talked to there was extremely sweet and caring about the whole process.

  • I highly recommend City Paws on 14th Street. I had to put my young, 2.5 year old cat down a few months ago after a short, horrific battle with cancer. They were extremely thoughtful from when I first brought Dexter in for what I thought was a stomach ache, to recommending an oncologist where he was eventually diagnosed with lymphoma. Although most of his specialty treatment was done at South Paws Animal Hospital in Fairfax (chemo treatments, etc) his mid-week fluids and pain meds were provided by City Paws. The vet there (can’t think of her name) was extremely patient with me and left the timing of the cremation completely up to me. When I decided to put little Dexter to sleep, I stayed with him the entire time and had him individually cremated (also my choice). The vet even wrote me a heartfelt note after Dexter’s passing.

    All in all, City Paws offered a very nice experience considering the sad situation.

  • Ugh. That was tough to read.

    My dog will be 11 within a month. Over just the past couple of weeks I have seen him slow down considerably. I hope he continues to enjoy life for a long time to come, however, I had been thinking about just this recently.

    I will surely take him to Friendship when the time comes. And I have bookmarked the link for the cremation place. Thanks for all the info guys.

  • I’ve had a relative and a friend use a vet from Kindness Animal Hospital in Wheaton for euthanasia at home for a dog and a cat. They both said the vet was very kind and were glad they did it at home. It was peaceful for the animals to not have the stress of going to the vet’s office.

    I’m sorry you have to be thinking about this.

  • It’s not in the city, but South Paws in Fairfax provided wonderful end-of-life care for our dog. He was put down there, and they made the room very comfortable. The whole experience was about as good as one could expect it to be. They cremated him and his ashes were taken to a farm in Western Virginia.

    • I second South Paws. My dog is still relatively young, but a few years ago when he got hit by a truck and had to get one leg amputated, the doctors at South Paws were incredibly empathetic and attentive not just to my dog’s needs but also to his panicked owners’.

  • I use At-Home Animal Care–Dr. Marohn is really nice and it’s not any more expensive than a taxi + a regular vet. She also answers questions via email (like “my cat went on a hunger strike–when should we start worrying?”) and provides euthanasia at home.

    For something she couldn’t do at home (tooth extraction–cat needed to be sedated) I went to Union Vet and they were lovely, too.

  • How much did it cost at Friendship to put your pet down?

    To those who have lost their pets, I’m truly sorry. I am expecting a baby in the winter and am praying my dog lives long enough for them to meet.

  • Dr. Gary Dehne came to my apartment to euthanize my cat. he sent a card afterwards. very sweet man. He also billed me later — didn’t ask for the payment upfront, which was respectful/thoughtful. here’s his contact info: I went to him around 5 years ago but this link looks current. I went somewhere in Maryland for the cremation (sorry — don’t remember where). I think it was around $60.

  • I can’t say enough good things about the great vets at Dupont Animal Clinic on P Street (they do make house calls) and Heavenly Days Crematory in Maryland:

    They were both great when it was time for our 16 year old cat.

  • Those of you as attached to your pet as I am – how have you chosen to memorialize your pet?

    I have been trying to stop thinking about getting her paw imprint as a tattoo (since I swore I’d never get another tattoo), but it’s hard not to think of it since she’s my first dog that I got all by myself and will have, basically, been the dog through all of my firsts – first condo, boyfriend coming back from Iraq (she growled at this new guy moving in), getting engaged and married, eventually a new home and the start of a family in her later years. So, I was thinking that getting a paw imprint – or nose imprint – would be fitting because of the impact she has had on our lives.

    However, the place we got our wedding rings does wonderful work and has pet-specific items that are great: (they also did amazing wedding bands, if you need to know!)

    • The paw print tattoo idea is beautiful and a wonderful idea.

    • To memorialize a beloved pet – what could possibly be better than a contribution to an animal shelter or rescue group!

      Also – when you’re ready of course – skip the paw tatoo and adopt a whole new set of real paws.

      • I already give to the shelter through CFC, volunteer, and adopted this dog from them….sometimes you gotta do for yourself to remember! 🙂

  • Dr. Solomon ‘Sol’ Perl is the way to go. Very kind person who has been performing these kinds of housecalls for a number of years.

    You should call Sol Perl. Will even bring your ‘family member’ to the crematorium for you.

  • I had to put my beloved dog down last year and I opted to have the vet come to my house. I do not regret the decision to have the vet do it at home at all. My vet did not charge extra for the house call. My dog (like most pets) always hated going to the vet, so I wanted her last moments to be at home where she felt safe and comfortable. I held her face in my hands and just kept telling her over and over what a good girl she was and how much I loved her. [oh, f**K, I’m getting teary just thinking about this!]

    It may seem weird, but my other dog was present, too. At the time I wasn’t sure whether that was a good idea but now I am glad my other dog got to say goodbye to her sister.

    The shots worked very, very quickly and my dog just went to sleep peacefully. The vet (Dr. Boone of Adams Morgan Animal Clinic) then took her body back to the clinic and arranged for her cremation through Valley Pet Crematory in Williamsport, MD. A week or so later I came by AM Animal Clinic to pick up her ashes and pay the bill. Valley Pet enclosed the ashes in a lovely sealed wood box with my baby girl’s name on an engraved plate on top.

    You’re doing the right thing by considering this now. It’s not going to be easy to say goodbye; in fact it will probably feel so wrong. Last year a friend reminded me that this is the final act of love you’re giving to your pet.

    AM Animal Clinic’s website is here:

  • A bit of a drive, but I very much recommend Sunset Pet Services in Alexandria, and their Yelp reviews agree with me.

    I’m sorry you have to be thinking about this, but mentally preparing yourself is a good idea, and so is being prepared for when it happens so you don’t have to make decisions while you’re already grieving.

  • There’s some good advice here; my own dog is 17 and this has been on my mind a lot lately.

    On a related note, does anyone have a recommendation for a sitter or boarding service that does well with very old/special needs dogs? He has a number of health problems and it’s becoming a bit much to impose on friends to watch him when I need to be out of town.

    • saf

      When I needed that for a diabetic cat, I asked at the vet. One of their staff members, who I loved, did pet sitting, and she was great with the cat.

  • The debate about whether or not to be in the room with your pet when they are euthanized reminds me of a Post Secret I once saw from a veterinary assistant.

    As awful as I will feel when it comes time to put my best friend down, I will never forget reading this and will be sure to be by his side.

  • Thanks everyone for the great tips. I’ve been through this before but not around here. In fact, our vet used to live down the street from us and the funeral home was on the corner, so I never had to give it any thought. I’ve made a very useful little file of this info for when the time comes, but my dog has just informed me that she doesn’t plan on dieing, at least not before me. Phew, that’s a relief.

    • Hahaha. My 9 year old Chihuahua told me the same thing just the other day when I looked at her with worried eyes. Meaningful thread.

  • boochow

    Dr Dan Teigh at City paws and Heavenly Days for cremation.

  • I put my dog down a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the advice I would give. Dr. Teich at City Paws was great. He will come to your house, but I chose to bring a couple of friends with me for support and do it at City Paws. I actually don’t like the rest of the practice, but he is very straight forward, and respectful, and not at all intrusive during the process. I chose not to get the ashes.

    A bunch of friends gave me advice because this was my first dog. Here was what I found most helpful. 1) When you decide that it’s time, make sure you spend lots of time with your pet, and tell him/her all the things you love about him. It will help you prepare. 2) For his last meal, let your pup eat whatever he wants–it doesn’t matter and it will make him happy. My boy had pancakes and chicken for breakfast before we went to the vet. 3) Pack up your dog’s stuff before you go to the vet–so it’s not staring you in the face when you come home. It took me two weeks to be able to see a picture of my boy without crying. 4)Bring family or friends with you for support. The support is great, and you’ll not want to go back home right after–the hardest part is coming to home and not having your pup greet you. 5) It’s a surprisingly peaceful and humane process. I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt like my boy had a very dignified end where he was surrounded by people who loved him. We should all be so lucky.

    I hope that’s helpful.

  • I’m a little late, but I just went through this two weeks ago. My 14 year old Scottie had a stroke and it was time. I’d been through it before, but I was about 9, so not really involved in the process.

    My advice is to be prepared. Next time you go to the vet, talk it out, make sure you know exactly what their process is so you won’t be shocked when something happens. Also, and this might not be right for your situation (if you rent), but I wanted to suggest having your pet buried in your yard (or your church if you have one). We have both of our pets buried in our backyard, well really my parents yard in Frederick. Personally, I’m comforted knowing they aren’t far away and I can go see them whenever I want.

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