Pet ownership in the U.S has more than tripled since the 1970s with about 62 percent of American households owning at least one pet.
Saying goodbye to a furry friend is one of the hardest parts of being an owner.
Now, there's a way to make your pet's last days as peaceful and as comfortable as possible.
For 11 years, 130-pound "Tug" was a member of Betsy Murray's family.
"We traveled with him, and we did everything with him," says Murray. "He was just such a great dog."
However, when Tug's health started failing, Murray had to make a decision that every pet owner dreads.
"He had trouble getting up, and he would slip on the floors," Murray said. "I just couldn't let him do it anymore."
Instead of bringing Tug to the vet office, Murray chose Lap of Love, a service that performs at-home euthanasia.
"I'm able to ease that suffering and help the family say goodbye the most dignified and loving way," says Mary Gardner, DVM, veterinarian at Lap of Love.
At age 31, Dr. Gardner quit her career in computer software to become a veterinarian after she lost her beloved dog named Snow White.
"That just changed my world. It affected me in ways that I didn't realize it would," Dr. Gardner explained.
Now, she helps other pet owners say goodbye. She travels to the pet's own environment to perform euthanasia. The animals can lie on their favorite beds, and other dogs and cats can be there, too.
When it's over, Dr. Gardner takes the pets with her.
"There's something really special about doing it this way,"says veterinarian Jeff Werber, DVM.
Dr. Werber recommends the at-home service over the clinic environment.
"When it comes to this time where it is their last experience on this earth, [they shouldn't be] in an environment where they are agitated, anxious, or where they're might be a little fear," Dr. Werber explained.
One survey by the Humane Society found 40 percent of participants said the loss of a childhood pet still affects them as adults.
Another study found 20 percent of dog owners and 17 percent of cat owners cite loss of an animal as a reason to not own another.
"It's difficult to see a family lose a best friend, but they're always suffering in some way," Dr. Gardner said.
She also said knowing your pet had a peaceful passing can ease the pain.
Lap of Love also offers hospice for pets.
This end-of-life program provides support, medical care and comfort for animals during their final days.
Murray said Tug's last moments were calm.
"She gave him the sedative shot, and he just lay down and went to sleep," Murray explained. "He wasn't scared and he wasn't worried. There were tears but it was just so nice."
Now, she's welcomed a new member to the family; Tug's great, great, great grandnephew Canuck.
While there will never be another Tug, Murray is loving every minute with her new pup.
Lap of Love veterinarians offer same-day service. This cost is about $350 per appointment. Families can elect cremation for an additional fee.
Allentown, PA 18102