Thinking about when to put a dog down is one of the most difficult decisions for pet owners. However, it is a compassionate choice for your beloved dog especially when they’re suffering so much that they can’t have a good quality of life. As such, the best way to help them is to speak to your vet about giving a humane death through a euthanasia process.
In this comprehensive guide, we share what you need to know about making this end-of-life decision and when to put a dog down.
Why Would I Need to Put My Dog Down?
When a pet reaches old age or gets a terminal illness that severely affects your dog’s current quality of life, the time may come when we need to goodbye. Putting a dog to sleep, also known as dog euthanasia, can sometimes be the best option to ease your pet’s pain and suffering. Deciding whether or not to put your pup to sleep is a very personal decision but you don’t need to do it alone.
Talking to your vet, close family, and friends can help towards the right decision while providing the emotional support you need. Be sure to consider what’s best not just for your pet but also for your family. For instance, if your pet’s quality of life is seriously impaired or is too far along the disease process that you can no longer provide for its needs, then humane euthanasia may be the best decision.
Once you’ve made this decision, you’ll also need to think about what to do after your pet’s death. While it might seem strange to think about these arrangements before the end of your dog’s life, you may find comfort in knowing that your dog will be well taken care of. Moreover, making these decisions will help to take the focus away from the loss of your pet.
Your vet should be able to give you more information about cremation and burial options along with other alternatives.
How Will I Know When to Euthanize My Pet?
If your best friend is no longer capable of enjoying the things it once did, appears to feel more pain compared to pleasure, or can’t respond to you the way it usually does, then you may need to think about the next steps for your beloved pet. At the same time, if your pet is suffering from chronic pain or has a terminal illness, or you’re having a hard time emotionally or financially with the treatment options, then euthanasia may be necessary.
You may also ask yourself, “Does my dog have more good days than bad days?” Once you get the answer to this question, you may get more clarity when it comes to making the final decision. Unfortunately, even with all their knowledge and experience on the matter, your veterinarian can’t make the euthanasia decision, so it’s important that you understand your pet’s medical condition. Below are a few things to consider to help you through the decision-making process.
Have You Noticed Behavior Issues in Your Dog?
If your dog has suddenly developed a behavioral issue then be sure to check what’s causing it. For instance, if your dog is normally a friendly and active pet but has become sluggish and aloof all of a sudden, then that could be an indication of some issues. While this isn’t enough of a reason for a dog to be put down, it may warrant a visit with a behavioral specialist or your vet.
But before you do that, be sure to check if your dog is no longer interested in food, walks, playing, and attention. Finally, take note if your pooch has become sensitive or more aggressive — disappearing for long periods of time is also something you should look out for.
Does Your Dog Whine or Cry Often?
If your dog is going through continuous discomfort and pain, you may need to consider putting it down. Usual signs of pain include whining and crying, so it’s best if you track how often your furry friend displays these signs. Moreover, dogs can become defensive and aggressive if they’re in pain so it’s also important to observe if your pup exhibits mood swings from whining to anger.
An older dog may experience doggie dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction. This may come with changes to their sleep cycle or mental health and may affect your dog’s quality of life. Speak to your vet to get help with dog dementia and to get guidance on the right time for euthanasia — this is especially important if the instances of their erratic behavior increase.
Does Your Dog Still Drink and Eat Normally?
Consider using a diary to track whether your pet is still drinking and eating as it should — it’s normal for your pup to skip a meal or two, even if it doesn’t eat as much as it usually does. However, a dog that hasn’t eaten in 3 to 4 days should be a cause for concern and you will need to contact your vet. You might need to learn about new ways to get your pup to eat; one option you can try is feeding it by hand.
If your pooch suffers from stomach pain, suffers a condition that makes swallowing or eating difficult, or is terribly ill, then you may need to consider extreme solutions such as a feeding tube. However, it’s essential that you speak to your vet first to help determine why your dog refuses to eat.
Has Your Dog’s Mobility Declined?
Loss of mobility is something you need to know before deciding to let your dog go; a lot of the time, the inability or weakness that limits your dog from doing things it used to do are signs that it needs medical help. Maybe your pet’s health has declined so much that it’s time to think about putting your canine companion to sleep. Speak to your vet about your options and get their opinion on whether or not it’s time to talk to a medical professional about euthanasia.
Does Your Pet Still Participate in Family Activities?
Does your dog still spend quality time with you or does it still enjoy playing with its toys? Or maybe there are times you’ve noticed when your pooch simply exists but fails to truly enjoy his days. Answering these questions will help you move toward the next move, even though putting your dog down will never be an easy decision.
What is the Emotional State of Your Dog?
If you feel that you’re getting close to your dog’s last days, it’s important to keep an eye on its emotional condition. Look for changes in its behavior and document possible reasons for why they occurred. Check to see if it still enjoys its day-to-day tasks or if looks more anxious or scared most days — your canine’s emotional condition can be a good indicator if there’s something wrong.
Your dog might also go through dementia which may dramatically change your pup’s temperament and personality. It will help if you’re able to determine if cognitive decline has a negative impact on your dog’s quality of life and may help you decide whether dog euthanasia is the best course of action.
Is Your Dog Constantly in Pain?
If your dog is always in pain, you must do everything you can to help ease their suffering. Different types of pain include neuropathic pain (which comes from the spinal cord and nerves), visceral pain (which comes from internal organs), and somatic pain (from the limbs and skin). Here are just a few symptoms of pain in dogs:
- Twitching or tight muscles
- Trembling or shaking
- An arched back
- Prolonged panting
- Heads below the shoulders
If you feel that your dog is in pain, quickly call your veterinarian to determine if it will be beneficial to give it pain medications like carprofen. Keep in mind that it’s your responsibility to relieve your dog from continuous pain and suffering. Rather than fighting to keep your four-legged friend alive under unnecessary pain, maybe it’s time to think about whether euthanasia is the right thing to do.
What Options Do I Have for My Dog?
If this is your first time making one of the hardest decisions in a dog’s life, there are different ways in which you can help your dog but it’s always best to make unbiased decisions. Try to think about your dog first rather than yourself. You may wonder how everything would work should you decide to end your dog’s suffering.
Your dog’s health should always be your top priority, so think about how you can provide day-to-day care for your pooch, even if you’re busy. Palliative care is an option that uses various techniques to ensure your pet’s comfort and aims to improve its quality of life scale until caring for it is no longer possible. On the other hand, hospice care can be done during the final stages of your pet’s life — carers will make sure that your dog is given medication to minimize symptoms while providing your pup with adequate nutrition in its final days.
Euthanasia can be performed at your vet’s office or you may opt for in-home euthanasia services that can come to you. Euthanasia drugs are injections or pills that work similarly to one another — a vet will usually administer pentobarbital which puts your dog to sleep before it stops the heart and brain functions. The entire process will only take a few minutes.
Can I Let My Dog Die Naturally?
While some dogs will go through a natural death and pass away peacefully while they sleep, this is a rare occurrence and is unlikely to happen even for dogs suffering pain. Waiting for your pet’s death to come naturally will also take a long time, and will only subject your pup to more pain and suffering. Because the dying process takes time, it can be painful and you may have a tough time watching your own dog suffer.
This is why dog owners often regret taking a long time before making the decision to put their dogs down. As a result, many vets with experience will often recommend euthanasia and putting a dog down as the only options when the death of a pet is imminent.
What is the Cost of Euthanasia?
Depending on your clinic and the drug they use, this medical procedure should cost between $50 to $150. If you opt for home euthanasia services, the price may increase to around $85 to $125. However, these prices are only for the euthanasia process and you may need to pay additional expenses for a spot at a pet cemetery, cremation services, urns, exam fees, or sedative shots.
Is Euthanasia Painless?
Euthanasia is actually the kindest thing you can do for your beloved companions when they are no longer doing well on the quality-of-life scale. This option will usually be accomplished using a drug that induces death; additionally, your vet may use a tranquilizer first to help your pet relax. After the drug has been injected, your dog will become irreversibly and deeply unconscious as it works to stop brain function.
Its death will be fast and painless. While your dog may move its legs or take a couple of deep breaths after taking the drugs, these are only reflexes and don’t signal that your dog is suffering or in pain.
What if My Dog is Healthy?
Unfortunately, euthanasia may still be necessary if your dog has become dangerous, vicious, or you’re unable to manage it. However, some abnormal and undesirable behaviors can still be changed, so it’s imperative that you discuss such situations with your vet. It’s also important that you take your and your family’s safety into account when making your next step.
Emotional, economic, and space limitations, as well as lifestyle changes, may also affect pet parents in their decision-making process. But in these cases, you can look into other options such as placing your pet in a rehoming agency instead of considering euthanasia. Euthanizing healthy pets should only cross your mind if there are no other alternatives available.
How Should I Tell My Family?
It’s always good to discuss your options with all family members and explain to them what will happen with each option you choose. For many families, long-term medical care isn’t always feasible and may be a burden that can’t be shouldered financially or emotionally, so it needs to be discussed honestly and openly. Even if you already know what you want to do, it’s important that you give everyone a voice, even children, during this difficult time.
How Do I Say Goodbye?
Saying a proper goodbye is an essential part of managing healthy and natural feelings of sorrow and grief after the loss of a pet. Once you agree on the decision to euthanize your dog, everyone in the family should be welcome to say their goodbyes. You may prepare by spending one last day with your dog at home or you may even visit it at the vet’s clinic.
For some families, they will want to be present in the same room as their pet and hold their hands during the euthanasia process. Others will say their goodbyes beforehand without being present when their dog passes. This decision is your own, and you need to do what’s right for you — don’t feel pressured into thinking that you need to make an uncomfortable choice.
The Grieving Process
After your pet passes, it’s completely normal to feel sorrow and grief for some time. Some people find it comforting to spend time with their pet after the euthanasia process. Going through grief will help you come to terms with the sense of loss you feel, and will help you move forward in a world without your pet.
Start by being honest about what you feel and don’t be afraid to share these feelings with others — while everyone experiences grief differently, it’s comforting to know you’re not the only one who feels this. However, there may be times when people don’t understand the pain you feel at the loss of your pet. As such, avoid talking to people who don’t share the same sentiment that you have for pets, and look for support from people who feel the same as you.
Don’t let comments put you down, and talk to trusted family members about how you feel — you may also seek out social support from like-minded people and communities on social media. If your friends or family members aren’t supportive, you can look for a pet loss support group where you can talk about your sorrow in the open. Be sure to talk about the good times as well, so you can remember how much fun you had with your pet, all the activities you did together, and the wonderful memories you shared.
Should I Get a New Pet?
For some people, the death of a beloved dog can be greatly upsetting, especially when euthanasia is used. Sometimes, people will feel like nothing will ever replace their late pet and the thought of getting a new one seems unbearable. However, these feelings could pass in time — for other people, getting a new pet is a good idea and may help them recover from their pain and grief quicker.
No matter what happens, the right time to get a new pet will be up to you so don’t let anyone pressure you into becoming happy again by getting a new puppy.
Deciding how to handle your dog’s final moments is undoubtedly one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make in life. Unfortunately, even talking to your vet won’t give you simple answers but they will hopefully be able to help you make a clear decision that will be in your pet’s best interests. When the time comes to say goodbye, just remember that your dog is suffering more than you do, and recognizing when it’s time to let go may be the kindest thing you can do.