How Do You Know When It Is Time to Put a Dog to Sleep?
End of Life? A Dog Owner's Hardest Decision
Working at a veterinarian hospital, I inevitably received many dreadful phone calls from owners asking if it was time to put their beloved dog to sleep. Unfortunately, I was never able to give them a straight black or white answer they wanted.
As I listened to them compassionately, in the midst of their sobbing for help, I always faithfully stuck to my personal opinion that it was the owner's ultimate choice, since they knew their dog best. These were compassionate owners, truly concerned about their dogs' wellbeing, trying their best to cope with the idea that their dog's life was coming to an end, gathering their emotional forces for that final day. These were clients who had been dealing with their pet's chronic diseases for years and were willing to do anything to help their pet manage sickness as comfortably as possible. As veterinary staff, we suffered as well, since we have seen these dogs for many years and grew emotionally attached to them. We found ourselves in tears many times, hugging the owners as the pain and sorrow seemed to seep deep into the animal clinic.
It's a difficult conversation for everyone involved.
Vet Explains When to Put a Pet to Sleep
When to Put Dog to Sleep?
As dog owners, we all would love it if our dogs could live much longer lives. Even if they've lived a long life, when dogs turn geriatric, it just feels as if their lives have come to an end too soon. The years you had together passed much too quickly and it just seems yesterday when they were prancing around in their early puppyhood.
We all wish our dogs would pass peacefully in their sleep as they put their head down on their favorite pillow for the last time. Unfortunately, many pets suffer as they age, either being crippled by arthritis or even worse, debilitating diseases such as cancer. As we work our best to relieve their pain through the miracles of modern medicine, there comes a specific moment where we can clearly see our pet's bodies turn frail and eventually give up.
If dogs could tell us what they wanted, the dying process might be much easier, but since they have been spared the gift of voice, we must interpret the subtle signs of their physical deterioration.
Only the owners are capable of knowing how their dog copes with physical pain and how they respond to everyday life. It is in my belief that at a certain point, the dog itself will express it is time to go. There will be some perceptible change in their behavior, a shift that perhaps only the owners may perceive, that will suggest they are ready for the Rainbow Bridge. It could be a look in their eyes, an expression on their face, or the simple lack of a tail wagging.
However, I must admit that as a veterinary assistant, I have seen some cases where the euthanasia procedure seemed to be done at the wrong time, either too soon or too late.
I have seen owners opt for the procedure upon learning a diagnosis of cancer or kidney failure. In these cases, the dogs may still have had a few good weeks or even probably months of life left in them. However, owners may not be able to afford the financial burden that comes with a disease, or may not be capable of witnessing the physical deterioration of their best friend. Some simply wished to spare their dog from any suffering at all.
In other cases, I have seen dogs kept alive long past the stage of "admissible deterioration" in an unnecessary spiral of mental and physical deterioration. In these cases, the owners were unable to "let go" and tried their hardest to hold onto their pet as long as they possibly could... until their dog was just a lifeless shadow.
The middle road is, in my opinion, the "golden way" to go. If you are debating whether it is time to put your dog to sleep, remember to cherish every day and every moment, because these very last days will always be in your heart.
When your dog's time comes, he or she will let you know it is time to cross the Rainbow Bridge in a leap of faith. Dogs, unlike humans, do not fear death because they live in the moment. Do not worry for your dog, he /she will be in a better place and best of all, will be eternally pain free.
Very likely, if you stay for the euthanasia procedure, you may see your dog look into your eyes for a last time almost to say: "Thank you owner for loving me so much." Then she will take a deep breath and peacefully drift into better life, looking over you for many years to come.
What Happens When a Pet Dies
The Rainbow Bridge Poem
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
For further reading
- What happens during a pet's euthanasia appointment
If your dog or cat has arrived to a point where his or her body is frail and there is nothing that more that can be medically done, your vet may suggest to schedule a euthanasia appointment. As sad as...
- How to Determine a Dog's Quality of Life
Quality of life signs to look in dogs, phila67, morguefile.com Owners who are questioning when a dog should be put down, will often hear veterinarians discuss about quality of life. Quality of life is all...
Was it easy for you to determine when your pet was ready to put to sleep?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I have a twelve-year-old lab mix. He is having accidents in the house, and he paces a lot and acts like he can't hold it at times. He has a good appetite and drinks a lot of water. He acts like he is hungry a lot. Most of the time his feces is solid but he has diarrhea at times too. I just found a small lump on his stomach. The vet gave him his shots last month and was surprised that he so old and healthy, and said that he can tell he is very happy. Do you have any ideas?
It sounds like your dog needs a closer evaluation. Mention to your vet the symptoms you are seeing. Accidents around the house and increased drinking may be due to many causes such as urinary tract infections, diabetes, kidney disease, lower urinary tract infection, and Cushing's disease. Have the lump on the stomach aspirated to rule out cancer. Diarrhea should be mentioned too. If your vet is not willing to conduct testing consult with another vet.Helpful 29
I have a very sick dog, and I don't know why. She's nine-years-old, has not eaten and barely drank anything for five or six days. She's been throwing up and has diarrhoea. What do I do, what could be wrong?
Your very first step is bringing your dog to your vet. There may be chances your dog may just need some medications to help heal her digestive tract, and she may be dehydrated from all the vomiting and diarrhoea. This is concerning. Because of her age, she may dehydrate and get weak quickly. Finding the underlying cause is important.Helpful 23
I have a four-year-old pit mix, he has suffered from skin allergies for three years. His skin is absolutely raw frim scratching and rubbing. He has seen 3 vets, had many medications, creams, steroid shots, changed his diet. Nothing helps. He cannot go outside to play, we go on short potty walks and that is it. He cries, whimpers and isn’t as active because he is so miserable. Should I have him put down to ease his suffering?
I am so sorry your dog is going through all this. It sounds like he is miserable. Has your dog seen a specialist by any chance? If not, look for a board-specialized veterinary dermatologist. You can find one by searching the directory on the American College of Veterinary Dermatology website.Helpful 12
I'm struggling with what to do with my dog. He will soon be thirteen. He is a Bichon and Shitzu mix. He pees in the house and is a constant barker whenever anyone comes over. I have stage four cancer, and the last thing I need to do is clean up after and deal with him. At to the point, I don't even like him anymore. I feel bad about wanting to put him down, but I don't see any other option. No one wants to adopt a senior dog that pees in-house and barks. Do you have any advice?
It must be very challenging dealing with all this, and you need to put your health first. Your dog for being the mix he is is still fairly "young" after all. Some dogs of this mix have lived even up to eighteen. The peeing and barking can be due to anxiety, or there may be an underlying health issue. It may be worth consulting with a few local rescues, animal welfare groups, and animal sanctuaries and telling them what is happening and what options they have to offer-if any.Helpful 10
I have a cocker spaniel service dog. I’ve had to retire her because she has horrible arthritis in her hind legs. I can’t bring myself to replace her while she is still here, and it’s breaking my heart to watch her suffer. What can I do for her instead of bringing her to the vet's office?
There are many products that work well for arthritis. Lintbells makes a product known as Yumove that can help it just takes a bit to be effective. Adequan injections have helped many old dogs. If it's getting close to her time, you can see if there are any hospice care veterinarians in your area that can provide pain meds to help improve a bit her quality of life. Many will come to your home. Several vets will also come to homes to put a dog to sleep when the time comes. There are also mobile vets. I am so sorry it's heartbreaking for sure.Helpful 7