Aug 252013
 

Here’s what you need to know about putting your dog to sleep. Veterinarian Marie Haynes shares the most important criteria for putting a dog down and offers help for healing.

6 Signs It's Time to Put a Dog to Sleep

Animals and the Afterlife

One of the best ways to cope with your dog’s death is believing that their souls and spirits live on – and you’ll be reunited one day. Read Animals and the Afterlife: True Stories of Our Best Friends’ Journey Beyond Death  to learn how some pet owners experience their beloved animal companions after their pets died.

Are you confused about putting your dog to sleep? You’re not alone if you feel devastated, guilty, sad, and lost. This information about pet euthanasia is from a veterinarian who had to put her own dog to sleep. She shares her story, and offers general information about the process of putting a dog down.

This is the most important thing to remember about putting your dog to sleep: “If you can save your dog or cat even one day of discomfort, you must,” says Dr Haynes.

Is It Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep?

The number one sign it’s time to put your dog to sleep is quality of life. If your dog is suffering in any way, then it’s time to say good-bye.

I hope this article on putting a dog down helps you cope with this difficult decision. I can’t tell you whether or not you should put your dog to sleep – only you can decide. But, this article may give you insight and clarity.

Dr Haynes says it’s often difficult to tell whether a dog is in pain or suffering, but there are some general guidelines it’s time to put your dog to sleep:

time to put dog down

“6 Signs It’s Time to Put a Dog to Sleep” image by Laurie

  1. Is your dog’s appetite suffering? If so, this can be a sign of pain.
  2. Does it seem like your dog is enjoying life?
  3. Does your dog still do the things that bring her joy?
  4. Are you enjoying having your dog around — or is there more pain than happiness?
  5. Does your dog seem happy more often than not?
  6. Does your dog look distressed or uncomfortable most of the time?

Here’s the bottom line about putting a dog down: There will come a day when it is absolutely clear to you that your dog is not enjoying life.  That day is one day too late.  If you can save your dog even one day of discomfort, you must.

As a dog lover, you want a clear answer about putting your dog to sleep, but it can’t just be the veterinarian’s decision. The vet only sees a snapshot of the pet’s life, while the pet owner has the big perspective.

“I see a scared, sick animal in the hospital,” says Dr Haynes. “You have taken care of your dog all its life. This is your final chance to take care of your pet.  If you can spare your dog pain and suffering, then putting it to sleep is the ultimate gift – no matter how hard it is for you.”





Putting your dog to sleep is difficult, but it could be the most loving thing you do for your dog. You can be present when you put your dog to sleep. Euthanasia is similar to falling asleep, and you can be with your dog when he or she drifts away. Dr Haynes says pet euthanasia is generally painless, and almost always goes smoothly.

Do you feel guilty about putting your dog to sleep? Read How Veterinarians Decide It’s Time to Put a Dog Down for guidance.

How Dr Haynes Decided to Put Her Dog to Sleep

“My shepherd/cattle dog cross, Eddie, had a multitude of problems and I couldn’t decide if it was time for euthanasia.  Then, one day he tore his cruciate ligament.  He had already previously torn the ligament on the other knee and although it was healed he had severe arthritis in that knee.  With both knees injured, Eddie was unable to walk.  My decision to put my dog to sleep was finally made for me.

should I put my dog down

6 Signs It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep

I went to my office and collected the supplies I needed for euthanasia.  Eddie was such a good boy as I shaved his front leg and placed the needle in his vein.  I will never forget the look of love and trust he gave me as I made the injection.  Then, the life just went out of him and he was gone.  Once he had passed away, his buddy Joey (my other dog) came in the room but he did not seem to care about or comprehend what was happening.  Then, my two cats came in and I swear they suddenly had a look of glee in their eyes as Eddie was very much a cat tormentor!”

If you’re putting a dog down, remember to allow yourself to grieve. Take time to heal.

Help for Putting Your Dog to Sleep

Losing your dog is a heartbreaking experience. When I wrote Letting Go of an Animal You Love, I interviewed veterinarians, grief experts, and pet owners who had to say good-bye to their beloved animal companions.

It’s true that time does ease the pain of having to put a dog or cat to sleep, but it’s also good to learn what helped other people cope with the pain. For instance, I talked to one dog owner who got a paw print tattoo after putting her dog to sleep, as a way to remember her pet. I wouldn’t have thought of a tattoo, but she said she is comforted every time she sees it.

should I put my dog down

Dog Cremation Urn

If you want to keep your dog’s ashes, the Perfect Memorials Dog in Basket – Pet Cremation Urn pictured is a beautiful vessel.

I know it may seem too soon to think about cremation urns for your dog — you may want to stat by reading books about dog loss. Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet is Gary Kowalski’s second book on coping with a dog’s death, and it may help you heal after making the heart-wrenching decision to say good-bye.

And finally, How to Deal With Anger at Your Veterinarian is an article I wrote for a reader struggling to cope after putting her dog to sleep. It’s a difficult decision, but it’s sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do for your dog. But this final act of love can be destroyed by a veterinarian who is thoughtless or inept.

If you have any thoughts on putting your dog to sleep, please comment below. I can’t give advice, but writing can help you decide if putting your dog down is the right choice for you.


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  460 Responses to “6 Signs It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep”

  1. Dear Laura,

    That’s so terrible and sad, that your poor puppy got sick so young in her life. And to see her in pain like that, I can’t even imagine how horrible it was. I’m so sorry that you had to experience this – and with your first pet.

    My prayers are with you, as you deal with the grief and shock. I hope you will be able to adopt another pet one day — because your experience was very unusual! Most of the time, we bring our dogs home and get to love them for years and years.

    May you find comfort and peace as you adjust to life without your little dog.

    In sympathy,
    Laurie

  2. We had our west highland terrier for just over 6weeks and was 4months old. In two days she changed hugely.
    First day, heavy drooling, tongue out, walking slow, we thought maybe she is having a sad day. Next day in the am very lively, come lunch time shes dropped again drooling, slow walking tongue out. Took to vets who gave an injection to stop drooling said see how we get on, 3hrs later it started all oveer again, took her back, done blood tests, all clear, normal temp.etc….they then look into it more abd was 99% sure she had a form of meninjitous, injected her with steriod and said see how she goes, got home around 7pm, all ok. 10-2am her whole tongue was our server drooling, couldnt breath and ger face had sunk back, crying it was herrendous! We took to emergency vets, who said she agreed with last vet and said she now cant move herneck, it just stayed down. They said they could do further tests which would cost around 1800. But spending this meant we would get that answer but no treatment could help her. At this point the destress she was in we could not bring her home to think about it!! We made the decision there. We then sadly let her go but at the end i said uts all, love yoy, kisses, her little nose just lifted as i went to kiss her. I cant help to think could we have done more. Dud i do the wrong thing. I feel extremely sad and sick. This was out first ever pet. :-(

    Laura.

  3. My dog Rosie was diagnosed with a slow growing cancer on February 2. She was doing good for the first 3 weeks with the pain medicine they put her on and then this past weekend she went down hill. She was having labored breathing on Sunday. Took her in Monday they said it was time to let her go. They said take her home spoil,love her, and spend the Monday with her and bring her in Tuesday at 4:30 to put her down. I know it’s time cause she gives me that stare in my eyes. Hope you know what I’m talking about. I have to do this for her so she does not suffer anymore. I made her a big ribeye steak dinner last night and today she ate it all last night,but did not eat it all today. She makes a gurgling sound when she eats or drinks not sure what that may be. They say maybe the cancer got in her lungs. She is an afghan hound, and she is 14 years old almost 15.

    • Tracie,

      So sorry about Rosie. I had a lab the same age, 14 (almost 15) that we put down in Nkvember right before Thanksgiving. Hardest thing EVER. I still cry for her…was laying in bed last night and just started crying because I miss her so much and am sad that we had to put her down.

      How did Tuesday go? How are you feeling today?

      Amy

  4. Dear Claire,

    Thank you for sharing here. It sounds like poor Leo isn’t happy. He’s uncomfortable, likely in pain, and not enjoying his life anymore. I believe that putting your dog to sleep is a final act of love, compassion, and mercy for him.

    Saying good-bye to Leo will be a huge sacrifice and loss for you, but I believe it is the only way to show your love. He is suffering, and he needs to rest in peace.

    That’s just my opinion, though — your veterinarian may have other suggestions, after seeing Leo in person! I wish you all the best when you take your beloved dog to the vet.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

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