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

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.

5 comments On 6 Signs It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep

  • I have a Great Dane. She is 9 years old and has Arthritis and Wobblers syndrome. I have to support her with her back legs because she walks like she’s drunk and sometimes falls over. I’m not a young person. I’m in my mid 50s and have arthritis myself so it is a real strain for me to lift her. When I take her out for walks I literally have to lift her into the car. She walks and stands around looking at people so she loves interacting with the workd. But she can’t stand or walk for longer than five minutes. Everything is becoming a real struggle but I’m coping with it just about. The latest problem is that she soils her bed. Not every day but it’s happening often. I let her out frequently ..sometimes she goes and sometimes she doesn’t. I’m forever buying new beds and cleaning up. I am exhausted. But she eats well and is still happy . She has been a loving and loyal companion to me but I’m really struggling to cope with the soiling and urinating in her bed. Does anyone have any advice for me please to help me manage this in a better way? I want to keep her with me for a long time but my own health is suffering as a consequence this. Any advice to make this easier would be welcome.

  • I see this comment was posted well over a year ago. My 10yr old Great Dane is ditto all
    That is or had happened with your Great Dane . Did you get any advice as my heart is breaking because he eats non stop though has colitis on meds only chicken and rice he can digest . He has severe spinal stenosis one toe amputated last year but healed well. He defecates with out knowing and now we wake with a wet dog bed .. Jude is so happy in his mind I think ?.. he also has a huge mass on one eye my vet feels at his age he would not survive surgery .. How are you today with your Great Dane did you get or make a decision.. sending prayers .. thxs

  • I have a 3.5 year old Lhasa apso who has came out of kennels and been very unwell, no appetite or very little, being sick and just generally clingy. Then a week later she started displaying other signs of shaking, nervousness so much so that she is an absolute wreck, doesn’t sleep and bangs into walls etc as she has no conception of how close things are to her. Having taken her to the vets too many times already and after near enough a weeks no sleep for me they say it could be this and it could be that but all bloods etc came back clear then it was stress – £500 later and my dog is worse then they say it could be meningitis and the cost will be another £250 but they cant be sure.

    Now whilst I don’t mind spending money to get her well I refuse to spend good money after bad especially when my dog has tremors constantly and is certainly having mini seizures. My feeling is put her to sleep but they continue to want more money out of me – what should I do?

    I am so tired and my other dog is now affected with the whole situation as my ill dog demands me all the time and can be aggressive when other one gets too close

  • Great information. I have been adopting dogs and cats for many years so of course I have had to put many down. It is always hard and I always find myself questioning if I could have done something different. One thing people need to realize, often a sick animal will perk up in the hospital when you take them in to be put down. This further burdens my decision. I understand it is just a temporary nervous response but it still pulls at your very core.

    I am now faced with it again. I have a 51/2 year old cattle dog mix that needs my decision. This one is very hard because of his age and the swiftness of his illness. We always knew he would have a shorter life (very inbred from a hoarder), but this was much earlier than we anticipated. I knew when I got up and for the 9th day, no interest in food it was time. We have tried all tests and meds to know avail. The clincher was last night. My 6 year old Sheltie mix spent the whole evening growling under her breath at me. She is his girl and the only one he accepted. It was as if she was telling me to just get it over with and quit stalling.

    It is never easy no matter how many times I go through it, I just try to focus on those I still have. This one will hurt a lot…………

  • “If you can save your dog or cat even one day of discomfort, you must,” just doesn’t cut it as a guideline, sorry. Even a young healthy dog will have days of discomfort. We have an elderly dog who is diabetic, cushingoid, and has kidney problems, and yet he has his up days and down days. If we gave up on him every time he didn’t eat or every time he was experiencing some discomfort then we wouldn’t have witnessed his later springing back and enjoying his days later. So this decision is more difficult than that.

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