How to Decide When — or If — to Put Your Dog to Sleep
Any dog lover knows that few events in life are more traumatic than having to euthanize a beloved canine companion. Exercising the power of life or death over your four-legged friend is almost overwhelming, even though letting go can be a great gift to give your dog when the time comes.
Figuring out when to make that final visit to the vet may be a little easier if you can answer the following questions:
How’s my dog doing? Is your senior still active or at least engaged in the world around him? Is he still eating? Is he in pain that can’t be relieved? Does he still interact with you, or is he so miserable that he barely recognizes you or anyone else in the family? A dog who’s clearly enjoying life may be able to stick around a little longer. An obviously miserable dog may well be ready to say good-bye.
What’s my dog telling me? Often, a senior dog who wants to stick around will convey that message in a way you can’t possibly misinterpret. A dog with a jaunty attitude is probably good to go for a bit longer, a dog who spends all day sleeping is more likely to welcome the big sleep.
How do I feel? Although the decision whether or not to euthanize your senior should focus mostly on your dog’s condition, assessing your own state of mind is okay, too. If your dog has a terminal illness but still seems healthy, you may feel it’s too soon to have him euthanized.
On the other hand, you may feel differently if the illness is one in which sudden death is possible. Under such circumstances, you may decide to put your dog down to avoid finding him dead later — or, worse, having your children find him.
Can I afford to continue? Considering how your dog’s condition is affecting you emotionally and financially is perfectly okay, too. If providing constant nursing care for your terminally ill senior has proved to be more emotionally draining than you can handle, the time may be right to consider euthanasia. The same may be true if your dog’s prognosis is poor and treating his condition is depleting your bank account.
How does the rest of the family feel? If you and your dog are part of a larger household, understand that you can’t make the decision to euthanize him all by yourself.
The adults and near-adults (in other words, teens) in the family need to have their say, too. If the members of your family significantly disagree about whether the time is right to let the dog go, re-evaluate the criteria that led to your individual decision and be open to the possibility that those who want to wait have points worth considering.
Having the entire family visit the vet to discuss your senior’s condition may also be a good idea. Such a discussion may help your family reach a consensus.
What’s going to happen? If your dog is under a vet’s care, then he’s undoubtedly told you how your dog’s disease will progress and what you can expect to see as time goes on. If you know that your senior will begin to suffer as the condition progresses, you may decide that now’s the time to let him go, before he must endure any pain.
What does the vet say? Your vet won’t tell you when to euthanize your senior, but he can tell you when a natural death may be near. He can also explain how your dog may indicate that he’s in discomfort or pain and other signs that it’s time to say good-bye. And if you’re still not sure, asking your vet what he’d do if the dog were his may help you decide what’s best for your senior companion.