How to Know When to Put Your Dog Down

How to Know When to Put Your Dog Down

“A dog is man’s best friend” couldn’t be a more accurate saying. The special bond we form with our dogs makes them feel as if they essentially become a part of the family. Unfortunately, we also know the time will come when our beloved dogs will age and eventually leave us and with their passing, will leave a large vacancy in our hearts. 

As our dogs grow older, their health may begin to decline and it can be incredibly emotionally difficult to watch them suffer. Most dog owners agree with the concept of pet euthanasia, seeing it as a blessing they can offer their canine who is ill or frail from old age as a humane way to end their suffering. 

However, accepting that the time will come when your dog will one day pass away is one thing; knowing when to use euthanasia as a means of ending your dog’s suffering is another. While it is always emotionally challenging to choose to euthanize your dog, understanding the signs your dog is ready and planning accordingly may help make the process somewhat easier and a little less stressful.  

Have you been conflicted asking yourself what the right decision is? In this article, we will be discussing the signs that you should look out for to know that it is time that your dog would probably be better off being put down. Use this guide as a vital resource to help you navigate through the process and to help empower you to speak to your vet about your options. 

When is Euthanasia Necessary? 

Of course, our wish would be for our dogs to just peacefully pass away in their sleep of old age in the comfort of our home. But, unfortunately, many dogs become seriously ill or injured or experience a significant decline in quality of life as they age. Therefore, it may be necessary for you to consider having your pet euthanized to spare them from ongoing pain and suffering in these situations. 

Talking to Your Veterinarian

Having an open and honest discussion with your veterinarian about your dog’s health and quality of life is critical when deciding whether or not it is time to put them down. Some questions you should ask yourself and your vet are:

  • Is there a chance my pet’s health will recover with a treatment plan?
  • If so, can I commit to the plan both financially and personally?
  • What is my dog’s current quality of life? 
  • If we stop or forgo treatment altogether, how quickly will they decline?

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, it may be time to talk about euthanasia with your veterinarian. Remember that the sooner you start the conversation, the easier it will be to decide what’s best for your dog. 

Other Factors to Consider 

It’s also important to keep an eye out for significant changes in your dog. Some dogs may dramatically decline overnight, while in other situations you may notice slight changes in your dog occur over the span of a few weeks. 

Here are things to look out for: 

Changes in Behavior

Is your dog usually active and now barely gets up to use the bathroom? Are they normally sweet-natured, but are all of sudden behaving more aggressively? Changes like these often mean something is going on with their health, and it would be advised for you to consult your vet on next steps.

Changes in Eating and Drinking Habits

Like humans, it is normal for dogs to skip a meal or two if they aren’t feeling well. However, if your dog goes a few days in sequence without eating or drinking, this can be cause for concern. It is advised that you have them checked out as soon as you can for further examination. 

Decline in Mobility

An injury can cause your dog to have trouble getting around. So can weakness and illness. If your dog’s ability to walk, run or use the bathroom starts to decline, contact your vet. 

Experiencing Pain 

There are three ways you can tell if your dog is in pain: 

  • Physically – Panting, arched back, twitching muscles, and trembling.
  • Behavior – Constant whining or yelping, restlessness, aggression, not wanting to be touched, and excessive licking.
  • Mobility – Limping, walking slower, refusing to walk, and reluctant to lay down or get up. 

These changes in behavior may be subtle, so it is important to stay observant and keep a careful watch of your dog. Ask your vet about anything that might signal that your dog is in pain. There is also a helpful Quality of Life scale that you can review to use as a guide to assess your dog’s levels of pain and quality of life as well. 

Euthanization At Home

More and more vets are offering the option to come to the dog’s home to perform euthanization. Having your beloved dog put down at home may be something to something consider if:

  • They have a history of getting distressed at the vet’s office and/or riding in a car 
  • They are in a lot of pain, and it can possibly be made worse by their having to move. Therefore, transporting your dog to the vet for in-office euthanization would only increase your dog’s suffering. 

Having the vet come to your dog helps eliminate some of your dog’s anxiety as well as the stress they may feel than if they were not at home. It also enables them to be most comfortable, remaining in the area they know best. 

Should I Be Present When My Dog is Put Down?

If you are having your dog put down at the vet’s office, it can be a struggle to decide if you should be present for the procedure or not. Understand there is no correct answer, and you should do what you think is best for your situation. 

Many dogs will look for their humans to comfort them as the procedure of euthanization can cause them to become anxious and scared. As emotionally painful as it may be for you to be physically present during the procedure, your dog will appreciate that you are there for them. You will be able to offer comfort and support to your dog throughout the process as well as share in their precious last moments and say your goodbyes.

It can be hard for children, especially younger children to comprehend what’s going on during the procedure of euthanization. Many kids may misunderstand what is happening and think their dog is being harmed or hurt, which can create more anxiety and distress for your dog. Therefore, it may be best not to have them there to witness the process.

What Should I Do With My Dog’s Remains?

Once you’ve decided to put your dog down, you need to consider how you want to proceed with their remains. Again, as emotionally difficult as it may be to plan ahead, considering these questions and making these challenging decisions ahead of time will prevent you from having to decide on them when you are already grieving your dog’s loss.

In regards to the different ways in which your dog’s remains can be handled, there are a few different options available: 

  • Burying a pet on your property (Please check on your town’s regulations in regard to this)
  • Buying a spot at a pet cemetery to bury their remains
  • Cremation

Making A Tough Decision 

Of course, choosing to euthanize your dog is never easy and is always an emotionally charged decision. However, euthanization may be a better option for you AND your dog rather than having to watch them continue to suffer day after day. In addition, it can be comforting to know our dogs will be eternally thankful for this last gift we can offer them of our unconditional love.

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