When To Say Good-Bye To Your Dog

When To Say Good-Bye To Your Dog

 

article from dogtime.com

The reality is that unlike your children — or anyone else you’ve helped raise and take care of — your dog will probably not outlive you. Even more sobering, you may end up facing a difficult decision about when to end the life of this precious friend and family member.

Some dogs do pass peacefully on their own, but in many cases, the will to survive keeps a dog going long past the point of experiencing good quality of life. While recent advances in veterinary medicine are nothing short of amazing, remember that just because you can prolong his life doesn’t mean it’s in your dog’s best interest to do so.

Most of the factors around aging and death are beyond our control, but the one thing you are able to do for your dog is alleviate undue pain and suffering. Arguably, no other decision you make about your dog will be as difficult as the one to euthanize, but in so many cases, it is the only humane option.

How to know it’s time

If there’s ever a time to put your dog’s welfare ahead of your own needs, this is it. While the idea of living without your beloved pet can be devastating, the thought of him suffering should feel even worse.

So in considering what to do, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your dog have a terminal illness? Ask your veterinarian what to expect at the next stage and then ask whether you’re prepared to go there.
  • Is your dog in the kind of pain that cannot be significantly alleviated by medication?
  • Will more treatment improve his quality of life, or simply maintain a poor quality of life?
  • Can you afford treatment? End-of-life care can run into thousands of dollars, and people can end up prolonging their grieving while paying off credit cards.
  • Is your dog so old he has lost most bodily functions? If he can no longer stand up, get down stairs, defecate, and urinate on his own, the quality of his life is pretty poor.
  • Does he still want to eat? Once a dog loses his appetite he’s signaling he’s close to the end.
  • Are his gums pink? When gums aren’t a normal pink, your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen.
  • Is it in his best interest to extend his life, or are you extending his life for yourself? This last point is the most difficult one for most of us to sort out, but it may well be the most relevant.

Other considerations

  • You may find that everyone feels free to tell you what to do, but the responsibility for this choice is yours. This can be more difficult when a couple disagrees, but it can still weigh heavily on a single person.
  • Your veterinarian is trained to save lives. That’s what they do, and that’s why you go to them. But all they can do is delay, not prevent. No veterinarian should make you feel guilty for choosing not to pursue treatment, even if you can afford it.
  • If your veterinarian is advising euthanasia and you’re reluctant, closely examine your own motives and see if they’re for your benefit or the dog’s.
  • People often say, “You’ll know when it’s time.” In many cases that’s true, but not always.
  • Choosing euthanasia is not “playing God” any more than providing medical treatment to save a life is.
  • Euthanasia ensures that you’ll be able to be with your dog at the moment he passes, so he’s not alone. However, you don’t have to be there. If you feel you cannot remain calm, it’s best for your dog that you not be there.
  • Most people believe it’s better to euthanize your dog a day too early rather than a day too late.

Make a list, or two

Before your dog gets to the point where euthanasia is a consideration, and you’re still fairly calm, write a list of what gives him quality of life. Decide how many of those points he can be without in old age and still enjoy his life. For example:

  • He likes to eat.
  • He likes to play ball.
  • He likes to go for walks.
  • He likes to be petted by children.
  • He is proud of his housebreaking.
  • He likes large groups of people and dogs.
  • He likes going for car rides.

That’s seven points. How many points do you think your dog needs to enjoy life, even if he’s not in pain?

If he can maintain quality of life with four of those seven, then you know it may be time to consider euthanasia if he gets to three points. Promise yourself that other factors, such as pain, the kind of senility that causes fear, and a lack of bodily function and control, cancel out any list.

Next, decide how much money you can afford to spend on veterinary care. Make a decision, write it down, and stick to your plan when your emotions are off the chart.

If your dog is suffering, he has lost all joy in being a dog.

Bottom line: The emotions surrounding this decision are mixed and complicated. To do what’s best for our dogs, we need to realistically assess the criteria without allowing emotion to overwhelm the decision-making process.

4 Comments on "When To Say Good-Bye To Your Dog"

  • Ruth Hutchison says

    I just lost my boy Barkley in Sept this has been the hardest thing I think I have gone though, he was my life my love my boy. I just got a tattoo in his memory, I am just so lost without him. I do have two other furry boys at home that I love very much but Barkley was my heart. I was there when he was born, my son has his mommy and daddy and I was there when he passed. I have tons of beautiful memoires that I will always treasure. I have to stop now the tears are rolling..

    • Marlene says

      I am so sorry for your loss. I am going through the exact same thing. Had to lay our beautiful girl Roxy to rest yesterday. She made it to 15, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I guess the price of love is grief and we just have to cry our way through it. Stay strong…

  • Debbie Rankin says

    So sorry for your loss Ruth. We had to say goodbye to our beautiful golden retriever, Rooster, this past Dec. at age 13. Taking him in to the vet the last time was excruciating; truly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. We sent an email to our family and friends entitled, “Rooster’s New Adventure Begins”. Everyone has their own take on what the future holds. We have a hope that we will see our wonderful boy again, as he is one of God’s beautiful creatures. In the meantime, we cherish our memories.

  • Joy Hitchcock says

    We lost our beautiful Blizzard too early in January. He played in the snow and had a wonderful last day, and then he failed. He was full of cancer, but we didn’t know it until a tumor caused a rupture and he went into shock. He was 11 and we thought we had a few more (slower) years and weren’t ready to say goodbye. He was my constant companion, hiking buddy, and got me outside every day. He would never let a tennis ball sit alone! I miss him and mourn every day that we had to decide that he wasn’t coming home with us from the vet. That would have been for us, and not for him. My prayers go out to others who have to make the same very tough decision.

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