It’s an unfortunate fact of life that dogs just don’t live as long as people do, and they don’t often pass away peacefully in their sleep.
This means that you will probably have to deal with the decision to euthanize your beloved canine companion. This can be one of the most difficult and most painful things any pet owner has to do. I have had to euthanize four of my own dogs and it never gets any easier.
Is it Time To Put Your Dog To Sleep For Good?
If your dog is elderly or has a chronic illness, it can be hard to know when to let him go. He may not make it easy for you either. One day he’ll appear to be unhappy and in pain and just as you start to think that it would be kinder to put him to sleep, he’ll wake up the next morning with more of a spring in his step.
There is no one right answer to this question, but there are guidelines that will help you get the timing right.
1. Think about your dog’s quality of life. Is he having more bad days than good? Can he still do the things he enjoys, like play with a ball or go for a walk on the beach? Even if he isn’t in obvious pain, there will be signs that his quality of life is declining.
2. Perhaps he’s not as interested in food or he is spending more time on his own away from his family.
3. Maybe the medication that your veterinarian has prescribed no longer seems to be as effective.
All of these are indicators that life isn’t that great for your dog anymore, and it’s time to consider euthanasia.
Because it is such a difficult thing to do, you may keep putting off the decision, but it’s important to remember that your dog is the one that is hurting. You need to look at life through his eyes.
If you delay things too long, he’ll feel miserable for longer and that’s the last thing you want.
It can be better for your dog’s well-being to let him go a little earlier, rather than put it off for too long and let him suffer.
The Dog Euthanasia Process
The word “euthanasia” means “peaceful death” and your veterinarian can help you give your dog a gentle and dignified passing. Euthanasia can be done at the vet clinic, or your dog’s doctor may make a house call so your four legged family member is in a familiar environment.
Give some thought to whether you want to be with your dog when he passes. It will be distressing, but it may give you closure. On the other hand, if you think you’ll be very upset, then this may make him anxious.
You can expect your dog to have a catheter placed in his vein to make it easier to give him an injection. He will then be sedated, and the euthanasia solution will be injected.
I have known people to hold their dogs in their lap for the injection, while others prefer to be by their head, stroking them gently. It’s up to you. The euthanasia solution is a highly concentrated anesthetic drug so your dog will just go to sleep, and his breathing and heartbeat will stop. It is very quick.
Don’t be afraid to cry, vets are very used to people being upset over the loss of their pet, and many will shed a tear with you.
Shooting Your Dog and other Other Controversial Methods
There are some controversial methods of euthanizing dogs. An owner who is reluctant to bring their dog to the vet may try to put him to sleep with an overdose of medications, while others use a firearm to end their pet’s life quickly.
Keeping in mind that euthanasia is a peaceful death, there is no guarantee that using medication will do the job quickly or even painlessly.
Euthanasia with a firearm can be humane (or not), but it would need to be done by someone very skilled in the use of the weapon. They would also need to know exactly where to aim, so that death was instantaneous. For most people, the idea of shooting their much loved pet would be just too distressing to contemplate.
I know of one man who owned a semi-wild outdoor cat that became hysterical when taken on a car trip. Since he lived over an hour from the nearest vet clinic, he felt it would be gentler on the cat if it was euthanized quickly at home with a shotgun, than if it spent its last few hours terrified in a car.
After your dog has passed, you may want to have him cremated, or some counties allow pets to be buried at home. Alternatively, your vet can take care of him for you.
When your dog is old or unwell, and life isn’t much fun anymore, don’t be afraid to consider euthanasia. It’s the last kindness you can do for him and you can take comfort in the fact that you gave him a wonderful life and he didn’t spend his last years feeling sore or unwell.
Calvin is the co-founder and one of the main contributors to dogtemperament.com. He has been an avid dog lover all his life. He enjoys researching and sharing great ideas on how you can avoid common pitfalls of dog ownership and build the most loving and enjoyable relationship with your dog.