Euthanasia: When is it Time to Euthanize?

Today we’re discussing the somber reality we will all face one day with our pets, “When is it Time to Euthanize?”  This question troubles people so much they oftentimes put off thinking about or making arrangements beforehand for their pets.  As a pet owner, it is ultimately your responsibility to provide for and make the tough decisions about your dog’s health needs.  It’s wise to make arrangements ahead of time so that when the time comes, you will already have things sorted out. 

We are going to be talking about euthanasia as it pertains to senior dogs. Though this subject may apply to your dog if they have a disability or other physical/behavioral condition that might mean having to euthanize sooner than his “expected age,” you should speak to your veterinarian or a veterinarian that specializes in behavior for individualized guidance to help with this decision.

Making the Decision to Euthanize

In some cases your veterinarian may be able to definitively tell you that it’s time to euthanize. Most of the time, however, it’s considered a personal decision.  We know that dogs will hide their pain or have ways to cope, so it’s not always as easy as seeing them constantly crying out in pain.  This decision is typically based on your observance of the dog’s behavior and attitude. 

Signs of poor quality of life in a dog:

  • Uncharacteristically withdrawn or quiet
  • Restlessness, unable to get comfortable
  • Avoids physical contact
  • Excessive panting, shaking or salivating
  • Loss in appetite or not drinking
  • Crying
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disoriented or confused
  • Loss of control of his bowels (peeing on the floor or making a mess where he usually wouldn’t)
  • Loss of enthusiasm or enjoyment of walks or other favorite activities such as car rides
  • Regular vomiting

A dog at the end of his life can be in a lot of pain and it can be hard for him to understand what’s going on around him.  Although a heartbreaking decision for the family to make about their beloved pet, euthanasia is one way we can ensure our dog passes peacefully. 

IMPORTANT: If your dog is showing any of the above signs or you are worried about his well being, speak to your veterinarian as soon as possible.  There are some medicines and treatments available to help relieve some of the arthritis and other joint problems, which can give your dog a better quality of life for the rest of his life. 

 Knowing when to euthanize can be tough. This is often a case of him having more bad days than good. You and your family know your dog best.  Discussing it together, if possible, can be a good way to ensure that you are making the decision in the best interest of the dog – rather than keeping him around for you.  If your veterinarian has prescribed pain medication, it is good to discuss with them a length of time that you should be seeing improvements.  That way if you aren’t seeing the improvement you’d like you can prevent further suffering. 

We love our dogs and want to give them the world.  Oftentimes we feel guilt for euthanizing and second guess if we chose to do it too early or too late.  Through the grieving process, this is normal for us to feel.  If you are making a conscientious decision to prevent suffering for your dog, you are doing the best you can for your dog.  According to veterinarians, it’s rare that a dog passing at home in their sleep will be peaceful.  So deciding to take them to be euthanized, or having a veterinarian come to your home will at some point be the best decision you can make for your dog.

How to Say Goodbye

For many of us, our dogs are our lives. We have spent years loving these animals so we will go through the grief of losing them. 

To prepare yourself I’d recommend: 

  • Taking time off of work – to process your loss and grieve. 
  • Keep family and friends close – this isn’t something you should do alone.  Have someone go with you or meet up with them after so you can have somebody to support you. 
  • Consider a house visit – Euthanasia service is where some vets agree to come to your home and will provide details as to how exactly they offer their services.  Some people who have a difficult time traveling or are unable to take their dog to a vet may prefer this service.  It may also be preferable to you so you can be where you and your dog are more comfortable.

After your dog has passed away, you’ll need to decide if you’d like them cremated or if you will bury them.  Cremation is sometimes a more expensive route, however you can arrange for ashes to be put into an urn and keep them if you choose.  There are fancier things you can do with ashes now days, do some googling if you are interested in doing something more unique with the ashes or if you are looking for a unique urn.  Some pet insurance plans cover cremation, so when you plan ahead this may be something to consider. 

Burial is the other common choice.  There are some pet cemeteries.  You can again, google for them and look into their rules and get the details on how to bury them.  Some people prefer to bury their pets in their backyard.  Make sure to speak to your veterinarian about what rules you’ll need to know for where you can legally bury them. 

There are lots of things you can do to remember your dog:

  • Ask for a paw print from your veterinarian or crematorium
  • Ask to keep a lock of hair
  • Make a pet memorial to remember your dog
  • Have a funeral ceremony, many people like to do something like this with their family and especially with kiddos (see Marley & Me)
  • You can make or have made a mini grave stone (if you are burying your dog at home or even if you’d just like to keep it)
  • Make a scrapbook or hang up a photo of your dog so you can see them often
  • Keep their name tags 

When is it Time to Euthanize?

No one wants to be separated from their beloved pet, but the time will come when we all will have to make some tough decisions for them.  Your dog loves you and although guilt is normal to feel in this situation, you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking care of your dog and making sure they aren’t suffering.  Remember your other pets/dogs and look for signs of grief from them.  Losing a companion is tough for humans and dogs.  If you need to, speak to a veterinarian or trainer about how to help your dog through the loss of their companion.

Dog Training in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Corrales, Placitas

The mission of Good Buddy Dog Training is to help build the bond between dogs and their owners through positive training methods. We teach dogs to accomplish new behaviors and humans to bring out the best in their furry friends. For the most effective training, we work with people directly in their homes, where dogs and their humans feel most comfortable. And the training we do is based on the science of how dogs learn by using a positive and fun curriculum to build confidence in both dog and owner.

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