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One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make is the one to euthanize your much loved dog. It’s never easy to know when it is the right time, and he often won’t make it easy. One day he’ll be miserable and you’ll think his quality of life is gone, and the next he’ll look better. He may yoyo like this for several weeks or months, all the time tugging at your heart strings until they are frayed.

Tips to Measure Pain
If you watch him closely enough, your dog will let you know when it is time. It’s not always easy to tell if he is in pain, but you can look for changes in his behavior. He may not be interested in coming outside with you, or he might appear depressed.

One of the most common ways of telling how your dog is feeling is to list the three things he loves most in life. It may be food, playing with a ball or going to the beach, for example. Once he is no longer interested in two of them, then he’s not enjoying life too much anymore.

As a veterinarian, I often see people delay their dog’s euthanasia because they don’t want to lose him and they love him so much. After the event, they recognize that perhaps they left it too long and feel guilty for extending his discomfort.  If your dog has a terminal or painful condition and he isn’t likely to recover, then it’s often better to let him go a little earlier so he doesn’t suffer. Your biggest ally in this difficult decision is your veterinarian; they have had many years of experience helping people through this period and will be realistic about how your dog is likely to be feeling.

Saying Goodbye and Beyond
When you have made the decision to euthanize, then it’s time to make some arrangements. You may choose to have your dog euthanized at your vet’s office or at home. Would you like to be present when he goes to sleep for the last time, or would you like to hug him and say goodbye, leaving him in the compassionate care of your vet? Either is perfectly okay but if you feel you’ll be very distressed, your dog will pick up on this and will be anxious.

After he has gone, you may want to bury him at home (depending on your town or county guidelines) or have him cremated and returned to you in an urn. An alternative is letting your vet take care of his burial.

Keep in mind that euthanasia is the last kindness you can ofer your dog, and often the hardest part is anticipating the loss and planning for it. Once he has gone, many people feel some sense of relief that his suffering is over, mixed in with the grief of his loss.

After the loss of your dog, you need to take care of yourself and allow yourself to grieve. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family and talk to them about how you are feeling. If you’re struggling to get on with life, you may need to have a chat to a professional counsellor.

Susan Wright DMV is a vet, a dog expert and freelance writer. Susan shares articles on health conditions as they relate to dogs to help dog owners learn how to properly care for their pets.