Many dogs will die of old age comfortably in their home while others will become ill or injured and have a quality of life that is significantly diminished as they grow old. When this happens, it can be necessary to consider that your pet is better off being put down to spare him the suffering and pain he is going through. Here are a few suggestions to help you deal with such a difficult decision, and some information that will help you deal with the whole process.
Discuss the Process with Your Veterinarian
A common question that a veterinarian hears is “Should I put my dog down?”. This is a very personal choice, and you will find your veterinarian may be reluctant to give you an answer, even if your dog is suffering. When you ask your vet for advice, he can help you through this difficult decision providing all the medical knowledge you need to know as well as the progression and prognosis of the disease that your dog has.
When you have any questions about the medical issue your dog is suffering from and the good quality of life he should expect, it’s important to talk to your vet so you know what to look for. He will be able to tell you what indicators that your dog is suffering from that you may not even notice. He can also tell you about the process of putting a dog down to ease your anxiety and stress, which will allow you to prepare well in advance.
While everyone would prefer that their dog would pass away naturally in his sleep, it’s actually pretty rare that this happens. Natural deaths can often be a painful and long process, so it’s important to consider what your dog’s quality of life is like on a scale. You’d likely prefer for your dog to fall asleep and pass away naturally without euthanasia, this type of peaceful death for a pet is rare. A natural death can be a long, painful, and anxiety-provoking process for a dog, so take steps to learn about the pet’s quality of life scale.
Your Pet’s Quality of Life
If a young dog suffers from catastrophic illness or trauma in which there is no cure, like a devastating accident, or congenital defects that are unable to be corrected surgically, it may be necessary to choose to put your dog down.
This is not an easy decision. But when you are faced with a dog that is older and is slowly declining, it can be even more difficult to know exactly when you should end your dog’s suffering. Using quality of life scale will help you to determine how happy and comfortable your dog is daily.
One of the most common scales that evaluates the quality of life of a dog lists seven categories of comfort and happiness that include:
Is your pup showing signs of pain and discomfort, even on pain medications, home modifications, or alternative therapies? Look for signs of pain that include moaning, whining, panting, decreased appetite, decreased activity, unable to get comfortable, licking the affected area, and reluctance to move.
If your dog has had a regularly good appetite and is now refusing food or suffering from diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, it may be necessary to feed him with a feeding tube or hand him to ensure proper nutrition. Some diseases and medications may cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. If you have a dog that is vomiting and nauseous due to disease, talk to your vet about a prescription of anti-nausea medication.
Does your dog still drink normally? If he is drinking less or more than normal, it can be an indication of an unmanaged disease. If you aren’t able to coax your dog into drinking enough to stay hydrated, you may want to consider fluid therapy with an intravenous catheterization or having subcutaneous fluids administered.
Does your dog still maintain typical grooming habits? Has he developed fecal or urinary incontinence? Is he still mobile enough to get up out of his own mess? The development of fecal or urinary incontinence can be a deciding factor for dog owners, particularly when it includes immobility. It can be a struggle to move a large dog out of his own mess, which can add to the burden of caring for him.
Is your dog still able to enjoy his normal activities? Is he still able to greet when you come home or is he showing signs of depression and anxiety, or even isolating himself from you and your family? When a dog is not able to enjoy his normal routine, you may want to consider if you are prolonging his life for your own sake.
Can your dog move comfortably? Some dogs develop crippling skeletal and muscular disorders like severe osteoarthritis. Ask your vet if there are surgeries, medications, tools, or therapies that will help to improve his mobility, but if your dog is not able to stand or walk unassisted, it can take a toll on his hygiene, health, and happiness.
Good Days versus Bad Days
It’s also important to consider if he has more good or bad days. Towards the end of a dog’s life, it’s important to consider letting him go peacefully if he is consistently having more bad days.
What Should You Expect With Pet Euthanasia?
When you make the decision to put down a beloved dog, your emotions may be exacerbated if you don’t know exactly what to expect during the process. Here are things to keep in mind when it’s time to say goodbye:
- Talk to your vet and have him explain the procedure before he begins. Feel free to ask your vet for clarification or further explanation if it is needed.
- A medium to small-sized dog will typically be placed on the table during the procedure while a larger dog can be handled more easily on the floor. No matter where your dog is placed, remember to have a comfortable bed or blanket for him to lie on.
- Typically, a veterinary technician will hold your dog during the procedure. This tech has the skills that are needed to hold your dog correctly to ensure that the entire process goes smoothly and quickly. If you want to be present, it is important to give the vet and tech enough space to work. One of them will probably show you the best place to stand in order for your dog to see you and hear your voice.
- First, your vet will give your dog an overdose of sodium pentobarbital, which is an anesthetic drug that will quickly cause your dog to become unconscious before stopping his heartbeat gently. Typically, it is injected into a vein on a dog’s front leg. Remember that the injection will not cause your dog any pain.
- Sometimes, veterinarians will also use place an IV catheter into your dog’s vein before giving the injection, which will reduce the risk that your dog’s vein will rupture as the vet injects the drug. If it does rupture, then it’s possible that some of the drugs will leak out onto your dog’s leg, so it will not work quite as quickly.
- It’s also possible that your vet will give your dog a sedative or anesthetic prior to the injection of sodium pentobarbital. Typically, this is done with a dog that may not hold still for an IV injection. A sedative or anesthetic injection is normally given in a dog’s rear leg muscle and takes effect in about five to 10 minutes. Your dog will become unconscious or very drowsy, which allows the vet to easily give the IV injection.
- After the IV injection of sodium pentobarbital has been given, it will only take a few seconds for your dog to become completely unconscious, and death following a few minutes later.
- Finally, your vet will use his stethoscope to confirm that your dog’s heart has stopped and confirmed that he has passed. You may see some intermittent breathing or muscle twitching from your dog a few minutes after he has passed. He may also release his bowels or bladder, but this is normal and should not alarm him. At this time your vet will also ask if you would like to have a few minutes alone with your dog.
What does a dog feel when being put to sleep?
When the injection is made into your dog’s vein, it will travel rapidly through his body. He will be unconscious in just seconds and experience no suffering or pain. His breathing will slow until it stops in another few seconds.
Can a dog wake up after euthanasia?
It can take a couple of minutes for your dog’s heart to stop. The vet will listen to make sure your dog’s heart has stopped before pronouncing him gone. At that point, there is no longer any danger of your dog waking up.
How do you know when a dog is suffering?
Always check with your vet to make sure your dog does not have any health issues. Look for major signs that your dog may be dying like loss of motor control and balance. If your dog is getting up and moving around, he may be disoriented or wobbly. Also, look for shaking or convulsions when he is lying down.
When do you know it’s time to put your dog down?
There are definite signs to look for like a change in your dog’s behavior, which can include being sluggish and standoffish when he normally is friendly and active. Is your dog whining or crying? This could be a sign of discomfort or pain. Also, has his drinking or eating habits changed? If he’s not eating as much as usual and you are concerned, make sure to contact the vet. Other signs can include a decline in his mobility, an inability to move, and weakness and no longer participating in family activities, playtime, or cuddle time.