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how do you know when it's time to put a dog down?

asked 2015-10-05 15:40:32 -0500

16 year old Boxer Mix.... still loving. has tumors...? seizures? dementia. Ailing 3 years ago, got a puppy then who gave the old girl something to live for. But now, I see signs of pain, confusion, illness. She still has some good days, but I want to be humane about the end

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answered 2015-10-05 19:00:11 -0500

Oh, my heart hurts for you. I've recently been there myself and there's no easy answer. My dog was over 14 years old, had beaten cancer once (it had returned, albeit slow-growing), but still had his good days. He was on fairly strong painkillers for arthritis and one of his back legs was all but useless and dragging behind him. He would sometimes fall and be unable to rise. He had marked dementia, slept around 18-22 hours a day, and when he was awake, would pace around. It was rare for us to see him seem truly joyful. And yet, we still clung to the good moments.

I talked to a lot of friends and family about what to do, but talking it over with his vet was what helped me the most. She listened very sympathetically and then told me, "If you decide you are ready to say goodbye to him, no one here would object to your decision. You're in the best position to judge his quality of life and at this point, that's entirely what you need to consider. He's very old now and will only continue to decline. If you decide the time is now, we're here to support that decision."

I appreciated that she didn't let me off the hook or venture a guess with "If it were my dog..." At that point, I knew what needed to happen and knowing that my vet's office was in my corner made a big difference. I fully recognize you might not get the same solace from talking to your vet, but they are in a really good position to give advice. They've seen this thousands of times and if you're feeling any doubts, they can answer your questions and hopefully give you confidence in your choice, whatever it may be.

The only other advice I would give is, personally, I think if you wait until your dog gives you a sign that makes you 100% certain it's time, you've probably waited too long. I didn't want it to take him breaking a bone in a fall, or being completely unwilling to get up to go potty, or in some similarly terrible condition to make the choice. For me, that was much, much more than I could ask him to endure and would've just broken my heart.

I hope this helpful. You're in a rotten situation, no doubt about it. My deepest sympathies to you.

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answered 2015-10-07 00:56:21 -0500

My prayers go out to you and your family. Working In the veterinary field I get asked this question all the time. and there is never an easy answer. What I tell my clients is when when his quality of life just doesn't seem to be there and trust me you'll know deep down inside when that is. You want him/her to have more good days than bad. I hope you can find comfort in knowing that you have given him a wonderful life and that I am sure your pet knows how much you truly love him. His spirt will always be with you. With love, I send my prayers!

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answered 2015-10-06 20:17:27 -0500

Like others, my heart breaks for the decision you are struggling with. And like others, I had to make that decision about my Bandit almost 10 years ago. He was a 13 year old Lab mix that I had been with since he was a puppy. Towards the end he had trouble getting up, walking, and just moving around. The vet told me I had to consider his quality of life and said something very thought provoking. He said, "think about him and what he would want. He loves you and doesn't want to be this way around you. Think about his dignity." That made the decision easier for me. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I knew he would not get better and would only get worse.

I was there with him at the end, and I talked to him and petted him and told him that I loved him, that we had had a wonderful life together, and it was okay for him to go. Even now I get tears in my eyes thinking about it, but I choose to focus on the great times and joys we shared rather than the end times.

Just keep in mind your dog's point of view as well as your own, and you'll make the right choice.

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answered 2015-10-05 17:06:16 -0500

I had to make this choice with my last dog when he was under 6 years old. My ex and I had found a tumor almost a year prior, just shy of his 5th birthday. At first, since he was a young, energetic dog with many more years ahead of him, we decided on an extremely aggressive approach. We tried chemo, surgery, more chemo.. we were even coordinating with a cancer care center for an experimental treatment (most human cancers are first studied in dogs, so there's an interest out there).. we did everything we could think of to try and best it. After a few months and a couple really close calls, I called my ex at work in the middle of the night telling him that he needed to go home sick if he wanted to see Elliott again. He hadn't stopped hemorrhaging into his intestines after his latest round of chemo, and our vet was offering to come over to put him down at home. He used 12 units of blood in one day, including one from the vet's own dog. Amazingly, he stopped bleeding right after those calls.

After that, we reevaluated what we expected from treatments. It had become clear that whatever he was battling, he was going to lose. Making him miserable and potentially killing him with the cure wasn't going to gain us anything in the long run. He was not going to have a long, happy, cancer-free life. He was going to have a short life with cancer, so we tried to find a treatment option that kept him comfortable and gave him as many good days as possible. We had to consider what we felt were his happiest things. He was incredibly food motivated, and when he was his sickest, we had to feed him by syringe. So for him, loss of appetite meant he wasn't happy anymore. I decided I wasn't going to force feed him again. If he stopped eating, he was telling me he was done. He had a few good months after that. He got to take some hikes, hang out with the people he loved, and he was enthusiastic about life. But eventually the bloody diarrhea came back, and shortly after he started losing interest in his food. I encouraged him how I could, offering him the best, stinkiest things and the most comforting, stomach friendly things, but he was done. He was still able to walk to his final appointment.

If I had it to do again, I might err more on the side of caution. I know Elliott had a lot of good days, and I wouldn't want to give those up for anything. But I also know he had many bad days. And I don't know if his acceptable ratio of good to bad matched my own. I wasn't in pain like he was. I was only terrified of losing my companion. I would... (more)

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Comments

Thanks for sharing this. What a powerful story. It's hard to know what's best for our friends who can't speak for themselves sometimes.

Kathryn K.'s profile image Kathryn K.  ( 2015-10-06 13:04:17 -0500 ) edit

Goodness Laura, its too early to start crying. You have me in tears. My baby is 12 years old and I am dreading when that day comes :'(

Frances M.'s profile image Frances M.  ( 2015-10-10 08:28:37 -0500 ) edit
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answered 2015-10-06 13:16:02 -0500

My heart aches for you. For me that is the hardest part. Our daughter is also in your position with their lab. I had a customer with an aged dog going through what you are going through. Over several months of occasional pet sitting I could see her failing. When the time came for them, the pet parents had a veterinarian come to their home so it was comfortable and personal and not in the vet's office. Although it is a personal decision, stay in contact with your veterinarian for some guidance.

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answered 2015-10-07 15:28:46 -0500
  Sorry to hear about your puppy none of us pet owners ever wan,t

to go through that. We recently had to put our family dog down that lived to be 18 years old towards the end the vet said if he had surgery he wouldn't make it through so we just basicly let him live as long as we had to It was painful. He was the best!!!!!!!

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answered 2015-10-05 22:00:04 -0500

It's a personal thing between you and your pup. You'll know when it's time. Like someone else said, she'll let you know - it's hard to explain, but you will know.

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answered 2015-10-07 23:24:25 -0500

This is a very hard question. Our Tigger had bone cancer and got to the point that he couldn't use one leg anymore & was in pain, even though he tried not to show it. The Vet office was great, knowing he was very food motivated, gave us a jar of treats to feed him until the Morphine took effect. We just kept petting him as we talked to him about how he was such a good boy and said our goodbyes the day before Thanksgiving. We were very Blessed to have him in our lives for as long as we did.

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answered 2015-10-13 00:48:48 -0500

The last dog I had we had to put him. Well, it was a brother and his brother after getting a sheep from our neighbor. It wasn't my decision, and I believe we shouldn't have needed to put them down. Anyway, we havent gotten another dog since. I hope you make the right choice.

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