Making the decision to put a dog down is not one that any owner can take likely. The loss of a family member is always difficult, especially when the choice rests on your shoulders. If you are questioning when to put your dog down and if you should be reconsidering, we are here to help. On one side, you will be saying goodbye to your pet and may wonder if you did so too soon. On the other, your dog may be suffering.
So we have compiled all the information you need to answer the question ‘how do I know when to put down my dog?’. You deserve to feel like you have all the information on the topic to make the decision as easy as possible.
When is the Right Time?
The first thing to consider is if your vet is recommending it. These are professionals who not only know your dog now but know their medical history and behavior growing up. They are aware when there are problems that your pet cannot or is not bouncing back from and whether treatment is unfair. The option of putting a dog to sleep should only be considered if a dog is suffering. Whether they are elderly and struggling to move, physically in pain and the treatment is not effective, or mentally suffering. It can be difficult as an owner to sometimes make that call and identify when enough is enough, this is why a vet consultation is important.
You have to ask yourself if your dog is having a good quality of life and what options there are for treatment. If there is treatment available, ask yourself it make a substantial difference. Also ask if you can afford to give it as long as your dog needs it, and is it fair to give your dog the amount required? Furthermore, to diagnose their quality of life you need to assess their movement, interactions with the world around them, and how well they are doing natural activities like eating.
The Quality of Life Scale
Created by Dr. Alice Villalobos, the quality of life scale is a table that vets and owners use to assess if a pet has a good quality of life. Originally created for cats, this tool is actually applicable for many different pets and animals. At home you can use this tool, one that vets praise, to assess what is fair for your dog concerning euthanasia. Find this table below and score your dog with 10 representing the ideal score.
|0-10||HURT – Adequate pain control & breathing ability is of top concern. Trouble breathing outweighs all concerns. Is the pet’s pain well managed? Can the pet breathe properly? Is oxygen supplementation necessary?|
|0-10||HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the pet need a feeding tube?|
|0-10||HYDRATION – Is the pet dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough water, use subcutaneous fluids daily or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.|
|0-10||HYGIENE – The pet should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after eliminations. Avoid pressure sores with soft bedding and keep all wounds clean.|
|0-10||HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to family, toys, etc.? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities?|
|0-10||MOBILITY – Can the pet get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, but an animal with limited mobility yet still alert, happy and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping their pet.)|
|0-10||MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware that the end is near. The decision for euthanasia needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly at home, that is okay.|
|TOTAL||A total of over 35 points represents acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice (Pawspice).|
If you find a score above 35 then your dog has a acceptable quality of life. However, any score below this number means they could be suffering, and this is an indication you need to reevaluate things.
Does my Dog Need to be Put Down: FAQ
Here are a few more answers to questions concerning putting your dog down and if it’s the right time.
Vets will refuse to put a dog down if they do not feel that that dog needs to be euthanized. If they have a good quality of life, or if treatment is likely to help them, a vet will not allow a healthy dog to be put down. If it is the case that the owner no longer wants the dog, then they will recommend shelters or aids to help them rehome their dog. So if you are considering rehoming your dog then contact a no-ckill shelter for more information.
No law prohibits you from euthanizing your own dog under the circumstances that they are near death or suffering. However, we strongly recommend leaving this to the professionals. Firstly, your dog may feel some pain if the process is not done perfectly. Furthermore, there may be some help your dog can receive, and unless you take them to the vets you cannot guarantee there is no help.
You have a few different options once your dog has been euthanized. Firstly, there is the selfless option that you could donate your dog’s organs to save another dog’s life. However, this is not for everyone and that is completely understandable. Instead, you may want to bury or cremate your dog. There are multiple facilities which do so and you can contact your vet for advice for who to choose. Emotionally, you need to take care of yourself and allow yourself to mourn. Losing anyone is very difficult, do not attempt to minimize your feelings because they were a dog.
When being euthanized by a vet they will feel no pain. The injection quickly makes your dog fall asleep and then pass away whilst asleep. They will not be hurting and it is the kindest method of euthanasia. It works by stopping their heart and brain usually within two minutes, less if your pet is smaller. Your dog will gradually stop moving and then breathing, there will be no panic for them.
There is no right answer, it depends on what you would like. Some people prefer to stay with their dog when they are put to sleep to comfort them. However, it’s okay if you cannot do so. Your dog will have the emotional support of the vet and feel safe. Take time to decide what is right for you as one decision may affect you more negatively than the other.
When deciding if your dog needs to be put down or not you have to consider a few different factors. The quality of life scale can be a major beneficial tool for this to evaluate all areas of their life. Always ask your vet for their opinion if you are questioning things, they know your dog and they know about a dog’s life and health. They can advise you on whether things could get better or if your dog is currently happy. Remember that a good owner is one who puts their dog first, and just because a decision is right doesn’t mean it will be easy. Be kind to yourself.