No dog owner wants to think about putting a dog to sleep, but it’s a decision that you may find yourself making towards the end of your dog’s life.
Although heart-breaking, dog euthanasia is sometimes the kindest option for your pet. It’s never easy having to put your dog down, but doing your research before the sad day arrives may help you to understand it all a little better.
Should I put my dog down?
It’s the decision no one ever wants to make, but if your dog’s quality of life is suffering with no sign of getting better, you may find the kindest option is to put your dog to sleep. It’s a very hard choice; on the one hand you want to spend as long as possible with your friend but, on the other hand, you want to make the right decision for them.
You will normally have a bit of time to think things through, and we always recommend you talk to family and friends and consult your vet as part of the process. Whilst you and your family will be able to tell if your dog is acting out of character or seems to be struggling, your vet will have a good insight into how this will affect their quality of life. Consider your pet’s mobility, appetite, breathing, comfort, toileting habits, mental capacity, happiness and response to treatment. If you notice any of these failing, then seek further advice from your vet.
Ultimately, the decision to put your dog to sleep will be yours, but remember that sometimes the kindest and most responsible decision is to let them go, especially if they will suffer if they keep going.
Deciding to put your dog to sleep is hard for the whole family, especially children. If you can, try to sit down as a family and discuss the decision together, being honest about your reasons and what it will mean for everyone, including your beloved pet. Of course, it will be an upsetting conversation, and there may be tears, but try to focus on it being about what’s best for your dog – after all, you all want to do the right thing for them.
In the days and weeks that follow the loss of your dog, try to focus on the good times - all those wonderful walks, the games you played and the happiness you gave each other.
What does dog euthanasia involve?
Preparing yourself and your dog
There’s a good reason why dog euthanasia is also known as 'putting a dog to sleep.' It is a very peaceful procedure, and will help them pass away with as little pain and distress as possible.
- If your dog is distressed or upset, they can be given a mild sedative first to relax them.
- The drug is usually given through a vein in the dog’s front leg and your vet may put a ‘line’ or catheter into the vein first.
- Your vet will administer a measured overdose of a drug, similar to an anaesthetic, which will put your dog into a deep and permanent ‘sleep.’
- There will usually be a veterinary nurse in the room to help the vet, and you should also be able to stay throughout if you like, to stroke or cuddle your dog as they drift off.
- It doesn’t take long for them to gently slip away and, most importantly, they shouldn’t suffer any pain.
- Depending on the circumstances your vet may agree to put your dog put down at home, in which case he or she will travel to your house and perform the procedure there.
After saying goodbye to your dog
What happens next?
You have a number of choices with regards to what happens after your dog has been put to sleep, and again this is a decision that you may wish to make as a family.
You can take your dog home after the procedure and bury them yourselves at home or you can arrange for them to be buried or cremated at a pet cemetery. Bear in mind, however, that some councils don’t allow home burials, or at least require you to ask permission, so speak to your local authority or ask your vet’s advice before you make your final decision.
Alternatively you can ask your vet to arrange the cremation. After this, you can ask the vet to handle the ashes or ask that they are kept aside for you to collect and scatter or keep yourself. If you do choose to collect their ashes, there will be additional costs involved, so ask your vet to confirm these before you make your choice.
Managing your loss
You might choose to take some time off work, especially if you have children who are having a hard time adapting - supporting one another as a family can help the healing process. If you find yourself dwelling on putting your dog to sleep, remember that it was the best decision for them. You helped to relieve their suffering and free them from a poor quality of life. What’s more, you allowed them to pass away painlessly and with dignity. You made a difficult but responsible and selfless decision and showed your dog the ultimate kindness in their time of need.
If you have other pets in the family, you may notice their behaviour change – they may search for their friend or whimper, while previously submissive dogs might become a little more dominant. No one knows if dogs are capable of experiencing grief in the same way that humans do, but they may well feel a sense of loss and pick up on emotions from the rest of the family, so give them plenty of love and reassurance.
In the days and weeks that follow the loss of your dog, try to focus on the good times - all those wonderful walks, the games you played and the happiness you gave each other. However overwhelming your grief, you can look back on an amazing friendship and remember your dog with pride.
For more help and advice on coping with dog euthanasia, see our article on saying goodbye.
Should I get another dog?
Getting another dog following the passing of another is a personal decision that shouldn’t be rushed. Some people can’t bear the silence of an empty home, while others need longer to come to terms with their loss.
There is no right or wrong answer, but do make sure that you don’t get a new dog while your emotions are still raw - they need to be welcomed into a forward-looking, loving home. They will not replace the dog you lost but will be just as unique and special to you in their own way. You can then look forward to a future of new memories with your new loyal friend.