Facing Farewell: Making the Hard Decision To Put Your Pet to Sleep

Putting an aging or ailing pet down is one of the hardest decisions you may have to make as an owner. It’s not easy, whether you’ve had your dog for one year or fifteen years, chances are you still consider them part of your family. But as sad as it is to let go of your loving companion, sometimes putting your dog down is the only way to end their suffering. In certain circumstances, it’s the right and humane thing to do. On the other hand, sometimes owners put dogs down when it’s not necessary, which isn’t right. For example, putting a dog down because they’ve become inconvenient (barking too much, etc.) is wrong. It’s important to take your dog in to a vet when you first notice something wrong. Proper diagnosis can help make sure that your dog isn’t just sick with something treatable before you put them down.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about when it’s OK to put your dog down, including the signs of your dog dying, a checklist to help you decide if it’s time to put your pet to sleep, how much euthanasia costs, and whether incontinence is a good enough reason to put a dog down. Ultimately, the decision you make should be in the best interest of your dog.

What are the signs your dog may be dying?

Sometimes dogs get very sick and you don’t even see it coming. You may notice signs that they’re feeling off, like vomiting occasionally or seeming to lack energy and shrug them off thinking that it’s probably nothing. Unfortunately, these things could be early warning signs of a more serious condition, so they shouldn’t be ignored.  

Keeping regular vet appointments and your dog’s shots up to date can help keep your dog healthy and give you a chance to catch potential health problems early on. If you’ve noticed that your dog’s health has suddenly deteriorated, and they are displaying one or more of these symptoms, it could be a sign that your dog is dying: 

  • Loss of coordination
  • Prolonged disinterest/lethargy
  • Incontinence
  • Stops eating and drinking
  • Labored breathing
  • Comfort seeking

Together, these are symptoms that you would usually see further along in your dog’s illness, rather than at the beginning. As soon as you notice one or more of these signs, like your dog isn’t eating or drinking, it’s important to take them in because waiting days and even hours can make a significant difference. Hopefully, with a quick diagnosis and some treatment your dog can get back to normal. If not, at least you will have the insight needed to make an informed decision about the next step to take. You also want to rule out that they didn’t ingest something toxic or experience trauma that requires treatment.

When is it OK to put down your dog?

The decision to put a dog down can be heart wrenching. The last thing that you want to do is call the shots when it comes to your pet dying, but if they are old and suffering or sick and it’s too late to do anything about it, it’s cruel to watch them be in pain.

Look back at the signs of your dog dying. How many is your dog currently experiencing? If he or she is experiencing all of them, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to put your dog down. Here are a few other questions you can ask yourself as a checklist to help you decide when to put your dog down: 

  1. Have you taken your dog in to see a vet?
  2. Is your dog’s condition terminal?
  3. Is there anything you can do to ease your dog’s pain until they pass away naturally?
  4. If you can’t afford a vet bill, is there an alternative way to raise money or an organisation willing to help?
  5. Does your dog seem like it is suffering or in pain?

Watching a dog that you love suffering is hard. You shouldn’t have to go through it but unfortunately as a dog lover, it’s part of the package and agreement you take on as an owner. Of course, you want to do everything you can to save them, but you also should know when the time is right to end their pain.

What does it cost to put a dog down?

According to CostHelper, the price of euthanasia to put down a dog or other pet varies depending on where you go and the level of service you get. Like many other things, there is usually a basic cost for the procedure and additional costs for extras that aren’t included. Here are some of the basics, keeping in mind that these estimates can change depending on things like your location and the size of your dog:

  • Putting your dog down at the vet: approximately $50 - $100
  • Having a vet come to your home to put your dog down: approximately $295 - $400
  • Putting dog down with aftercare (cremation, burial, etc.): approximately $400 - $800

Some additional costs that might come up are things like burial in a pet cemetery (which involves the cost of a casket as well) or cremation (and an urn) if you choose to keep rather than spread your dog’s ashes.  

Is incontinence alone a reason to put a dog down?

Even though incontinence is one of the signs that your dog might be dying, it is not a reason (on its own) to put a dog down. This is because there are several other reasons your dog may be incontinent or suddenly having accidents inside the house. If this is the only symptom you’ve noticed, it’s important to see a vet or do some investigating to get to the bottom of the issue before putting your dog down.  Some reasons for incontinence that do not necessarily mean your dog is dying include:

  • Hormone-induced urinary incontinence, which happens after dogs are spayed or neutered
  • Birth defects that cause problems with housetraining
  • Bladder stones
  • Obstruction

The thing about all these problems is that there are solutions to them. It might take some work and patience on your part, but as a loving pet owner it’s important to be dedicated to your dog through the good and the bad. Incontinence isn’t a good enough reason to put your dog down unless it turns out to be a sign of something more severe, like a disease, nervous system trauma, or their body shutting down.

Final Thoughts

Putting a dog down is never easy. This guide was designed to help you spot symptoms that suggest your dog might be dying and help you make an informed the decision as to whether you should put your dog down. Maintaining your dog’s health should always be a priority. If you’re lucky, you may have spotted early symptoms that something is wrong in time to do something about it.

If you’re too late or your dog is simply old and suffering, you may be on the verge of one of the toughest decisions in your life. When going through this challenging time, try to remember all the great memories you have with your dog. If you can, consider getting a memento, like a photo frame, made to remember them by. Know that they love you, they feel your love, and that the time you had together was precious.

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