An owner laying their head against their dog's as they both sit down.

How To Know When To Put Your Dog Down

5 mins |

One of the most challenging decisions pet owners must make is when to put their dog to sleep. The sad reality of pet ownership is that dogs live much shorter lives than most people. So, how do you know when to put your dog down?

While some pets pass away in the comfort of their own homes as they age, many others suffer from serious illnesses or injuries or have their quality of life significantly decreased as they age. Euthanasia can be a gift of mercy when your dog is in misery, as painful as it is for us humans to make this call. If or when to do it depends on each dog’s quality of life and contusion. Talk to your veterinarian, and they will help you through this difficult process.

What Does “Putting A Dog Down” Mean?

It basically means that when/if a dog is too ill, too severely injured, or suffering terribly simply due to old age, the vet will administer an overdose of anesthesia and additionally an injection to stop the dog’s heart, which causes it to pass away painlessly. 

This is also known as “putting to sleep,” or in medical terms, “euthanasia,” and it is the hardest part of owning a dog.

The combination of chemicals used in the euthanasia solution causes a speedy, painless death as well as full muscle relaxation. No nerve impulses exist; hence there are no thoughts, feelings, or movements.

Veterinarians give euthanasia through a vein, and it takes effect rapidly. Your dog will typically take a deeper breath and slip into what appears to be a profound sleep within a few seconds. 

Within a minute, the heart and brain processes shut down. Your dog won’t be alive despite occasional muscle spasms and sounds of air leaving the body.

Following the procedure, your veterinarian will listen to your dog’s heart to verify the death, informing you that your dog has passed away quietly.

How To Decide When To Euthanize Your Pet?

A closeup of an owner hugging their dog.
Never an easy time making this decision.

You must carefully consider your options because this kind of decision could lead to regrets and remorse that could be very challenging to deal with. However, you shouldn’t let your unease with dying influence your choice.

When various methods of reducing pain and misery are no longer effective, a veterinarian may advise euthanasia, which is a humane method of ending life. If you can save your cat or dog even a single day of suffering, you should. 

And if your dog is experiencing misery, pain, or poor quality of life, that is the number one indication that it is time to put them to sleep.

Establish a clear strategy for what you want to do with your dog after euthanasia to reduce any stress that can cause you to make a decision you regret hastily.

Assessing The Quality Of Life

For each pet, high quality of life comes in various forms. Can your pet take a walk, engage and play with toys, and enjoy meals?

Indications your pet may be in pain could be hiding, shedding, gaining weight, and sleeping more than usual.

Every pet must be held with dignity, and they have freedoms and basic rights.

Being free from thirst and hunger by offering ample fresh water and nourishing meals that will keep them healthy is really important, for example. 

The absence of discomfort by providing them with the appropriate surroundings, such as food, water, shelter, and a cozy place to rest, is another right. Being free from discomfort, illness, and harm, as well as anxiety and pain, are non-negotiable freedoms and rights as well.

It’s a good idea to periodically check in on your pet by evaluating their quality of life too. It becomes much more important during a terminal illness

Pet owners want to provide the greatest life for their animals, and part of that involves doing the painful task of admitting when it is no longer feasible.

Most Common Reasons For Euthanizing A Dog

Most dog or cat owners decide on euthanasia for their beloved animal due to either terminal disease, behavioral problems like aggression, or old age. Also, animal euthanasia may be justified by shelters citing overcrowding, behavioral issues, being unadoptable, or financial concerns.

What Should You Know Before Putting Your Dog To Sleep?

Losing a pet is difficult, so allow yourself time to mourn. A new dog should not be rushed into until you feel prepared. Be truthful and get ready to support your children as they grieve, if you have any. 

Additionally, make an effort not to take it personally if someone who doesn’t own a pet doesn’t comprehend what you’re going through.

Give your pet everything they love, including their favorite foods and toys. What will relax your pet the most in the remaining time they have will help both them and you. 

Also, involve friends and family if you can. Ask them for help through this difficult time, for example.

Sum It Up – How To Know When To Put Your Dog Down?

It may be a tough decision, but there is a reason behind choosing euthanasia. If you’ve asked yourself, “How do I know when to put my dog down?” now you know that it is a different case with every dog, and it usually is a decision based on your dog’s quality of life. 

While we hope the act of putting your dog down is a faraway decision, we know it will inevitably happen for every dog owner. Talking about it can help. Let us know your stories in the comments below. And we wish you all the best with going through such a time.

Sandra is a veterinary undergraduate student based in Macedonia. She combines her two passions: veterinary medicine and writing, and she also tends to raise awareness about animal welfare as much as she can. As a student, she has attended many seminars and conferences related to the veterinary profession, and currently, she is focused on veterinary content writing. Although she owns a cat, she strongly claims that “dogs are her favorite people”.