Death comes to every dog; every dog dies. We all die eventually. Sometimes our canine friends need a helping hand over the rainbow bridge. Even though we know this, it doesn’t make the decision and when to make it any easier. Don’t slip into the mindset of doing everything possible to keep your best friend alive. The quality of life is vastly more integral than the quantity. So, when to put dog down?

What is Euthanasia?

Most vets use pentobarbital, a seizure medicine, as the drug used during euthanasia. This drug renders the dog unconscious and shut down the brain and heart functions within 1 to 2 minutes. Your vet administers the euthanasia medicine through an IV in the dog’s front leg. Usually, this is done with the dog laying on a table or if a large breed on the floor. Some vets and special situations will do home visits, but vets prefer to do it at their location.

After the minutes have passed your vet will use a stethoscope to check for a heartbeat. This is due to the fact some dogs twitch, defecate/urinate, have their eyes open, or take a final breath, so defining when they actually have passed for owners is important.

A side profile of a chocolate lab looking off with white fur around his eyes and mouth.
Vets usually can get you in soon when you call about euthanizing your pet.

When to Euthanize?

When making the choice to euthanize, the timing is of great importance. It’s also the hardest thing to know. We don’t want to put our dog down when they still have time, but we also don’t want them unhappy or in pain. This is especially hard when it isn’t a specific illness causing their distress.

Journeys Home Pet Euthanasia LLC has a Quality of Life Scale for Pets which goes by 8 different 10 points scales:  Jumping or Mobility, Our or Pain, Uncertainty or Understanding, Respiration or Breathing, Neatness or Hygiene, Eating and Drinking, You, and Social Ability. This site was created and is run by veterinarians, but it is still recommended to consult your own personal vet. Your vet will be able to give a more thorough understanding of your dog’s quality of life and if there is room to help or not.

Discussing this with your family and friends will help as well, especially with the emotionally distressing part that comes with.

Signs your dog is suffering or may have a lack of quality of life:

  • Unable to stand or walk on their own
  • Excessive labor and coughing
  • Has stopped eating and drinking
  • Is disinterested in favorite toys, treats or activities
  • Frequently Incontinent
  • Diarrhea and vomiting that causes dehydration and weight loss
  • Medically uncontrollable and chronic pain

An old brown dog laying on hardwood floor with one paw set farther forward, staring off.
Euthanasia at home is also good for dogs who have trouble getting up or walking.

Euthanize at Home

Home euthanasia is an option and isn’t any more expensive than euthanasia at the vet’s office. This might be a better choice for your family, as it allows more loved ones to join, the dog to pass in a comfortable and familiar place, and allows for a private griefing process.

when to put dog down

Care After Death

Cremation and burial are the traditional aftercare for animals that have passed. Which option you take all depends on you and your family’s wants and the price tag.

Communal cremation, as in them being cremation with other bodies, is the cheapest cremation option. This runs from $50 to $150 but can vary from market to market. Then there is witness cremation where the owner is present to watch the pets cremation. This type can sometimes assist with the grieving processes for owners. Lastly, there is private cremation, where the bodies cremation is done by itself in order to collect and receive the animal’s ashes.

Burial is done in your yard or at a pet cemetery. To look at cemeteries near you for future burial try the International Association of Pet Cemeteries. If you’re going to bury your loved one in the yard, check our your cities ordinance on such activities to make sure you don’t get into any trouble. There would be nothing worse than euthanasia, burial, and then removal from burial due to legislation

Burial at a pet cemetery, plot and dug grave, costs $400 to $600 and most require a casket. Caskets for even animals can be as much as $500 depending on the material.

Dog owners can buy urns, have jewelry, paw prints, and fur trims made from their deceased pets to remember them by. There are countless, more popping up every day, cremation and trinket businesses around the United States.

These are things to think about when deciding and evaluating when to euthanize your dog.

when to put dog down

The Grieving Processes

When saying goodbye to a furry friend, pet all family members and close friends say goodbye. Along with this, explain this decision and process to small children so they understand. You can choose whether to be in the room during and it should be each individual’s choice.

Keep an eye on other pets when a pet dies. Sometimes left behind friends can go through depression and grief as well, but understand the absent less.

Always remember when euthanizing your dog that they are done suffering, are not in pain, and that it was the right decision to make for them. It can be hard letting go and sometimes we wished we had done things differently. Try to resist this thought process if you can.

when to put dog down

Accept the Foreseeable

We all wish dogs lived longer, it is truly a crime that they only live such a short amount of years. Dogs become our family members, friends, and companions, sometimes feeling like they understand us more than other humans. When letting a loved one go, even a furry one, we have to accept death. Mortality is something all creatures share and it is something to think about before adopting an animal. Don’t let that scare you from enjoying a full life with a current or future pet, learn to enjoy each moment just a little bit more. Whether those moments are long sunny walks. games of fetch, or cuddled up on the couch in front of the TV.

I hope this helps you when having to decide when to euthanize your pet.