At some point, many dog owners have to decide when it is the right time to let their beloved dog go. The most important thing is that this decision is made solely for the good of the dog. Here’s what you need to know about putting your dog to sleep.
It’s not always easy to tell when the time is right to say goodbye. Does the old, sick dog still enjoy life at all? Or is he suffering so much that being put to sleep would be a salvation for him? Find out how to make this difficult decision correctly here.
The welfare of the dog is the most important thing
Most importantly, the decision to euthanize a dog is made independently of your own personal needs and feelings. Decisions are made solely in the sense and for the well-being of the dog! Under no circumstances should the trouble and burden involved in keeping a sick or old dog be a reason for putting the animal to sleep. Taking a dog’s life because it’s “not perfect” or uncomfortable is a crime.
On the other hand, it is also irresponsible to tolerate or turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of a dog. Even your own fear of being put to sleep and the painful loss must not lead to the beloved animal having to suffer. This is misunderstood love – at the expense of the animal.
We bear a great responsibility for our dog. He is dependent on our care – and must also be able to rely on it. We owe it to him to care for him in sickness and in old age. But we also owe it to him to redeem him when he is tormented and suffering.
Which criteria are decisive?
The fear of making the wrong decision unsettles many dog owners. But it is up to the owner to recognize whether, for example, his blind dog still enjoys life or whether his paralyzed dachshund has to be put down. In any case, you want to avoid taking your dog’s life too soon. But there are no universally valid and unambiguous criteria for suffering and joie de vivre.
A rather quiet dog may not miss much if its freedom of movement is restricted. An active dog can suffer greatly from this. A dog that loses an eye due to a tumor does not necessarily lose its zest for life. However, if the tumor presses on the nerves and brain so that the animal can hardly perceive its environment, you should think about sparing it this torment.
A warning sign is usually when an animal stops eating or when it can no longer eat due to an advanced illness. The general behavior, the zest for life that a dog feels, can also provide information: A dog that still enjoys life and can and wants to participate in the life of its people will behave differently than a dog whose pain and suffering are overwhelming to take.
Ultimately, the type and extent of the disease and the general state of health are decisive, but also the age of the dog and its individual nature. First and foremost, you should pay attention to what your dog is “telling” you. Keep in mind, however, that animals by nature often show it very late when they are sick or in pain. In the wild, this caution protects them from enemies who see easy prey in a sick animal.
It is also important that you put yourself in the shoes of your dog as an animal and do not judge its situation from a “human point of view”. For example, a person using crutches will suffer less than a paralyzed dachshund tied to a frame with casters.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide when it is time to put your animal out of its suffering and put them to sleep. Unfortunately, nobody can make this difficult decision for you. When in doubt, seeking advice and help, you should consult your veterinarian and ask for their opinion – and experience.
Does my dog suffer when euthanized?
The technical term for euthanasia is euthanasia. The word comes from Greek and means something like “dying well” (Eu = good, Thanatos = to die). However, many pet owners still have concerns that putting their dog to sleep might not be “good” but rather painful.
If a dog is professionally euthanized, it will not experience any physical pain. He doesn’t feel his death coming. Basically, animals are euthanized with an anesthetic. A so-called narcotic (barbiturate) is knowingly overdosed, i.e. too large a quantity is injected into the bloodstream. The dog is first placed under deep anesthesia so that it does not notice when the overdose is taking effect. In the deep anesthetic he stops breathing and his heart stops beating.
This is how dog euthanasia works
Larger animals are usually treated with a sedative, a so-called sedative or neuroleptic, before they are actually put to sleep. This injection is simply given into a muscle of the animal and causes it to first fall asleep. The actual anesthetic is only injected into the bloodstream when it is asleep deeply. This “two-step procedure” prevents any complications or delays that may occur during the injection into the vein.
Although a dog is under a very deep anesthetic, it may still twitch its muscles or urinate or defecate when death occurs. What looks horrific to observers is by no means a sign of pain or awareness on the part of the animal. These movements are purely mechanical, similar to reflexes – the animal does not perform them consciously, it no longer feels or notices anything.
Does the dog know it’s time?
Many ask themselves whether the dog is aware of its approaching end, how it deals with it, whether and how we can help it. It is well known that animals in the wild withdraw, possibly even completely separating from their families when they are awaiting death. They anticipate the impending farewell and instinctively prepare for it.
Even a pet that signals to its owner that its time has come will feel and experience the same thing. Although it mourns, it does not seem to be afraid of impending death. Not panic and fear of death, but rather the certainty that the time has come seems to shape his feelings. As a rule, it is more the grief and fear of its people that make the dog restless.
This is what you should do for the dog in the last few hours
In order not to worry the dog, we should try, even if it is very difficult, to be strong in the difficult hours of the farewell. Right now he needs our strong hand, which accompanies him protectively and on which he can rely.
Well-intentioned gestures such as particularly tasty meals, long hours of comforting cuddles, intensive conversations are only of limited benefit to the dog. The changes could unsettle him. Never let your grief forbid you – after all, the death of a dog is extremely painful – but try for the well-being of your animal not to let him feel your own despair and helplessness.
Preparation for euthanasia must be
It is important that we also arrange the external circumstances in such a way that our animal is spared unnecessary stress and frightening excitement in its last hours:
If you have decided to give your dog a gentle death, you should talk to your veterinarian in peace. Ask him if it is possible for him to make a home visit and put your darling to sleep in his familiar surroundings.
If this is not possible, you should definitely make a special appointment. Place this right at the beginning or at the end of the consultation hour so that you don’t have to wait long in the hustle and bustle of the practice.
Decide beforehand whether you want to be with your dog for the last few minutes. Deciding this spontaneously could overwhelm you. The resulting restlessness could also be transferred to your dog and stress him as well. You should also consider beforehand and calmly whether you should ask someone close to you who you trust to stand by you in the difficult moment.
What happens to the deceased animal?
In your own interest, you should also discuss the uncomfortable subject of what happens to your dog after you put it to sleep with your vet beforehand. Whether you take the body home with you, bury it yourself or have it buried, or have your vet take care of it instead. If you decide on one of the first two options, unfortunately, this must also be prepared.
While euthanizing was certainly a relief for the dog, the loss of the animal is difficult to overcome. Everyone deals with grief differently. Find out what really helps you with the grief of the dog. Even if it doesn’t feel like it after euthanizing, over time you will surely learn to cope with the loss.