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When it’s Time to Say Goodbye (Knowing when to euthanize & how to manage grief)

It’s an issue that almost every dog owner will confront at some time: How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye and have your dog euthanized? When a dog’s behavior changes, it’s not eating normally, sleeping comfortably, grooming itself or moving around, can’t eliminate or has no interest in playing- the time may be near.

It’s a painful reality that most dog owners never want to face. Up to this point, my most painful time was in 1993. It was the late 1980’s and I was in the early stages of my dog training career and was still an apprentice, I purchased my first “real dog.’ He was everything that I wanted and saved for. A beautiful and tough male Rottweiler, eighteen months old and imported from Germany. Looking back, he was more dog then I was prepared to handle.

Companion Pets Susan & TashaWhen Lucas was eight years old he became ill, vomiting occasionally, loss of appetite and diarrhea. After several tests, my vet informed me that he had pancreatic cancer. Upon hearing the news, I had a lump in my throat the size of a baseball. I did feel some relief as my vet informed me that we could try a couple of different drugs in an effort to extend his life. Once Lucas was on the medication, he did a complete turn around! He was eating, his stools returned to normal and he was back to being his old cocky self. Unfortunately, this only lasted less than six months. Soon his symptoms returned, his energy level went down and he began to lose weight. Like most dog owners, I refused to accept reality until “that day” came. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I was making myself some breakfast when Lucas walked into the kitchen. He suddenly had explosive diarrhea and there was more blood then feces. This dog would never have an accident in the house and I could tell by the look on his face that not only could he have not helped it, but he lost all of his pride as well. I looked at him, a shadow of his physical self, as he wobbled off into the living room as I prepared to clean up the mess. Tears already rolling down my face as my mother whispered in my ear, “its time.” At the time I wasn’t sure if I felt sorrier for him or myself.

With the majority of dog owners, myself included in my relationship with Lucas, I believe we wait too long. I honestly believe that we convince ourselves that our beloved dog still has quality of life when in reality we are extending their lives for of our own selfish reasons. We inadvertently allow them to remain in pain in an effort to avoid or prolong the pain we ultimately will have to face the day we decide to euthanize them.

When is it Time?

This is the most difficult decision to make in pet ownership… when is it time? Your veterinarian is familiar with your dog’s health history so discuss with them the prognosis for your pet. Is your pet in pain and can it be managed with medication? Is there a chance that the animal could get better? Or is there nothing that can be done.

Preparing for the Day

Once you and your family have made the decision, start preparing to make this as easy and comforting to your pet and yourselves. For me and most people, this is an extremely painful process. Check with your veterinarian about paying for the euthanasia service several days in advance, this way in your moment of extreme grief you won’t have to face anyone in the lobby before or afterward. I have also made arrangements with my vet in advance to enter and leave the clinic through a back door. Ask your vet if they have a quiet or grieving room so that you can spend a few peaceful moments with your dog before the procedure. Lastly, discuss with your vet in advance if they think that your dog may need a sedative before coming to the clinic.

Saying Goodbye

I think that it’s an important part of the process to be in the room with your dog. You being there with your dog will also help comfort them rather than promote any fear or anxiety and I think that it brings closure when you’re there to see your best friend off to the other side. As a responsible dog owner, you will be able to say you did everything that you could and you acted in the best interest of your dog, this is going to be that last part of you being a wonderful pet owner.

About the Process

Euthanasia usually is accomplished for pets by injection of a death-inducing drug. The veterinarian may administer a tranquilizer first to relax your dog. Following an injection of the euthanasia drug, your dog will immediately become deeply and irreversibly unconscious. Death will be quick and painless.

This is obviously a topic that most dog owners do not want to think about, but I hope that you find this article and information helpful and useful for when that inevitable time does come.

When Tomorrow Starts Without Me
When tomorrow starts without me,
And I’m not there to see;
The sun will rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me.
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry
The way you did today,
I know how much you loved me,
As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me
I know you’ll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me,
please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And petted me with her hand.
She said my place was ready,
In Heaven far above,
And that I’d have to leave behind
All those I dearly love.
But, as I turned to heel away,
A tear fell from my eye,
For all my life I never thought
That I would have to die.
I had so much to live for,
So many sits and downs to do,
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought about our lives together,
I know you must be sad,
I thought of all the love we shared,
And all the fun we had.
Remember when I’d nudge your hand,
And poke you with my nose?
The frisbee I would gladly chase,
The bad guy, I’d “bark and hold”
If I could relive yesterday,
Just even for awhile,
I’d wag my tail and kiss you,
Just so I could see you smile.
But then I fully realized,
That this could never be
For emptiness and memories
Will take the place of me.
And when I thought of treats and toys
I might miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you and when I did,
My dog-heart filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through Heaven’s gate;
And felt so much at home;
As God looked down and smiled at me,
From His beautiful throne.
He said,”This is eternity”,
And now we welcome you,
Today your life on earth is past,
But here is starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last;
For you see,
each days’ the same,
There’s no longing for the past.
Now you have been so faithful
So trusting, loyal and true;
Though there were times you did things,
You knew you shouldn’t do
But good dogs are forgiven,
And now at last you’re free;
So won’t you sit here by my side,
And wait right here with me?”
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I’m right there, in your heart.
Author unknown

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