When is it time?
The worst decision any dog owner has to make is when to put your faithful companion down. No matter how artfully or carefully you phrase this, it’s still killing your dog. That’s how I view it. I read on several of my dog Facebook pages how people drive their beloved friend to hamburger joints and ice cream venders to get them one last treat on the day they’ve “selected” to kill their pet. Honestly, this horrifies me.
First, are they making this date, choosing the day they kill their dog, you know the animal who trusts you as god, because it’s convenient for you? Let’s kill Fluffy on Tuesday because Monday is bad for me, I have a doctor’s appointment, and Thursday is bad because Aunt Emily is coming to visit. Or is this the day you vet had an opening to kill your pet? Seriously, would you put Grandma down on a day convenient to yourself and her doctor or on the day she told you she’d taken all the pain and suffering she could?
I’ve had to put a beloved dog down twice this year. The first was my 200-pound mastiff. She stopped eating. That’s a huge piece of the puzzle. When an animal hides under the porch and won’t eat anything, they’re finished. If they still happily load into the car, swallow six burgers and an ice cream cone, they’re not. You’ve arbitrarily decided for your own convenience to kill your faithful, trusting friend.
The second dog I put down this year was a pitbull/lab mix I had for 18 years. He had a gross tumor on one of his back feet. His back legs got steadily weaker until his back legs were paralyzed, and he could no longer stand up. He weighed about 80 pounds and still wanted his food. He still wanted hugs and kisses and love. He didn’t care we had to load him onto a dog bed, drag him outside, and roll him into the grass. He pooped and peed when we took him out. When he’d had enough and was too tired to go on, he stopped eating. He looked so apologetic when he refused his food. He’d always been the sweetest dog, the best dog. He came whenever you called him. He could jump a six-foot high fence easily. To see him so debilitated was heart-wrenching, but I waited until he said he couldn’t do it any more. They tell you.
I have a pitbull I rescued. Her name is Happy. Happy has advanced breast cancer. She’s on a lot of meds. She was eating until yesterday. I’m taking her to the vet today, not to put her down ( a euphemism I loathe), but to see if there’s anything else I can do for her. Just because your dog’s infirmity is inconvenient is not a reason to put it down. Give them a chance. Here are seven criteria I follow when judging when they’ve had enough gleaned from the American Humane Society. Not when you’ve had enough of taking care of them. When they’re ready to go.
- He is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain).
- He has frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss.
- He has stopped eating or will only eat if you force feed him.
- He is incontinent to the degree that he frequently soils himself.
- He has lost interest in all or most of his favorite activities, such as going for walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats or soliciting attention and petting from family members.
- He cannot stand on his own or falls down when trying to walk.
- He has chronic labored breathing or coughing.
And I would go even further to say just one of these shouldn’t be enough. In other words, falling down only shouldn’t be enough. Labored breathing, shouldn’t be enough. An incontinent dog might have kidney problems. It alone shouldn’t be enough. My biggest indicator is when a dog who always scarfed their food up, suddenly stops eating. And make sure it’s for more than just one feeding. I’d wait two or three days, then decide. Always know, euthanasia is never chosen by the dog. You’re making that decision for him and in many cases, this decision is made because their pain and suffering is inconvenient. Choose wisely, your dog trusts you.