Saying Goodbye: Making the Decision to Euthanize Your Dog

Euthanizing Dobby was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. While the support from friends, family, and the online community was absolutely amazing (and, to be honest, a bit overwhelming), I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s a hole in my life that Dobby used to fill. There are still moments when I’m taken by surprise at his absence, times when I expect to turn around and see him lying on my bed or wriggling with joy in his crate with his ever-present squeaky ball in his mouth.

Photo by Kelvin Andow

Photo by Kelvin Andow

I’ve written before about coping with the loss of a friend. Obviously, I process best by writing, and others grieve in other ways. There’s no wrong way to grieve for your dog, and whatever you feel when you lose a beloved companion is entirely normal and okay. I’ve had to remind myself of this at times when something silly, like a song or an unexpected memory hits me like a punch in the gut and I feel tears well up once again. Grief is a healing process, and just like healing from a physical injury, it takes time for the wound to stop hurting.

There’s a distinct lack of information online about what to expect if you, like me, are put in the heartbreaking position of euthanizing a young dog for health or behavioral concerns. Personally, knowing what to expect during the euthanasia itself was incredibly helpful. Having assisted with and performed multiple euthanasias during my time as a veterinary technician and the head trainer at an animal shelter, I knew what the process would look like and what options were available to me. My hope is that by writing about my experiences, I can help others who are in similar situations. If you are considering euthanasia for your dog, whether your dog is sixteen years or sixteen months, whether your dog is physically healthy but emotionally hurting or simply ready to leave a body that can no longer keep up with his mind, my heart goes out to you.

Over the next month, we’ll discuss several aspects of euthanasia, including how to know when it’s time, scheduling the appointment, what to expect during the procedure itself, special considerations for if you have multiple pets, and thoughts for after it’s done.  Today we’ll discuss how to know when it’s time to say goodbye.

One of the hardest questions I dealt with in Dobby’s final months was knowing when it was time. Logically, I knew that I had exhausted every option and that Dobby wasn’t going to suddenly get better. I knew that he was frequently scared, that I was exhausted from managing his environment to keep him and those around him safe, and that my other dogs were sometimes frightened of him. Emotionally, however, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I talked with him about it, and got a strong sense from him that he did not want to die.

The turning point for me happened one night when Dobby had a seizure. I had tried to trim his nails earlier that evening, something that he used to behave very well for. He would lie upside down, loose as a noodle, ball in his mouth, while I trimmed his toenails. About six months ago, this changed after a series of seizures left him touch sensitive and defensive. Toenail trims became very difficult, and even when I went very patiently and slowly, feeding him after each nail, Dobby would act frightened as soon as I touched his foot. He had never been quicked or had a bad nail-trim experience, but the way he processed tactile stimulation changed due to his seizures.

This particular evening, Dobby screamed and snapped at me with the first nail I trimmed, urinating in fear. I immediately stopped trying to trim his nails, but half an hour later he had a seizure. After his seizure he was scared and confused, and attacked my youngest dog when she bumped him as she jumped up next to him on the couch. When I intervened, he went after me, and it took all of my extensive handling experience to safely move him to a crate where he could sleep off the effects of the seizure in peace.

As I looked at him, curled up in a protective, frightened ball in his crate, I got a very strong sense that he was ready to go. I got the feeling that it was too hard for him to continue living in a body where small stresses could cause so much pain, and that he was exhausted from living this way. I made his euthanasia appointment the next day.

Your story will likely be different. In many cases, veterinarians tell owners that they will just know when it’s time, and sometimes, like with Dobby, that’s true. However, you may also not know. It’s okay if you feel doubtful or unsure. It’s a big decision to make, and I think doubt is an entirely normal response to making such a huge choice for your dog and your family.

Many of my clients who euthanize their dogs for behavioral reasons do so when they do not feel that they can keep others safe from their dog or when they feel that their dog’s quality of life is so poor that it is not fair to ask them to continue living. In Dobby’s case, I kept a journal where I tracked his good days, his bad days, and his seizures with the thought that when his bad days outnumbered his good days it might be time, but the journal was ultimately not the deciding factor. When I reviewed his final month, he had an equal number of good and bad days, and had an average of one seizure very 5-6 days.

Sometimes it can be helpful to think of factors that will help you make the decision ahead of time, way before you’re faced with the decision. Some people advise making a list of five of your dog’s favorite activities. When your dog is no longer interested in three of those five activities, that might be the appropriate time. I’ve decided that with Layla, it will be time to consider euthanasia when she’s no longer interested in eating, chewing on bones, going on walks, going places with me, or chasing critters.

Regardless of how you come to the decision, I can say that I have never heard anyone say that they wish they had waited. I have, however, heard many, many people say that they wish they had said goodbye sooner. If your dog is in pain (whether physical or emotional) and you cannot help them manage that pain, it may be a great kindness to say goodbye.

As hard as it was to euthanize Dobby, I regret waiting so long. Looking back, I feel like I made exactly the right decision – I personally needed to feel like I’d tried everything, and until the night of his seizure I got a strong sense from Dobby that he wasn’t ready to give up either. However, his final months were certainly much harder than the previous years, and he was often confused or disoriented due to the brain damage from his seizures. My other dogs also had a difficult few months, as Dobby could be unpredictable and aggressive. Making the decision sooner could have saved all of us from a lot of stress, but I find a lot of comfort in having exhausted all available options. There are no “what ifs” in my situation – they were all explored completely.

Regardless of your situation, knowing when to say goodbye is a very personal decision. If you’ve made this choice for a dog you cared for, how did you come to your conclusion? What did you consider, or did you just know when the time was right? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

49 responses to “Saying Goodbye: Making the Decision to Euthanize Your Dog

  1. Wonderful article. Over the years, this decision was made too many times as we have multiple dogs. People “in tune” with their companions will recognize when they make the decision that they are ready.
    It is still hard to say goodbye.

    • I have had to put two dogs to sleep. A third died on his own after the vet refused to believe me when I said he was dying. In all three cases, my dogs made it very clear to me that they were ready to go.

      • Cindy, I’ve been in your shoes regarding the vets.
        Gotta love them…..NOT!!!
        We also lost a beautiful “furkid” coz the vet thought she knew better.

  2. We put our three year old dog down for similar reasons to you and Dobby. He had always had some issues, and had a bite history, and now I am quite sure he had always had some kind of neurological damage. He also had extensive health issues, even when he was “normal.” But it was when the seizures started that it all started going downhill. We let him go while his mind was still in the process of fading… he was not gone completely, but he was a proud dog and not happy to be kept locked up in the house and embarrassed by his seizures, by randomly attacking his best friend (our other dog) or even me, or once, a cardboard box sitting in the living room. He started to get stuck in corners, once we found him sitting in the bathtub, confused… he also had some physical effects, like muscle loss and hair loss (we believe there was likely a brain tumor causing the seizures). I am glad that he left us before he injured anyone, because it was only a matter of time. And he was still “together” enough to recognize that we were there with him, and that we loved him. I did not want him to go out completely scared and confused. Our decision was actually made by our schedule… he had started to get ill in October and by December it was inevitable we would have to put him down. We had a week and a half long vacation planned where my mom was planning to watch our dogs. I could not leave a potentially aggressive and very sick dog with her, and couldn’t bear the thought of something happening while I was gone. We also visited lots of family for Christmas and I remember sitting in the dining room Christmas Eve, missing him, but also glad that he was not there because the situation would have been traumatic for him and likely dangerous. I don’t regret it at all, though I do miss him every day.

  3. I’ve been a practicing veterinarian for 32 years, and I have never seen anyone euthanize their pet ‘too soon’. It’s somewhat disingenuous to tell people “they’ll know when it’s time”, because there are far too many factors involved in making this momentous decision. That’s why your posts explaining the process of decision making and of the mechanics of euthanasia will be of great value. Thank you, Sara and Dobby.

  4. Excellent post. I’m teary eyed reading it as I had to put one of my dogs down a few months back and while I knew it was time and the right thing to do, it’s such a heartbreaking decision.

    My boy was a rescue and he had hind end issues the entire time we had him, which was 9 years. He was from a pet store (aka puppy mill) and when his owner died Border Collie rescue took him in and we adopted him through the rescue. He was always freaky about his back end from the day we got him. He had trouble with tiled floors and especially stairs. We worked very hard with him on him issues and he even went on to play competitive frisbee and flyball. He was never very fast in either sport, but he loved it with all of his heart and what more can an owner ask for than that? We bonded and that’s more important and any ribbon or title. :)

    He retired a few years back and just became part of the pack and spent his days playing ‘fun police’ and putting all the younger dogs in their place if the chaos got at all out of hand. He was content, happy, still engaged with us and the rest of the dogs, life was good.

    Over the winter I noticed things were starting to go down hill for him. He was having more and more trouble, especially with stairs. He was also slipping a lot more on the kitchen floor which was tiled. We changed the configuration of the stairs that led out into the dog kennel making the step heights smaller and the landing area larger in hopes that would help. We also went out and bought throw rungs and runners and literally had them all over the house so that he never had to walk on the tiled or hardwood floors again. His back end was slowly giving way and he was losing the muscle tone back there and we knew it was just a matter of time. By this Spring we installed a ramp for him so that he didn’t have to deal with steps at all. I knew in my heart the time was coming but didn’t really want to fully admit it. He was still so happy – tail wagging all the time and barking. :)

    In June of this year his hind end finally gave out and it was heart breaking. I called the Vet and she told me she could be there on that following Monday after work. We spent that weekend just doing our best to keep him quiet and happy. He couldn’t make it across the kitchen or down the ramp by himself, so we devised a towel-harness support system where my boyfriend would walk him on leash and I would follow supporting his back end with a makeshift harness made out of towels so that he could go outside and do his business. Once he was out he would walk around and do his thing and part of me still wondered if I was making the right decision. He certainly wasn’t running around being crazy, but he still seemed to have a fair amount of control over his movements. Coming back into the house it was the support harness again and he’d quietly lie on his dog bed and eat his meals lying down.

    On that Monday my boyfriend stayed home and spent the day with him. I unfortunately had to work, but the Vet was coming early evening so I had time to get home and spend a little time with him still. I groomed him for about an hour – anyone with older BC’s knows that they have a ridiculous amount of hair and an hour of grooming is like a spa treatment to them. :) When the Vet arrived I still wondered if I was doing the right thing. He tried to get up to greet her but could only get his front feet up. She knew and I knew we were making the right decision. It was 100% confirmed when she could barely find a pulse in his back leg for the initial sedative injection.

    It literally breaks my heart every time I think about it, but we did the right thing for our old boy. He had a rough start in life but he had 9 wonderful years with us and his last moments were spent in our arms in our home. It’s one of the hardest decisions a pet owner can make, but sometimes you have to do what is right for the dog. Part of me thinks we waited a little too long… while another part of me thinks it was just about right. If I could have changed anything about it, I wish our Vet could have been available on that Saturday. That was one of the hardest weekends of our lives knowing and second guessing if we were making the right decision for him. In the end I know we did what was best for him and that’s all that matters and he is buried in our backyard where he belongs… his home.

  5. Good advice, Sara. When i had to euthanize Lok, I consulted a couple of animal communicators, which led me to postpone the decision for a few weeks. Both told me he had a strong will and did not want to die yet. I had a similar moment to what you had with dobby a few weeks later, where I just knew it was time and he had enough pain. And i believe hewas ready too at that time. definitely the hardest decision I ever made though, even being confident that it was the right one. Not looking forward to making it again. I hope thatday is a long way off.

  6. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE!! I am struggling right now with putting 2 of my dogs down. One is a rescue who was never properly socialized and i fear what would happen if she gets out of my yard, she is great with me but not many other people. other one has bad hips and is getting worse, I feel horrible when I look at them both…but know it is for the best for each of them. I waited too long with my Kaci and regret it!

  7. Thank you for sharing about your experience. You probably don’t really know how many people’s lives you touch with your writing, but I assume it’s a lot. Thank you again, I appreciate your perspective on these tough decisions.

  8. Thank you for this post.

  9. My parents put their 15 year old dog to sleep last April, and I know the family struggled with many of these issues. We had a list of things, hoping we could use them as an indicator of when she was ready to go: riding in the pickup, licking ice cream bowls, and going to the bathroom outside. She was still doing and enjoying all of those things when she went… But on weekends after my dog (a puppy/adolescent) was over, she would be tired and grouchy, not moving as well. She would go down the stairs and not be able to come back up (and at over 60 lbs was too heavy for my mom to carry), or worse, fall down them. Her front legs “paddled” twice as fast as the back ones when she walked. She would go outside to potty, but not make it off the driveway. My parents decided to put her down on a Monday of a week where they were going out of town for the weekend, because Mom wanted the time. They waited until after Spring Break (Mom’s a teacher) so she wouldn’t be home without the dog for that time. I think the scheduling was an agreement between the three of them – a time where mom can handle it, around the time it was clear that Hershey was ready to go…

  10. In my time, I’ve helped five of my dogs transition out of this life. It’s never an easy decision but I’ve always been comfortable that it was the right one at the time and that my loves were ready. I always felt that you just know. No regrets. Currently, I’m taking it one day at a time with my senile dachsund. His time is coming. Each day I assess his situation and each day so far, I feel that he is not ready. My concern is that I’m allowing sentiment to cloud my judgement. This dog was my son’s and left in my trust as he joined the Army. I want to do everything in my power to make sure Oscar is comfortable in his remaining time but I wonder sometimes, are my motives less than pure. Am I ignoring or missing Oscar’s message because I don’t want to sever this tie to my son’s childhood? IBecause I don’t want to be judged as not doing enough or being too hasty. This one, this dog, is a tough one. One day at a time.

  11. condolences to you about dobby/ remember all the happy and good times you have spent with dobby. sorry for your loss. may you be comforted in all the kind words and your writings. take care of yourself.

  12. October 5th was our one year anniversary of putting our dog Jack down. What made us finally do it was we knew he was suffering and we didn’t want to be selfish by keeping him alive for our own reasons,we had to think about what he was going through and help him get out of his misery. He was basically paralyzed in the rear and we don’t know why or what happened, just one day he started walking funny and next thing we knew he was paralyzed. The vet couldn’t help him and we could tell he was suffering. Looking back I know we did the right thing, it wasn’t easy, but it was the only way we could help him.

    On the night before we had to put him down, we pampered him. We gave him a bubble bath, and then we bought him a T-bone steak and served it to him with a stick of butter on top and a few biscuits on the side. That’s the last thing he ate. The next day my wife and I were spending time with him and we were both sitting around him, and he stopped his constant panting (he panted a lot from likely pain or the steroids he was on to try to help him) and just stared at us both and paused for a moment. We knew right there he was trying to tell us something in that moment of silence.

    Even though we immediately got a new dog, Ollie, shortly after, we still miss Jack very much.

  13. Fantastic post..very sad having to make decisions like that. Your dog is even closer I think then your children sometimes. Bit tough but true. They are just there for you no matter what. They are always forgiving. So the decision is always going to be a tuff one.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this and for finding the energy to do so and write about your experience.
    I have had to make the choice for my 10-year old kelpie girl a bit more than a year ago. She was diagnosed with thyroid carcinoma when she was seven and despite a diagnosis of ‘maybe three months’, she lived for another three happy years. So I had three years of learning to listen to her and respect her wishes of when she had to go. This time was unbelievably beautiful and unbelievable painful. I called the vet and said that I thought it was time after she had a night of choking on her tumour and spending the night away from me, in a different room, for the first time in her whole life. She looked so scared, and I didn’t want her to have another such night. But to be honest, I’m still not sure whether I heard what she said and whether I got the time right. By the time the vet arrived she was holding on to her tennis ball and begging me to play. It was a few hours between my call and when the vet came to my home, we walked and cuddled, and I didn’t want to do it, but I did. She was so tough and so bonded with me. My vet said that she really thinks my dog was holding on for me, until I was able to let her go.
    I’ve also tried to process this experience by writing about it, and back then, I certainly felt like there needed to be something like your series of posts to address this part of our relationship with our dogs.
    http://andalsodogs.com/2012/08/10/when-they-have-to-go/

  16. I just euthanized my dog Hershey last Thursday 10/10. She was almost 14-and-a-half years old; I had her since July 2000 and was her 3rd home. She was not in good health, in June 2012 I made the appointment to euthanize her after she went steeply downhill in about a two-week period, but then tried prednisone and she was back to her happy, tail-wagging self. I thought I’d get 3-4 more months with her. The vet felt she probably had lymphoma. Like you wrote about Dobby, I think she still wanted to live. She still wanted to eat. She still wanted to chase balls, chew stuffies, chase squirrels. But she couldn’t do any of those things like she really wanted to. Her hind end was weak to the point where she couldn’t stand up long enough to finish pooping (and she had lost control of her bowels about a year ago, so unless my timing was really good at getting her out at the right times, she pooped a lot in the house, often while she was sleeping. We had tried acupuncture for that but it didn’t help.)

    She couldn’t get up on the bed or even the couch, and I would have helped her, but she hated being picked up, so she no longer slept cuddle next to me. Sometimes she’d be going up the stairs and start to slide back down, and she hated even being supported up. She didn’t wag her tail anymore, but I think that was a physical issue. Still, it was hard, because she was one of those dogs that wagged her tail anytime I looked at her. Due to the pred, she was hungry all the time, her hair was so thin, and her tail had a big bald spot. I struggled for months about when to euthanize her, because I knew I didn’t want to go back to where she was in June 2012, with no desire or ability to do anything other than eat and lie on the floor. That was not my dog, the crazy one who lived to chase balls and order the other dogs around. I wondered how she felt about being hungry all the time. But her cloudy eyes still lit up at the sight of a ball or toy, she’d still run a few steps to get it, and then chomp chomp chomp until I took it to gently throw a couple feet again, or better yet tug with her. She still enjoyed chewing bones. But I knew winter would be too difficult (even though I bought her a nice insulated coat last year to make up for her thinning hair), especially with ice or snow. And it was really hard for me to watch her struggle when I knew how much she loved being active.

    So I made the decision and the appointment. Her last week was pretty good. I slept on the floor next to her on the last night. She didn’t even poop inside on her last day! And while it breaks my heart and I am crying as I type this, I was also glad that she still could enjoy a ball and a toy (and a bowl of meatballs). I wanted to give her that gift of not being miserable or suffering at the end. Nobody ever wants to do this. But even as I watched Hershey shuffling around the vet’s office, chomping on her ball, sniffing around the bags of treats to see if any were open, I knew I had to do it, or risk waiting until something catastrophic happened, and then I would have never forgiven myself for not doing it earlier. I got a lot more extra time than I expected from the prednisone, and I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. I’m lucky it lasted as long as it did.

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  20. thank you this has been very helpful for me we have had to come to the decision of putting are 13 year old lab mix down. She has a tumor on her brain stem that is not operable the vet said radiation may help but we do not have the $$ to do it the vet said she would start getting worse that right the prednisone is helping but they cant guarantee for how long. I have a 12 year old son that gets home from school and is home with her for a good 2 hours and i dont want him to god forbid see her having a seizure. I’m torn with making the correct choice

  21. “There’s a distinct lack of information online about what to expect if you, like me, are put in the heartbreaking position of euthanizing a young dog for health or behavioral concerns”

    I agree with you 100%. For me, doing this to a young dog (behavior issues) has been far more painful than my other dogs that lived a full life. It’s something I will ever completely heal from. For any caring person there is a HUGE amount of guilt after doing this to a young animal. People may hesitate to comment online because many behavior problems ultimately go back to owner neglect, and that’s a hard pill to swallow…or publicly admit to others.

    • I just posted my story about having to put my 6 month old puppy to sleep. It was behavioral but the problems were not owner, (my) neglect it was due to his brain not being formed properly while still in the womb. But you are very right about the guilt of having to do this to a young pup. It has only been a few days, but all I can think about is that I should not have had to do such a horrible thing to one so young.

  22. Thank you all deeply for contributing. You’ve helped us through a very difficult time by sharing your experiences so openly. I write this through tearful, yet comforted eyes.

  23. Thank you so much for this post, and for hosting such a thoughtful, helpful discussion, and I’m sorry this comment is so long. I’m an owner of cats, and I found this post on searching google for “how to know if you’re euthanizing a pet too soon”. My 14-yr-old Siamese, Luna, has kidney disease and increasingly severe arthritis and has been plagued with urinary and fecal issues (I’ll watch her strain and strain until success happens, so I know she’s pooping outside the box because the box=pain to her) for about a year now. My husband rescued a kitten from the alley behind our new house last summer, and that’s made things that much harder– when Luna went outside the box, it motivated the kitten to follow suit. We trained the kitten, but she’s upset by Luna’s accidents and she’ll scratch at the floor to hide them even after we’ve cleaned them up. The kitten stresses Luna, too. We’ve exhausted our options, I think. Pain meds, cranberry supplement for the urinary, feliway, anxiety med, kidney food, vet visits and testing for “is this accident behavioral, or another UTI?” because she’s had one UTI after another after another because of the kidney issues. The bills mount and our stress mounts with them. But “is it too soon” is ever on my mind. Our appointment is the day after tomorrow, but I’ve still been full of doubts over whether it’s too soon. I don’t want to feel there was something I just didn’t try, but I know she’s in a lot of pain even though she still eats well, still sometimes plays, still sometimes looks lively and is her yowly Siamese self. I watch her in the litter box, getting up and down off the sofa, and up and down the stairs and I see the pain and the tension, and some days she’ll look at me and she seems like she’s barely there and won’t purr if I pet her. She’s had strings of good days and strings of bad days, and I know there’s just no “better” here, I know she’s only going to get worse.

    It’s a tremendous comfort to hear others say that they knew it was time even though their dogs still had good days, and even if their dogs were playful on the day of their appointment. I don’t want to wait until the bad days outweigh the good days so heavily that she’s constantly in misery. I don’t want to feel I’ve failed her or given up on her too early, but I don’t want to keep her alive because I can’t emotionally let go of her even if she’s suffering. She’s had a string of good days this weekend and we’ve treated her like the princess she is with all the foods she’s not normally allowed and I’ve taken off two days to be with her, so even though I still have doubts, I think we’re giving her a good sendoff, to let her die as she has lived, at peace and surrounded by love.

  24. Thank you so much for writing this. I am in an extremely similar situation right now with my 4 year old baby. He has epilepsy and we have been trying to control his seizures for three years. He has very recently become anxious/aggressive when outside of the home. This is not my dog my gental caring affectionate dog. After going through a period of believing I could manage it by never allowing him out! I’ve come to the realisation that this is no life for dog!!!! Especially not an energetic terrier. But my gosh I will miss him my best friend,

  25. Thank You so much for this writing and all the comments which followed. It was very helpful for me.
    I am struggling right now, this moment to make the decision for my Patches. He is almost 16 years old and three months ago after two horrible seizures was diagnosed as an insulin dependent diabetic. He since, has had very little control of his urinating and stopped eating dog food. I’ve been cooking for him and feeding him every day for the last three months. He hates the insulin shots he has to get twice a day, but seems to get over it quickly.
    Yesterday he wasn’t right – so I took him to the vet, but he had a seizure in the parking lot before we could get inside – and it was a long one. Oh, did I mention he also has cataracts and has difficulty with his vision at times? That too. So, thank you – thank you for helping me feel better about the decision I made but was doubting.

  26. We are debating putting our Jack Russell mix down. He is 4, a few months he hurt his back. Since then he has had trouble not peeing in the house and also bit a neighbor. He has been escaping our yard which he never used to do, and acting aggressively towards our 12 year old black lab. We sought out laser treatments for his back and it helped a bit, but we can’t afford to keep them up. We have 4 kids and I am afraid to let them be around him alone, as he gets excited easily now. Some days he is the normal Cy and others he is really hyper and anxious and barking at everything and everyone. I don’t know what to do. I feel guilty thinking about putting him down, like I am not giving him a chance to get better. This has been since October that he hurt his back. I don’t know what to do, we love him and its a tough decision. This article helped, I have a lot to consider and have an idea how to decide.

  27. I adopted a 7 week old blind puppy four months ago. I named him Pibbles. We tried so many things including medication to get his stress and fear under control. We could not get him to stop biting us. He was very unpredictable any time he felt threatened he would lunge and bite. I took him to the eye doctor who said there was nothing physically wrong with his eyes that caused the blindness. So I then took him to the neurologist knowing that the mama had not been taken care of during her pregnancy and the sister had been euthanized when she was just a few weeks old because of her neurological issues. The neurologist said that chances were that his brain was not formed properly and to continue to work with the behaviorist. I could not trust him with my other dog either as he had bit the back of her leg once during a walk. Luckily he did not cause any injuries. Finally after working with him every single day for four months and not being able to control his environment and therefore the biting I started thinking it may be time. One week after starting him on the medication we were outside and he was trying to dig in one of my flower pots. I went over and asked him to stop and tried to redirect him to sit. He lunged and bit me several times one time breaking skin. At this point he as 36 pounds and him being a pit mix I knew that the bigger he got the stronger he would become. He would get so angry and snarl and growl anytime we had to take something away from him that he was not supposed to have. After that incident with the bites I decided it was time. I did not want to make a decision like this for a 6 month old puppy, but he was just not getting better and I had to consider the others in my home and the fact that I would never be able to let him just run loose around the house and he would be stuck in a playpen for most of his life. Three days ago on Monday I had the vet come to my home to put him to sleep. My heart is still so very broken and I am very sad. I did give him a great couple days which I am glad he was able to have in his very short life. I just hope that he forgives me and hope that he is now not in fear. I wish I could stop this horrible ache in my heart and I still do not know if I made the right decision, but now I have to live with that guilt for the rest of my life.

  28. Thank you for your words of advise. I am faced with making the painful decision to euthanize my 2 1/2 year old “potcake”. Yes, that’s right, potcake, you see my husband and I adopted our Turk while on a vacation on the Turks & Caicos Islands. These dogs were given the name Potcake because the native islanders who were accepting of these stray dogs would feed them scraps from the bottom of the pots they cooked their meals in. We had no intentions of adopting a new family member while there but while watching a story on T.V. I was horrified to learn of their treatment and how they seemed to be considered a nuisance. These stray dogs stood little chance of survival unless they were adopted and taken off the island. So I had to find the small little adoption office on the island and visit with these wonderful people who made it their mission to try and save as many of these dogs as they could. This is where I first saw Turk. He was found with his litter mates under a small deck when they were approximately 2 months old. Taken in by the shelter just a few days before we saw them they were all so cute but I was especially taken with Turk because he sat in the corner away from his litter mates looking very calm and quiet. In hindsight now looking back that should have been a red flag but at that time I thought, “oh, look at this little one over here all by himself”. He was timid but sweet and I was immediately taken with him. So within a few days we were ready to depart back to the states with all the necessary paperwork to get through customs and back home safely. We didn’t start to notice a change in him until he was 1 year old and then in what almost seemed overnight he became deathly afraid of everyone except me, my husband and our 2 teenage sons. At first it started with him standing in a corner and barking at everyone that came to our house but that quickly escalated to full on attack when someone came in. I remember the first time it happened I couldn’t believe what I just witnessed. Luckly he didn’t do much harm but I remember that was the first time I sat down and cried thinking to myself what is going on?? He has bitten a total of 4 times since then all unprovoked. In the time since that first incident we have tried working with trainers, taken agility course training to help to build his confidence and medication but nothing has helped. I am come to realize now that his is a genetic default and from what I have read those are the most difficult to overcome. So here I was thinking that I was saving one dogs life by taking it off the island only to find out I know am the one taking his life. So I will end with what a good friend of mine told me a couple days ago..”though you may not be physically together anymore I know he is eternally grateful for giving him a life better than the one he was born into”..

  29. My dog just turned 16. I’ve been cooking for him for 7 years. He was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the liver then and I was told he had a life expectancy of possibly 6 months, a year if I was very lucky. The turmor was benign though.

    2 weeks ago his abdomen filled with fuild which I had drained twice. He’s not in any pain, but experiences some discomfort and ends up dyhdrated despite all the fuild in his system. When the fluid is drained, he’s entirely normal. He still enjoys walks although he’s slow at it, still engages in play, still likes to eat, and is generally very happy.

    He’s still mentally alert, he’s not a bit different than when I got him 14 years ago, he will still even engage in play. I’ll be putting him down about 4 hours from now.

    I can afford to have the fuild drained indefinitely, but it appears to be urine that his abdomen is filling with. At 16, and with a large tumor, it’s inoperable, and a survival surgery coupled with the pain of abdonominal surgery and recovery, it’s not responsible to do it.

    It’s not true that nobody feels like they put their dog down too soon.

    If it wasn’t for this tumor, I’m pretty certain he would have easily lived to 18, possible 20.

    • recently went through similar torture my old girl had a basal cell tumour on her front lower leg [foot ] before all the conflab and tests were complete it became infected, rounds of antibiotics ensued round , after round, test after test, then they said they could possibly excise the tumour …………however it would leave an open wound as the tumour had encompassed a large portion of her foot…….if I had the money perhaps my decision would have differed…. do not , did not , so chose to end her life with the dignity she deserved, just could not imagine a 14 yr old dog trying to heal an open wound on her foot……………… strange thing though, not one vet tried to talk me out of killing my dog after charging me mega bucks for the no cure !

  30. Almost 4 weeks ago, I made the decision to have my 4 year old Border Collie, Sam, euthanized after just over 2 years with our family (myself, my other Border Collie and my visiting girlfriend).

    Sam was the most adorable dog with everyone for the first 3 months that he was with us (which the 2nd behaviourist that we saw called ‘the honeymoon period’) but after that began snapping at people.

    Unfortunately his aggression got progressively more regular and intense, with my girlfriend being unable to stroke him for more than a few seconds before he bared his teeth and then snapped at her.

    There were also many occasions where he had snapped at people who had put a hand out to stroke him whilst we were out on a walk or at my Mum, on one occasion whilst Sam was just stood between my Mum and I, catching flesh and marking the arm /hand with his teeth sometimes or clothing at other times

    We had recently been seeing a behaviourist who had recommended things but his tolerance just didn’t seem right, showing teeth or snapping at me a couple of times as well.

    Sam bit my girlfriend quite badly on the arm when she stroked him just before getting up to leave one day, subsequently causing severe bruising and 4 puncture wounds (though luckily not to the bone)and it was this that prompted my decision.

    Since I came home from the vet without Sam I have been going through my mind as to what else I should have done, how I could have altered things, etc.

    I have read many articles about ‘euthanizing your pet’, before and since I made my decision, and then stumble upon an article about a dog with similar behaviour traits which has been ‘fixed’ and instantly regret my actions, feeling that I let Sam down.

    I don’t know if it was the fact that Sam was born deaf (I don’t think so as he was otherwise a dog that thoroughly enjoyed life), whether one of his (at least two) previous owners had hurt or tormented him or whether he was just a troubled lad at heart.

    What I can say, and this is the most important lesson that anyone could take away, is that although it was nearly a month ago, while sometimes I feel calm about my decision when I remember what he did, the majority of the time I become so angry and disgusted with myself for the action that I took – It may have been less painful to deal with the day-to-day worry of what might happen and ‘take the chance that nothing would’ than the empty feeling that I have inside me right now.

    I agree with the comment above that It’s not true that nobody feels like they put their dog down too soon.

    Torturing myself will not bring Sam back, I know – I just like to think that he is now at peace and knows that I did things for the right reasons.

    I’m not sure when I will be ready to take on another dog but I know that nothing will ever replace Sam.

    Steve

  31. I am faced with the decision that many of you have spoken of on here! My best boy Hunter, a 14 and 1/2 year old Shepard/Lab mix is fine mentally but his body is falling him, he can no longer go down the stairs to relieve himself, he sleeps most of the day, and can be aggressive if awakened. He still loves his treats and can’t wait to lick the cats food bowl. But my poor boys hips and back legs barely get him around and he sometimes falls and has problems getting up, he also no longer walks on his feet but more like on his elbows, he has accidents in the house very frequently often pooping and not even realizing it. This is such a hard thing to do…I want to back out, my appointment is at 3 tomorrow, but deep down I know what is right for him! We have had 14 wonderful years…he has been the best dog ever! I gave him a second lease on life as I adopted him from a kill shelter. He had been abandoned and abused and was due to be put down the day before I saved him. He has been there for me when others weren’t and NEVER allowed me to cry!! How do I say good-bye, this is terribly heart wrenching! I figured tomorrow is a good day to let him go, I don’t go back to work til next Friday so I have time to grieve. I just hope I am doing what is right for my Bubbyboy…..cannot imagine life without him!! :(

    • Just think about the last 14 years that you have had together, which Hunter would never have enjoyed without you being there when he needed you.
      I read somewhere that dogs only live for the moment so there will have been millions of ‘moments’ that he enjoyed with you :-)

  32. Thank you so much for writing this series. A month ago we euthanized our beloved Zoey, who we had for three years after fostering and then adopting her. After a year or two with us, she started to develop severe anxiety and particularly extreme separate anxiety, and that overall fear started to affect her in situations with other people and other dogs and trying to manage her fears took over our lives.

    Making the final decision was far and away the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, especially since she was still so young and truly such a joy in our lives whenever we were with her (most of her issues were only triggered whenever we left her alone.) But we knew we had hit a final point when we had exhausted after six months worth of different training, behavior modifications and a ridiculous amount of medications, yet she was getting worse and worse with extreme damage to our home at least once a week. We were under constant stress of never wanting to leave her alone and being terrified of what we would find when we came home, but then once we cleaned up whatever damage, she was just as sweet and playful as ever, so it was so hard to reconcile the idea of that dog as the same dog that ate/chewed her way through three doors, broke through four different windows, ripped down blinds and curtains, etc. all in an attempt to get out of the house when we were gone.)

    After a particularly bad week due to a change in routine when my husband was traveling for work, we knew it was finally time. It had been something we had been talking about for months, so we had essentially been mourning the inevitable for a long time, but it certainly still didn’t make it any easier when it came to the final day. We still feel horrible about it and know that it was the right thing before she could hurt herself more seriously or mentally suffer more, but we obviously wish we could have done more.

    • I am so sorry that you had to say goodbye, I had a dog much the same, ate the house, ate the car, did not like to be left alone ! then it dawned on me , dogs feel trapped when we go to work / shopping/ anywhere, trouble is we are not educated on dog rescue/ needs, I solved this problem by building a very simple dog door ,….. problem solved, dog no longer feels trapped or abandoned,, 15 years of happy dogs since, if you want rough specs, pls email…. remember this was a home project , no measurements incl, worked for me for 15 yrs, mrose59@hotmail.com

      • Oh, I love the idea of that. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t have worked for our dog as she escaped from yards too (after busting into the yard by breaking out a door or window), so being outside wasn’t enough. She needed to be by people and would run through the neighborhood until she found the first human. We were just lucky that she loved people and that each person who found her liked dogs and that she didn’t scare anyone nor get hit by a car.

  33. lost my good buddy last week , can not believe I summoned the strength to make that call or indeed carry through, I knew on our last walk, he went all out after ” treat lady ” and screwed up the last little bit of legs he had left, could have stopped him……. but to what end ? he went peacefully at the vets office rather than in pain at my house fulfilling my selfish needs as a human, do I miss him ? you betcha, house is lonely and quiet without him, he was never more than 4 ft away from me for the 9 years I had him, stinky little dog farts will be missed, and he had lots of them,…. strategy…. bum right under my nose at all times !!!!! I have no words of wisdom, if I was God , my little Bud would still be here without the struggle or pain, all I can tell myself is, he had 9 wonderful years after I pulled him from the jaws of death, and now there is no more pain hunger or fear, go in peace my friend, I will see you soon

  34. to Sari, never say never, there is always a reason dogs behave as they do , figuring it out is the tough part for us humans, dogs are pack animals, they do not like being alone, a pack of 2 is better than 1 , I will never have a lone dog again, , and yes I hear on escape artist, my old girl in her younger days [ previous owner ] used to scale 6 ft fences and come back to the front door at home time,…… again , dogs do not like being alone……… you said she sought company !!!!! how long was your work day ?

    • This will be my final post as I’m disgusted how you’re trolling on a grief article where comments were asked to post how they dealt with the decision to euthanize their beloved pet, and then you come on here saying things like “never say never” in a manner that feels like you’re shaming me for making that decision when you know NOTHING of how our poor dog was suffering, not to mention the toll it took on us. We worked with our vet, the foster organization (which is run by a vet and two vet techs), two different trainers and a certified animal behaviorist from the University of MN for nearly a year, so please don’t act like you’re an expert and you know better what we should have done in the situation when we were working with real experts.

      While it is absolutely none of your business, I will share with you just some of what we did to try to help our dog prior to making the decision.

      We both changed our work schedules, so she was home alone at a max of three days per week. And we very very rarely (if ever) left on weekends. That did NOT stop her generalize anxiety from continuing to escalate as we couldn’t even calm her down during those situations where she was scared of thunderstorms, any kind of rain, a kid dribbling a basketball through all of the closed windows with fans, TVs and AC, the sound of our oven pre-heating, etc.) Prior to the anxiety getting really bad, we were taking her to doggie day care for nearly a year, but when her anxiety started to get worse, she became scared of some dogs and/or very selective of which ones she wanted to play with, and we could no longer bring her there. We had to start walking her at off-hours when there weren’t other dogs in the neighborhood because she would start shaking and/or lunge to go after them. We ended up having to put in a $7K privacy fence to allow her a place to play off-leash – the extra exercise did nothing to alleviate her stress.

      Her best dog buddy was my parents dog, and we moved in there for a few months to see if that would help her, especially because my step-dad’s schedule allows him to be home every two hours. Even before moving there, we would drive on the opposite side of town at 5am to drop her off to be with their dog during our work days, and she escaped out of their yard TWICE despite her best buddy sitting right there. There was no improvement in her behavior, and she even started snapping at him.

      We missed nearly all family and friend events for almost two years as it was such a stressful hassle to think about leaving her knowing that the whole time we would just be worried about coming to home to a broken out window, injured or dead dog. For the only two events we did go to, we hired dog-sitters to come into our home and watch her, but she was still very anxious and stressed from the change in routine, and each time, she had a major anxiety attack within a day of us returning.

      Also, we did a LOT of private training sessions in our home and in training facilities, and it did very little to improve the situation as we had already done extensive training prior to the anxiety getting to be such an issue, so she was already very well-trained. It was more simply to wear her out mentally, but it barely took the edge off. In addition to the training, we were working with a certified animal behaviorist from the University of MN, which involved daily exercises for more than six months, routine changes, and even a lot of medication options involving us waking up every day at 3am to disperse her meds. None of it even helped her to improve for more than a few weeks at a time. If anything, she was getting more unstable and scared in daily life and towards the end, we weren’t going more than a few days without a major attack in the house while we were gone.

      She went from being a dog that loved being in the mix of things with other dogs and people to a dog that was incredibly anxious around any other dog and even children. There is nothing we wouldn’t have done (short of quitting our jobs and never leaving our home) to help her, but at the end of the day, she was getting worse and worse. And we had to do what was within our power to end her daily suffering. All of the professionals we were working with said that she was far and away the worst case they had ever seen, and they supported us making the decision nearly eight months before we finally did, but we held out because we wanted to try absolutely everything first. It was heart-wrenching to see this evolution with this beloved member of our family, and it still brings both of us to tears on a near-weekly basis to not have her with us any longer. However, she was suffering greatly, and her quality of life was horrible.

      I hope that before you continue to judge people in a forum like this, you can realize that most people who would post on a story like this would have moved heaven and earth to keep their happy, healthy dog with them longer and certainly don’t come to decision of euthanasia lightly, so your comments after the fact do NOTHING to help.

  35. To Steve, sounds like a cliché, sorry you lost your dog under such horrendous circumstances, …. border collies are meant to run all day and herd cattle or sheep by means of nipping at the heels in order to direct the animals, unfortunately we see these fabulous animals as good pets…… they are not……. they need a job… and if we do not give them one they will do as your dog did……. herd and control your girlfriend……….. very sad … and my heart aches for your loss, wish you could have found something to engage in before it was too late, often these dogs will become anal about “fetch ” as it fulfills the hardwired herd drive to bring something back to the Alpha unit,[ that would be you hopefully,] each dog breed is bred for a specific reason, hardwired for that purpose, wish people that want pets would go for Labs or dustmops, crossbreeds tend to be more mellow but not always

    • Thanks for your comments, gocup.
      I appreciate what you are saying about the inbuilt herding instincts but I know of many Border Collies that live within homes where they do not herd and are perfectly happy (or as happy as you can ever consider a dog to be without being able to talk to them as we do human-to-human).
      I do Canicross (running with dog(s) attached via a harness on the dog, belt on me and with a bungee line connecting us) and many of my friends also do Bikejor with their dogs, be they Pointers, German Shepherds, Border Collies or any other breed, so these dogs get plenty of exercise and stimulation as well as their daily walks.
      My 12 year old Collie has been with me for 6 years, since the age of 6, and he has never exhibited the behaviour that Sam did, nor did my BC when I was a teenager.

      There are many Border Collies looking for homes, for many reasons, and if I can give a caring life to (and receive the love from) one of these rather than it being PTS then to me it’s the right thing to do.
      While it may be ironic, and many people will consider that it’s hypocritical of me, after what happened with Sam, I know that we gave each other two amazing years before he died.

      Over the last few weeks I have been looking at other dogs needing homes and while I have been tempted, it wasn’t until Jake (another Deaf Border Collie) became an emergency case that I volunteered to foster him.
      It’s because of Sam that I moved on this, partly to ensure that Jake was okay but also to help gain some further perspective and closure on the situation with Sam. Rest assured, Jake is not a ‘surrogate’ for Sam but he does seem to have all of the good qualities that I had in Sam (deaf BC). As I say, I am only fostering him at the moment, and if I see any similar behaviour with Jake that I have previously experienced, then I would ask the Rescue Centre to take him so that they can do for him whatever it is that I couldn’t do for Sam.

      Steve

  36. To Sari,
    My deepest apologies for sounding so heatless and self righteous….. that was not my intention, maybe my own grief over losing my two elderly dogs within five months tainted what went down on the keyboard, I too had a dog who was very anxious , terrified of loud noises , and thunder… well …, thought he might have a heart attack or seizure, was trying only to impart what helped him and that was to quite literally not leave him alone…..

    Gocup

  37. I had my dog euthanized yesterday, and although I’ve known for the better part of a year that his days were numbered, I never expected to feel so horrible about my decision. My logic knows it was time but my heart is tormented with regret. My Jazz was 13, he had cataracts and could no longer tell if there was water in his bowl, his teeth, what he had left were all rotten, his gums were swollen and I had been feeding him soft table food for at least a year. Last March, his front leg began showing severe signs of painful arthritis and I often had to carry him home from our walks. In the last few weeks, he had days where his front leg was so bad that he walked on only 3. I’ve seen him yelp in sudden extreme pain for his leg while laying on the couch doing nothing. In the last few months there were many times I came home, and he wouldn’t hear my come in and I found myself searching for him hoping he was still alive. He had been very tired too lately, he slept 20 hours a day….
    It was time… It really was

  38. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m searching the web to help me with a decision about my Trisha. She’s going on 7 and is now having seizures about once a week. She also has a heart murmur and has IVDD. Her seizure cause more injury to her neck. She’s been on 5 weeks of kennel confinement for her IVDD and just had a horrific seizure. I won’t know if she has reinjured herself because of all of the meds she is on now (Trammadol, Methocarbamol, Prednisolone – IVDD, and phenobarbital). She can’t tolerate surgery for her neck due to the murmur. I keep a log and she recovers quickly and tolerates the pheno well enough but they are getting worse. She is a sweet dog. I may not be ready to make the decision yet. Your post helped me realize I’m on the right track to make that decision. Maybe sooner than I’d like.

  39. I just wanted to say thank you for this post and all the comments. I put my 15 yr old to rest two days ago and am so sad. Although in my heart I know it was the right decision because her quality of life was pretty poor as she was continuing to lose weight, having trouble walking due to spinal deterioration and weakness in the hind legs, she often times couldn’t get up without assistance anymore among quite a few other things, I feel guilty to a degree bc ending a life is not something I’m used to doing and this girl had a strong will. She still knew when it was feeding time and all of sudden could walk better and she loved to eat. She lived a long, fun life and traveled with me to many places across the country. She spent the majority of her life living near the beach which she loved. A couple of days ago I decided to take her to the vet because she’d had a few rough days where she couldn’t quite seem to get comfortable and had several sleepless nights. After explaining to the vet what new things were going on with her, together we came to the conclusion that her quality of life was pretty poor. With tears rolling down my face I said I love her very much and I want what’s best for her. My vet said I think she’s very tired and doesn’t have anything left to give. I held my girl as she slept peacefully. When the time came the vet and tech came in with the medicine. My boyfriend and I comforted her as the medicine was administered and within seconds she left this world. My heart is broken and I hope and pray that I was able to provide her with the best life possible. I feel like I tried everything to make her as comfortable as possible towards the end of her life and it just got to the point where we were both exhausted and the only thing she enjoyed was meal time so with the advice of my vet together we decided it was time. Although I will admit I panicked for a minute as I was not intending to say good bye at that time. I said well maybe I should take her to the beach one last time but I remembered our last trip to the beach and she couldn’t even enjoy herself as she struggled to walk and I carried her most of the way. It seemed clear to me that I had done all I could for her and it was only a matter of time so I decided that it was best to send her off peacefully instead of prolonging her her suffering. I hope that this comment will serve as a benefit to others who are also faced with such a difficult decision. I know this blog has been very helpful to me. Thank you and bless our beloved pets.

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