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When You Have to Put Your Dog to Sleep

When You Have to Put Your Dog to Sleep

The only downfall of owning a dog is when you have to say goodbye. This is not speculation, but a disquieting reality. When the time comes, saying goodbye to your furry best friend is an emotionally draining experience. You don’t want to let go.

If your senior dog is– for the most part– healthy, then he or she pretty much knows when the time has come. Some doggies will tell you and take you to a favorite spot they have picked out to go.  They want you to be with them on their last day. Others will kiss you goodbye and then leave to die by themselves because they don’t want their owner to be worried or sad.

However, there are times when illness is the main cause of your canine’s deteriorating health and you must do the right thing and make the choice to end his/her suffering. 

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Loving Our Dogs

Most dog owners living in the U.S. consider their canines family members. We love to buy them clothes, dress them up and or buy them jewelry. We care for our furry babies until the day they pass away and then we mourn our loss. As doggy parents, losing our best friend equates to losing a human child. This is why it is so hard to make the decision to end the life of a furry one when their health declines.

Unfortunately, there are times when we must make the decision to send our babies into doggy heaven. When our canines reach senior status, sometimes an abominable disease invades our furry babies causing them excruciating pain. When the latter becomes apparent and is confirmed by your vet, then the only compassionate thing to do is to put your little one to sleep. 

The best way to understand living in comfort is to consider if you or a human family member would benefit from living on non-stop pain medication and drugs. This would mean the inability to function from being doped up all day. Most likely the answer is no. We suffer at seeing relatives go through Alzheimer’s, cancer, and or any debilitating disease. It is hard enough to watch our human loved ones struggle to survive. 

Dogs can’t communicate verbally and are great at hiding their discomfort and pain. They don’t like making their owners worried. As such, when they show they are in pain it means they no longer can hide their suffering.

Signs Your Dog is Suffering

After your dog’s vet diagnoses your little one, it becomes your responsibility to make sure your dog is recovering and not doing worse. In most cases, if your pup is diagnosed with an incurable disease, it is only a matter of time before you are forced to make the humanitarian decision to put your little one to sleep. 

Remember, the last thing you want as a dog owner is to watch your furry child be in agony. If you notice your little one is no longer able to live without pain, it is time to let go. The most traumatizing image you can be left with is of your little one’s last day crying, lethargic, in pain or in the emergency room fighting to survive an illness that progressed beyond cure.

Some of the most common signs your dog is in pain and suffering include but are not limited to:

  • panting
  • slow licking
  • biting
  • falling
  • stumbling
  • shifting positions frequently
  • anxious
  • hesitant
  • unsettled
  • large belly
  • dilated pupils
  • unusual drooling
  • difficulty laying down
  • limping
  • vomiting


What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the act of ending a life in order to prevent a person or animal from further pain and suffering. Euthanasia of animals suffering in pain is a common practice in the United States. Euthanasia requires the vet to inject your canine with a drug that will induce unconsciousness. This is the most gentle way to put your dog to sleep and end their suffering.

How is Your Dog Put to Sleep?

When you enter the facility doing the procedure, you have the choice of staying in the room comforting your dog or walking away because it’s unbearably painful. The choice is very personal and it depends on the closeness and bond you had established with your dog. Some vets will provide this service at home to make it easier for you. 

Euthanasia at the Vet

Most vets will have a pillow or blanket on a table to make your dog comfortable. There is usually a chair or an area for you to stand next to your little one to be together.

Depending on the veterinarian, your dog may or may not be given a sedative to relax. If your little one is frightened or if she or he is in pain, then the vet will give your dog a tranquilizer first. Ask your vet if the shot will cause pain or an allergic reaction to your pooch. The latter will help you decide if the sedative is a good fit. Usually, both the sedative and medication is given via an IV placed in your dog’s leg.

Once your dog is relaxed, the vet will inject your dog with Pentobarbital, the medication used for euthanasia. Once in the system, the Pentobarbital will put your dog to sleep, followed by shutting down his or her heart and brain.

Once your baby is gone, you’ll see their breathing stop. Most importantly, the vet will let you know upon your little furry one’s passing.

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How to Cope with the Process

There is not much one can do to help a doggy parent ease the process. I have gone through euthanasia with my little guinea pig and that was heart wrenching. What helped me was having a close friend by my side. If you chose to be with your dog while he or she is put to sleep, then the positive aspect of this is that your furry loved one will know they are not alone. 

Choosing to be home with your dog may work better.

Euthanasia at Home

If your baby has mobility issues and cannot be taken to the veterinarian, euthanasia can be performed at home. Most times this works best for doggie parents who want their little one to be in the comfort of home during their passing. 

Moreover, if you have more than one dog, then euthanasia will allow your pup’s siblings and friends realize their pack partner has passed on. The rest of your canines will have the ability also say goodbye to their family member.

Research your vet and other veterinarians to decipher who provides the most compassionate procedure. Finding a caring place is imperative to the quality of time you will spend with your dog before he or she is gone. Before you decide, I’d suggest you research your vet first and then other veterinarians who specialize in euthanasia. 

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Honoring Your Dog’s Memory

Your canine is your companion, best friend and family member. Letting go after they are gone is a painful process. It will take time to be at peace with your loss. Many folks who lose their dogs consider cremation, home burial, or a pet cemetery to keep the memory of their furry one alive. Whichever way you chose to pay homage to your best friend, you must plan it before putting him or her to sleep.


If you have your little one euthanized, you should consider requesting a cremation. There are many places outside the vet’s office that specialize in cremating and returning the ashes in a wooden box with your dog’s name on it. A death certificate usually comes attached. 

Home Burial

Other dog parents bury their dogs at home. They make a little graveyard in their garden or backyard and plant a tree above or next to the grave. 

If you own a home and know you are never moving, this is a great way to keep your dog’s memory close. Home burials allow you to have a little service with friends and family and is an intimate way to say goodbye to your little one surrounded by the ones you love. However, you must check with your city’s restrictions to make sure it is legal to bury a dog. 

Pet Cemetery

There are pet cemeteries where you can buy a plot and bury your furry loved one. Just like human cemeteries, your canine will have a plot, headstone, and kept grounds. You can visit your best friend and place flowers on his or her grave. 

Burying your dog at a cemetery also allows you to have a little service with friends and family and is an intimate way to say goodbye to your little one surrounded by the ones you love.



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Photo Album

It took me over a year to get over the loss of my guinea pigs. They grew up with Harley and were her little brothers. When they passed, I made a little album with their photos. I also wrote short stories about their time with us.

Artistic Ideas

Other ways to honor your furry one’s memory is to be creative. In addition to the standard family albums or picture frames, there are charms, necklaces, pendants, gravestones, and memorial statues that can be imprinted with your dog’s image.

There are sites where you can customize cups, t-shirts, ornaments and anything you like with the image of your little one as well. Whichever method you chose to remember your best friend, you’ll be able to keep those memories for a lifetime.


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As many ScoutKnows readers are aware, my little Harley has been fighting Cushing’s Disease, which has caused her two episodes of severe abdominal pain, seizures, and vomiting. These episodes lasted 30 minutes or so and there was nothing I could do medically.

After each episode, my little one shook it off and slept the rest of the night. I laid down next to her as I rubbed her hair and she slept next to the A/C, her favorite spot. Her Cushing’s meds were still new and took a while before they begun to work. Harley is now stable and has been for weeks. I consider this a short-term miracle because I know it won’t last. 

As I know I will soon need to put my Harley to sleep, I reached out to a foundation that assists dog parents with paying for the procedure. To my dismay, rather than being compassionate, the woman that ran the foundation yelled at me on the phone accusing me of making my dog suffer. She made assumptions about my Harley’s health and pressured me to end my dog’s life that day.  She refused to listen to the fact that Harley was not suffering, was not in pain, and that I was taking responsibility by reaching out the organization before my little one’s health began to deteriorate and go on a down-rode spiral.

If that is not enough, when I asked if the ashes were included in the price quoted she yelled, “We don’t pay for that. That’s too much money. You don’t need the ashes.” Needless to say, I hung up the phone after expressing a few colorful metaphors.  

Newport Harbor Animal Hospital will include the ashes and plaque with Harley’s paw for less the amount quoted to me by the organization. I also knew Harley will be comfortable with the vet she’s known for years. 

Therefore, my advice to you is to choose wisely before you make the final decision to ease your dog’s suffering. This includes finding a vet or charitable programs that are compassionate not only to your dog but also to you as the grieving parent.

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