When is it time for euthanasia?


My dog is getting on in years. She’s got arthritis and a heart murmur. I love her and I’m going to miss her, and I’m not sure if I’m holding onto her for my benefit or hers. How do I tell when it’s time for my dog to be put to sleep?


The biggest fear that pet owners have is that their pet will suffer at their expense. The second biggest fear is that they’ll say goodbye too early and their pets won’t understand why they’re being put to sleep.

Pets don’t fear death. Death is like taking off a suit of clothes. It’s easy. Once they pass over to the other side, there is great joy and no regret. They miss us, but they don’t have the burden of their physical form, and all the physical pains and emotional issues that come with it.

How do you know when it’s the right time? Here’s how to make that decision and feel at peace about it.

First, consider your views on quality of life. Are you the kind of person who doesn’t want to live if your health was compromised? Or do think that any day above ground is a good day?

Once you understand your view, observe your pet and her behavior. Do you think she shares that view?

Do you still get a good tail wag and smile, even if she can’t make it outside without your help? If she’s food-oriented, does she still have an appetite?

I recently talked with a beagle named Moxie. Moxie suffers from chronic kidney disease. He has an extensive medical regimen, which includes an IV several times a week. His owner was worried that she was putting him through this pain for her expense.

“I wouldn’t want to go through this, myself,” she said.

When I asked Moxie if he was ready to go, he said, “Of course not! I’m just fine. My owner doesn’t want me to die, does she?”

I assured Moxie, that she did not want him to die. She just didn’t want him to suffer. We arranged that he’d signal that he was ready to go by refusing his favorite treats, and lying down and refusing to get up.

I have another client who had an eighteen-year-old wheaten terrier named Muffin. That’s 126 dog years! When I asked Muffin if it was her time, I got an emphatic “Yes!” I asked the other pets in the home. They all agreed. It was her time. Her euthanasia was a relief. She passed away, surrounded by her loving family.

The key to all of this is honoring your pet’s wishes. You know your girl better than anyone. Don’t be afraid to experience the twilight of your relationship. It’s a beautiful part of the journey.