Dog Euthanasia: When Is It Time To Say Goodbye?

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Sad pugEuthanasia of a pet is one of the toughest things — if not the toughest thing — a pet owner may ever have to do. Yet this is a decision everyone must be prepared to make when they commit to taking on the responsibility of giving a pet a forever home. Let’s discusses the unfortunate process of dog euthanasia; when it’s the right time, and how to cope when your friend is gone.

How To Decide When It’s Time To Euthanize

Deciding when it’s time to send your pet on is the first step in this incredibly tough process. Here are a few things to consider before making this big decision:

  • Is your pet in pain?
  • Do they seem to still enjoy life?
  • What is their medical diagnosis?
  • Can you afford treatment?
  • Are they struggling to perform normal bodily functions?

By asking yourself and assessing the truth of questions like these, you’ll more easily determine whether it’s the right time to make this decision. And remember, no one knows your pet like you do. Trust your heart and your judgement here, no matter how hard the answers are.

The Euthanasia Process

Once you’ve come to terms with the hard fact that it’s time to euthanize (commonly explained as “put your pet down”), you’ll need to begin preparing yourself emotionally for the next steps.

Make The Appointment

Your regular vet will often perform this procedure at their office or clinic, but it can often be done at home. Talk to your vet to discuss which option is best for you and your pet. If you don’t feel comfortable or your regular vet doesn’t perform this service, ask them to give you a recommendation. Other than who, you’ll need to ask yourself when. Be sure to consider your needs here; it’s going to be emotionally taxing for you, so plan a time that is not only considerate of your pup’s needs, but yours as well.

The Procedure

The procedure itself is quick, easy and painless for your pet. Your vet should allow you to be present during this procedure if you choose.

    1. A sedative is administered to calm and relax your pet.
    2. An IV is inserted and flushed with saline to determine its proper insertion into the vein.
    3. When you’re ready, an assistant will hold your pet while the vet administers the euthanasia solution.
    4. Within seconds (it’s a fast-acting medicine) your animal’s muscles relax and the heart stops beating.

Saying Goodbye

Whether you choose to be there with your dog for the whole procedure, or whether you prefer to say your goodbyes before, making a plan and sticking to it will help. Keep in mind, that if you decide not to be present in your dog’s final moments, it could be a source of guilt later on. Some even suggest that other pets who remain are present as well. This is a personal option to discuss with your veterinarian.

After it’s all over you must consider after care. Most veterinarians will keep your pet until these arrangements are made and carried out. Make sure you’ve discussed this with your vet beforehand so there’s no miscommunication about what to do with the remains before they make it to their final resting place.

Euthanasia At Home

While the majority of these procedures are done in a vet’s office, there is the option to perform euthanasia in the comfort of your own home. There is an online directory listing veterinarians who offer in-home euthanasia.

While the process of the actual procedure is much the same as outlined above, you’ll want to make sure that a few key things are taken care of.

  1. Your personal vet may not be able to come to your home. So, make sure you’re hiring a licensed veterinarian to perform this in-home procedure and that you’ve discussed the procedure beforehand so you’re comfortable with the process.
  2. Choose a comfortable place, and consider using your dog’s favorite bed and blankets.
  3. Give your pet lots of love.

Laying Your Dog To Rest

The final step in this process is choosing how your dog will rest after euthanasia. Both burial and cremation options are discussed in greater detail in our Dog Cremation article.

Parting Thoughts

This is a tough time for you, your family, and the other animals in your home. Be sure to take the time to process this loss and take care of yourselves. After all, your dog is your family, and losing a family member is life changing. Visit our article on Dealing With The Death of Your Dog to learn more and we invite you to leave your stories below in the comments to receive Pet Grief Support from our community. Sometimes talking with others dealing with the sadness associated with the loss of a beloved pet can be helpful.

What will you miss most about your sweet pup?

About The Author:

Sara is a writer for Canine Journal. She adores dogs and recently adopted a rescue pup named Beamer. Whole she may be adjusting to life with another being to care for, she needed no time to adjust to all the extra love.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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May 15, 2020 3:16 am

He was my baby… getting old but how sudden it all was made it so much harder. His name was Biscuit, he was a springerdoodle and he will be turning 13 years old in July. He helped me through everything and was my cuddle buddy. April 15 we took him to the vet because he wasn’t eating and his walking ability was getting harder. They wanted to keep him overnight. We discover on April 16 that his kidney was failing and he had a huge mass pushing on his organs which caused him pain and hard for him to go to the bathroom. I vividly remember seeing him lying on the floor with a blanket under him and his IV in and as soon as me and my family come in his face lights up. The vet didn’t want to do surgery because he was so weak that they didn’t think he would get through it. My family and I decided that it was best to put him down. I was the only person in the room because my parents couldn’t watch. Seeing his dead body in front of me put me over the edge cause at that time I couldn’t do anything anymore. I have never cried so hard and so long in my life. I grew up with Biscuit, he was my brother, baby, and best friend. I can’t say “Baby come here” or “Biscuit come here”, which tears me apart. Some days I think that I can’t live without him. But what replays in my mind at night when I’m in bed, a couple of days before we took him to the vet he came to my room really late at night and wanted to cuddle and for me to pet him, so I cuddled and petted him till I fell asleep. He was looking for comfort. I believe that he knew he was getting sick and knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t do anything but ask for attention. I miss everything about him. I never had to put an animal down, let alone grieve my best friend in the whole world. Thank you for this article because I’m still lost without him here and reading this article helps me think I did the right thing for him.

July 4, 2020 5:46 am
Reply to  Sarah

I’m so sorry and I feel your pain…This is what is happening to my 12-year-old black lab/pointer. He has a tumor pushing against his kidney and other organs. He is now refusing to eat and getting sick a lot. I don’t know what to do, sometimes he feels like he’s shaking. He went in the car with me tonight to pick something up just to be with me. He chose me out of 5 siblings and my parents…I don’t want him to just be gone.

January 18, 2020 10:49 am

Does anyone know a place where they help with putting your little one to sleep? My little Maltese is over 15, I know it’s time just can’t do it.

Kimberly Alt
January 20, 2020 10:41 am
Reply to  Mary

I’m so sorry, Mary. I would suggest contacting a local vet. They are typically equipped to help with this. You are in my thoughts.

January 2, 2020 8:29 pm

His name was Orbitz. We were best friends. But one day, after I came home from camp, my parents told me that Orbitz had to be put down. I was heartbroken. We put him down due to cancer, tumors in his ears, an over sized heart, and a tumor in his abdomen. It happened right before school started. Seeing the needle that would stop his heartbeat going into him, was a horrible experience. I blame myself for not spending more time with him. I really did give him the best life he could have had. We walked him more than 3 times a day, and he got 3 meals everyday. I really enjoyed the 4 years I spent with him.But I wish I could have spent more time with him. We went through a lot together. Ever since then, it’s been a continuous path of unstoppable crying. I was 10 years old when I lost him. It only happened a few months ago. I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever get over it. I feel like I can’t live without him. I miss him getting up in my bed every night and waking my family up really early to be walked. But now I know that he’s out of pain and suffering. I give my condolences to every single one of you.

December 26, 2019 1:52 am

My mother just told me I have to put my dog down due to old age and her liver and kidneys not functioning. And I just want her to feel better but I’m not ready to except that she won’t be at home waiting for me to get back from school like she’s done for 15 years. I know it’s selfish to think like this when I should be thinking of her and how she feels. All I want to know is if it gets better. Do I always cary around this feeling that apart of me is gone. Her name is uni.

December 24, 2019 12:27 am

my baby boy has cancer and today he finally started acting like it. not eating, won’t go outside, won’t move. Any other day o the year I would make an appointment and just do it because I know he is in pain but tomorrow is Christmas eve and no one is open. We also leave for vacation Christmas morning. I’m at a complete loss for what to do. the last thing I want is for him to be alone when it happens. I love him so much

December 21, 2019 3:50 am

I volunteered at an animal shelter where I fell in love with a black chihuahua. I thought it was a sign for me to meet him on my first day. He looked and acted so similar to my own white chihuahua. I loved him immediately. I visited him every day at the shelter. Walked him, cuddled with him and played with him. We were inseparable. I kept asking every day if I could adopt him, but were told repeatedly that as soon as he got healthier, I could. He was brought to the shelter because his owner died. He was only 3 years old. I was there with him everyday for 2 weeks. Then he was operated for kidney stones. He was in a lot of pain and almost couldn’t pee. But he was loving life. Tail wagging, licking my face and playing happily with me. One day I was sure he was getting better, and the people at the shelter started calling me his new mom, and we talked about him getting a big brother soon. I left the shelter that day so happy. I talked with my boyfriend about how excited I was to adopt him and introduce him to my other beloved dog. The next day I went to the shelter again. The first thing I did was asking the adoption office if I could fill out the adoption application now. Then they told me that he wasn’t going to be up for adoption. That he was too sick with his kidneys. I rushed to him and sat with him. Then the vet came and told me he was being euthanised within the hour. I have never been so heartbroken. I tried to keep happy and cuddled and played with him. Gave him treats. I wanted his last time on this earth to be happily. Then the vet came and his tail was wagging when she put on his lease. I said my final goodbye and off he went. I have cried ever since. It feels so unfair that he had to die. He was loving life. He was only 3 years old, and I was about to give him a loving home. What hurts most was having to leave him at the shelter at night. I fought every day to take him home with me, but he was just too ill. I’m so grateful I went to the shelter that day at that time. I got to be with him at his last time on this earth. Even though I understand that he shouldn’t suffer, it hurts so badly. I loved him with all of my heart. I only got to know him for 12 days, but in that time we had a special bond, and I will never forget him. I’m devastated. That day I rushed home to my white chihuahua. I’ve cuddled with him ever since, and that’s the only thing that helps. I know he’s in a peaceful place now, but I’m still heartbroken. Afterwards I found out that the other dog I loved from the shelter also was euthanised that same day. It was yesterday. But that dog was 12 years old and blind. And his owner was in prison. That decision I understood. I got to walk him twice the day before his death. It all feels so unfair though. The 2 dogs I loved from the shelter died the same day. Also considering that I live in Scandinavia and dogs are never euthanised without reason. Only when they are too ill to live. I didn’t get to bring the black chihuahua home for Christmas as I thought. He is gone, but I choose to believe that I gave him love on his last days. Now he is at peace. Along with the blind dog. Now I’m going to grieve and spent time with my dog. I love him more than anything. Merry Christmas to all of you and your fury friends.

December 20, 2019 6:31 pm

Last night we put my beautiful sweet 19 year old chihuahua down. She was diagnosed with kidney failure 8 months ago and randomly she wasn’t able to use her back legs anymore. She’s stopped eating and drinking a week ago, and this is the toughest thing I have to go through. I miss her so much

December 1, 2019 2:29 am

We had to put down my 15 year old chocolate lab yesterday. The dog I group up since I was 2, was always there for me and was always playing with me no matter what I did. My younger dog, hasn’t left anybody’s side and keeps looking for her sister. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face and still really hurts, I will miss her ❤️

kenn w gugel
November 8, 2019 10:13 am

My sweet angel Blanche . The most incredibly happy and loving dog I have ever loved, went to the Rainbow bridge yesterday and I watched as God took my leash and walked her over.This decision was the most heartbreaking decision I have ever had to make.She was a healthy mix Mastiff/bloodhound and I doted over her and watched everything she did. And when she stopped eateing for 2 days, I quickly took her to the vet and they tried everything to get her appetite back.After day seven,I took her to the specialist to see what they thought and when the words tubes and scopes and biopsies were said, I knew that wasn’t what my sweet girl would have wanted. I could’nt put her thru that just for my selfishness of having her near me.To everyone coping with the thought of euthanizing your friend or the aftermath, please know that it takes incredible love to make this decision to not send your pup thru invasive surgery and diagnostics…Now, day after, I am a broken dad. But I know it will get better and the memories, though painful now, will be a comfort down the road. AND I will be back a much stronger dad for the next family member I welcome home

Brian Behnke
December 20, 2019 10:20 pm
Reply to  kenn w gugel

I had to put my beloved Roxy down yesterday.. I stayed with her until the very end! I know she heard me saying goodbye and thank you for being such a wonderful friend to me and all of our family and friends. I have never had a more friendly gentle dog than my Roxy.. she got sick .. lost her appetite struggled getting up, she would come up to me and look at me like she was telling me that she was not feeling good!! I had her in the vet in October for her shots and now as of yesterday she is across that Rainbow with GOD and all of the rest of the family!
I found her as a pup 10 years ago. It was Christmas Eve and I was taking the garbage out and out from behind was a little black shepherd lab mix puppy.. it was slightly raining and we had just finished dinner and hear is a little stray.. I had two dogs at the time and two horses and a cat at the time.. she was our special Christmas gift .. what a wonderful memory! I will miss my ROXY!! Rest In Peace baby…

Dwan Fellows
August 25, 2019 5:48 pm

We had to make to difficult decision for our sweet Mae, a mini schnauzer, just last night. It was the right thing to do. She was 13 yrs, 6 months, and 2 days old. She had been suffering with congestive heart failure and Cushings and had a severe episode of acute pancreatitis just 8 months ago (from which she almost didn’t survive). This week has been a tough week of watching her decline and not recover. We were trying to keep her comfortable until this morning so the vet could see her but she couldn’t rest and had severe difficultly breathing. We made the decision as a family not to prolong her suffering. But man oh man this hurts so deeply. I can’t stop crying. And I miss my sweet girl! Her sister (same litter) is still very healthy but she keeps wandering the house looking for Mae, even though wishes was present in the end. And we are all a mess…

December 3, 2019 2:48 pm
Reply to  Dwan Fellows

Hi there. We had to put down Chico, an almost 12 year old Yorkie with congestive heart failure as well, last night. Toughest thing ever because he was still spunky, but it was the constant coughing keeping him up all night, so he was getting zero rest, not eating a lot anymore and gasping for air, even while on heart meds. His heart was almost the entire size of his chest cavity. 🙁 Stay strong. It hurts so much, but I’m glad he isn’t suffering anymore and to see his quality of life slow down was the worst for me to see. 🙁

Kimberly Alt
August 26, 2019 9:04 am
Reply to  Dwan Fellows

I’m so sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts.

October 7, 2019 7:57 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

/im sorry:( i just had to put my baby down today:/ she was sick also 13

August 4, 2019 12:38 pm

Monday night I agreed to putting my Pug to sleep, it was by far the worst decision I’ve ever made. The vet had “advocated” for this 6 months prior, but I didn’t agree and I had thought even though he was 16 years old, he was on his way to recovery. There were ups and downs, mainly due to not accessing better people aggressively. There are several things that could have been achieved that would have extended his wonderful life. It’s important that if a life means something to you that you go all out. I should have immediately fired my vet and sought a better group of people for the task of caring for an older Pug. The right people are out there, find them, use them, give your friend the same help you would give any other family member. Unless nothing can be done and your friend is in pain, do whatever it takes, create adaptive care, get as much help as you can, otherwise you will have guilt, despair, and failure on top of your huge loss.

June 3, 2019 2:36 pm

Thank you for this article. I just had to let go of my handsome chocolate lab after 10 and a half years. It all happened so quickly and I had to make the decision right after his diagnosis as he was in extreme pain from bone cancer in his hind leg. I am having extreme feelings of guilt but like was said, I knew I had to relieve him of the pain. I had no idea where to go so just called a local Vet hospital. They were so gracious with him and gave me plenty of time before, during, and after the procedure. I choose to do the group cremation as it was what I could afford and they deposit the ashes in the Pacific Ocean. Thank again.

Kimberly Alt
June 4, 2019 8:46 am
Reply to  Servando

I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you were able to be with him and say goodbye. My thoughts are with you.

April 26, 2019 5:35 pm

We just got back from having our big boy Gunner put to sleep and we had it done by “Angels for animals” and we opted to just leave him there because we had no place to beary him and he did weigh 150 pounds so that’s why we made the decision that we did but I was wondering, what do they do with our pets after euthanasia, what is done with the bodies? Thank you very much for your time.

Kimberly Alt
April 29, 2019 10:03 am
Reply to  Jeff

I’m sorry for your loss. Most are sent to a crematorium and cremated as a group if people don’t want the ashes back and then the ashes are disposed of. I’m sure you could call Angels For Animals and ask for specifics.

Hazel Owens
January 21, 2019 6:47 pm

That’s good to know that you can do pet euthanasia at home if you talk with your vet. My sister’s German Shepherd isn’t doing too well and is having a harder time doing normal things like eating, so she’s looking into euthanasia to help him not feel pain anymore. We’ll have to find a vet near her that is willing to do the procedure at home so her kids can say goodbye to him and he will be comfortable when he passes.

Kit Hannigan
October 9, 2018 8:33 pm

I really like your tip about picking a comfortable spot for your dog to be in such as a favorite blanket. My dog really loves this pink, satin blanket that we have lying around in our living room. He is getting a bit old, so an at-home pet euthanasia is definitely on the horizon for us. This tip will really ensure that he rests his tired eyes as peaceful as can be.

Ellie Davis
June 13, 2018 4:37 pm

Thank you for suggesting that you are going to need to consider what you want to do with the remains after care. My husband and I have had our dog for almost 15 years and she has been so sick for so long. I really think it will be best if we put her down. We just moved to a new city and haven’t found a vet so I’m going to have to do some research and find the best vet clinic in our area to help us put our poor baby out of her misery.

AnnMarie Taylor
December 10, 2017 4:50 pm

My Baby Kari screamed in horrible pain when injected. Had to argue with vet to hold her close to my heart during procedure. Then not given any special moments with her for my final hugs and words of LOVE that I wanted Baby Kari to take with her !! Tech just insisted every two minutes that I leave.HORRIBLE last few seconds of her loving life. Vet quickly left room and did not tell me any reason for severe sceaming and Pain.What went wrong ???

September 21, 2019 7:52 am

My dog also screamed out in pain when the vet tried twice to inject in his front paw it was very distressing for us in then he infected a sedative in his back thigh that made him very sleepy I wish he had done that in the first place I think about it every day and still get upset vet said it didn’t hurt it’s cos it’s just a bit of a shock but still I have to live with thinking that pain is the last thing he felt

August 25, 2019 4:20 pm

My did 15 and a half years I had to put to sleep, holding him on my lap too, he also screamed for his injection, so sad, the vet had to listen for his heart a couple of times if he was gone, I still cry about it is been 3 years.

September 17, 2019 4:38 pm
Reply to  ginette

We had our loving staff put to sleep in April this year due to his progressing dementia medication just didn’t work after persevering with it for 2 months the vet said if it was going to work it would work in one week but he only deteriorated where he didn’t know us where he was and got to a stage where he was forgetting how to eat and drink I had to ask myself why I was putting off going back to the vet was it cos I’d miss him? Yes but I’d already been missing him for months was it cos he wouldn’t be here anymore? Yes but he’d already gone was I keeping him alive because how id feel? Yes but I wasn’t thinking of how my dog was feeling so I made that decision and when the vet it was the right thing to do that was all I needed to hear myself and my 27 year old son stayed with him till the end it was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life he cried in pain until he was given a sedative and the last thing his lifeless body did was wag his tail something I told the vet he’d not done for a long time I’d like to think he was showing me that he could now

Kimberly Alt
December 11, 2017 9:55 am

OH AnnMarie, I’m so sorry. I’m not sure why you dog screamed when injected. I’m so sorry that happened. I’m sure that was very scary for you but I bet Kari knew how loved she was by you. I am so sorry for your loss.