How to make the decision

deb_paJuly 9, 2009

When is it time to put a dog to sleep? And do I have that moral right? These are the two questions I have been fretting for weeks now. I have a 15 year old small mixed breed. Sam has a fatty tumor on his left side which Vet says is not causing pain or restricting movements and an operation at his age is not a good idea. The past year this dog has forgotten he is housebroken so I have put gates up to keep him in tiled areas away from carpet. When he sleeps he moans and cries and wimpers. I get up and check him and he is sound asleep. Vet says dogs don't need their eyes but this one isn't doing good blind. Often he barks and barks and I check and see he can't find his way to his bed. He seems to just wander slowly around until he gets to where he can't find his bed again. I tried putting him in a crate at night to stop his wandering but he goes to the bathroom there. He walks into walls and on a leash he is leary about moving forward, needing tugged and called and reassured every step. The last time I last time I took him to the groomers he went sort of crazy in the tub banging his head running into the sides and tried to nip the groomer when she went around his eyes. This is not usual behavior, he used to stand quietly and be groomed and acted all prissy at looking fancy. He has to be groomed about every 6 to 8 weeks because his fur grows so fast and would mat up without a regular cut. I can't wrap my mind around putting him to sleep. I feel guilty even thinking about it telling myself I just don't want the bother of an elderly dog. I secretly hope he will go in his sleep. If not now, then in the future how do I manage to make this decision? He has a vet appointment today but other than being confused and blind and unhappy I don't feel he has pain.

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I can only tell you how I handled my last elderly dog.
I switched from a collar to a harness and he continued to enjoy walks, but I always walked him on solid surfaces such as the road or sidewalk. I picked him up when we came to any type of step.
Inside the house we limited him to one room so that he could find food/water/bed easily.
Fortunately, he was never incontinent but if he had been I would have put doggie diapers on him. We continued to take our dog outside on a regular schedule.

I quit taking my dog to the wasn't worth the stress on both of us. I brushed him, bought some scissors and clippers and the home grooming had to do. Sure, he didn't look like a show dog but no one cared.

The moaning and crying while your dog is asleep sounds like dreaming. My young dog does that now. If your guy was moaning and crying while awake, then I would worry.

Eventually, my dog ended up with neurological problems and reached a point where he couldn't stand up after sitting down. We knew then it was time.........

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:28AM
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Ask your vet about Canine Cognitive Disorder. It's basically dementia in elderly dogs. There is a drug (Anipryl) that can be used that *really* helps. It sounds like your dog may have some of this going on. Even with the blindness, your dog should be able to find his bed and should not be losing his housebreaking but those are typical behaviors for CCD. Please ask, it just might help both you and your dog for awhile yet.

Other than that, I can't answer your question about the moral right, it's a very personal decision. I do feel we have that right, I would actually call it a responsibility, to ease the transition for our beloved pets. But I do believe that we need to do it for the best interest of our pet, not ourselves. It's a very difficult decision to make.

For every one of mine, the time has been obvious. Two of the last three dogs I had put to sleep would not have survived the day, I am sure. The third one would have lived a few more days, perhaps even longer, but she was clearly suffering.

I agree with annz, maybe it's time to quit taking him to the groomer, just do the best you can yourself. You may need to make some other changes that make it easier for him to get around.

But again, please ask about the Canine Cognitive Disorder.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:49AM
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My decisions---and there have been several----were based on what I believe is quality of life over quantity. Dogs who have been active and have changed almost every trait---as you say yours has---no longer have a quality life, in my opinion.

I have put off making the decision---it is very heart wrenching. But, in the end it is more humane than letting the animal drag on.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:52AM
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If you are still questioning whether the time is right, then you are probably not ready yet.

I do think you should talk to your vet about the behavior changes, there may be some medications to help, either for doggie dementia or anxiety. I would try those before I made a final decision.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:58AM
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Deb, I have been struggling mightily with this issue, and posted recently about it (link below). Wolfy and Angel are 14 and 16. I have had a lot of experience making end-of-life decisions for pets, but it never gets any easier. Each case is so individual in every way.

If I've learned anything from my recent experience, it is these two things:

One, there are two beings involved in the decision, the animal and yourself. The animal can't talk, so we try to assess . . . and assess and assess. It can be dizzying. Plus we know there's a fine balance here; if we wait until the animal is obviously suffering badly, that means we have taken him to that point. No one wants to do that, but how do we know when to cut things off before they get there? We don't. So in most cases we come up with a set of criteria: when they can't get up . . . when they stop eating . . . and so on.

As for us, what we bring to the situation is individual, too. I've been living with two mostly incontinent dogs for a long time. I'm aware that some would consider this to be totally unacceptable, and I understand that. But for me, it's what I need to do even though it puts a lot of stress on me, both physical and emotional.

The other thing I've learned is that no one can tell you when the time is right. You have to feel that you and Sam, in this together, have come to the place where his spirit needs to be released to where he will wait for you, and find peace and pleasure in the waiting. You will enable that release, and you'll know, as painful as it was for you, it was the right thing to do for him.


Here is a link that might be useful: Euthanasia thread

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 12:17PM
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I feel for you and my heart also goes out to you.

I've been there myself - and so have many others in this forum. It's never an easy decision.

Even though people give you advise it's still hard to listen. The only thing I can say is this, only you will know when it's the right time.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 3:07PM
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Sorry you are going through this with your beloved pet.

Quality of life issues are always hard and I believe right up to the end we will question what is the right thing to do.
If the pet you have lived with for 15 years is no longer "there"
If your pet is in chronic pain
If your pet is not eating or drinking daily
If you pet is not enjoying life
If you find that you are spending an excessive amount of time or finances dealing with your pet and things are not getting better.
Then it is time.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 7:30PM
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Ask yourself one question: Is *Sam* enjoying his life? Does he have things that interest him?

I'll soon be facing the same issue with a 13+ rescue dog, but right now, although she is arthritic and hobbling, she's a HAPPY dog. She toddles around the yard, tail wagging, inspecting the work her staff has done ... when she loses interest in food and her managerial work, it will be time.

In many ways it's easier when a pet has a clearly unsurvivable illness rather than the long slow slide.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 4:32PM
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"In many ways it's easier when a pet has a clearly unsurvivable illness rather than the long slow slide."
I so agree with that!

I found this post because I'm struggling with this issue right now. I think it's time and have thought so for over 6 months. I believe my dog is in pain and has a poor, poor quality of life. My DH thinks all animals should die at home, in their sleep. He admits that he's ready for the old baby to go, and I can see that the whimpering gets to him, but he refuses to help make that happen. Everytime the dog wags his tail he says "See? He's still happy!". 5 minutes of tail wagging don't balance out hours of whimpering. I think a dog would use it's last tiny bit of energy to wage it's tail if that's what it thought made YOU happy.

This is so hard.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 11:26AM
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This is never an easy thing. Honestly my decision would be to wait because there are always instances where miraculously an animal gets better if ppl wait just a bit. But thats just me.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 4:09PM
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