Dog Love > How to Know When It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep

How to Know When It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep

Veterinarian Marie Haynes describes the most important things to look for and how to know when to put your dog down. This vet also shares her experience with putting her own dog to sleep at home, and offers help for healing the grief of losing your dog.

Are you confused about putting your dog down? It’s natural and expected to feel devastated, guilty, sad, and lost. This information about when to put your dog down is from a veterinarian who had to put her own dog to sleep. She shares her story, and offers general information about the process of putting a dog down.

This is the most important thing to remember about putting your dog to sleep: “If you can save your dog or cat even one day of discomfort, you must,” says Dr Haynes. To learn about the different types of discomfort and pain, read through the comments section below. Many readers have shared their experience and struggle with knowing when to put a dog down – reading their experiences will help you see you’re not alone.

The number one way to know when to put your dog down

When your dog has a poor quality of life – or is in pain – it’s time to let go.

If your dog is suffering in any way, then it’s time to say good-bye. There are other guidelines and signs that will help you know when to put your dog to sleep, but the bottom line is always quality of life. It’s a difficult decision – and it’s not always easy to know what your dog’s quality of life is.

Dr Haynes says it’s often difficult to tell whether a dog is in pain or suffering, but there are some general guidelines that will help you know when to put your dog down:

putting a dog down
Is It Time to Put Your Dog Down?
  1. Is your dog’s appetite suffering? If so, this can be a sign of pain.
  2. Does it seem like your dog is enjoying life?
  3. Does your dog still do the things that bring her joy?
  4. Are you enjoying having your dog around – or is there more pain than happiness?
  5. Does your dog seem happy more often than not?
  6. Does your dog look distressed or uncomfortable most of the time? That’s when it’s time to put your dog down.

The bottom line about putting a dog down

There will come a day when it is absolutely clear to you that your dog is not enjoying life.  That day is one day too late.  If you can save your dog even one day of discomfort, you must.

As your dog’s guardian, you want a clear answer about putting your dog down. But, it can’t just be the veterinarian’s decision. The vet only sees a snapshot of your dog’s life. You have the big perspective…which makes it hard to know when to put your dog down.

“I see a scared, sick animal in the hospital,” says Dr Haynes. “You have taken care of your dog all its life. This is your final chance to take care of your pet.  If you can spare your dog pain and suffering, then putting it to sleep is the ultimate gift – no matter how hard it is for you.”

Ease the pain of putting your dog down

Putting your dog down is hard, but it could be the most loving thing you do.

You can be present when you put your dog down. Euthanasia is similar to falling asleep, and you can be with your dog when he or she drifts away. Dr Haynes says pet euthanasia is generally painless, and almost always goes smoothly.

Trying to figure out when to put your dog down is painful because dogs are almost closer to us than people. Dogs don’t change, grow up, fight with us, or leave us. They always stay dependent on us and only grow old…which means they go back to being even more dependent on us! We care for our dogs from start to finish, and our relationship with them is intimate. We feed them, train them, exercise them, help them piddle and poo, take care of their health and medical issues, groom them, and cuddle with them.

“What you once enjoyed you will never lose. What you loved deeply becomes a part of you.” – Helen Keller.

should i put my dog down
Angel Dog in Basket

If you want to keep your dog’s ashes, the Pet Memorial – Angel Dog Sleeping In Basket – Cremation Urn is a beautiful vessel. It’s sad and painful, but important to hold your dog close. Finding ways to remember your dog might help you decide if it’s time to put your dog down. If you know you want to keep your dog’s ashes, consider taking a cremation urn with you to the veterinarian.

How Dr Haynes Decided to Put Her Dog to Sleep

“My shepherd/cattle dog cross, Eddie, had a multitude of problems and I couldn’t decide if it was time for euthanasia.  Then, one day he tore his cruciate ligament.  He had already previously torn the ligament on the other knee and although it was healed he had severe arthritis in that knee.  With both knees injured, Eddie was unable to walk.  My decision to put my dog to sleep was finally made for me.

I went to my office and collected the supplies I needed for euthanasia.  Eddie was such a good boy as I shaved his front leg and placed the needle in his vein.  I will never forget the look of love and trust he gave me as I made the injection.  Then, the life just went out of him and he was gone.  Once he had passed away, his buddy Joey (my other dog) came in the room but he did not seem to care about or comprehend what was happening.  Then, my two cats came in and I swear they suddenly had a look of glee in their eyes as Eddie was very much a cat tormentor!”

If you’re putting your dog down, remember to allow yourself to grieve. Take time to heal.

Dog owners feel a universal heartache when we have to decide when to put our dogs down. Allow yourself to grieve, and know that you are not alone. If you feel guilty, read How to Deal With Guilt After the Loss of Your Dog.

Help Coping With Your Dog’s Death

How to Know When It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet is Gary Kowalski’s second book on coping with a dog’s death, and it may help you heal after making the heart-wrenching decision to put your dog down.

Putting your dog down and saying goodbye is hard…and so is grieving your loss. You may be surprised at how difficult it is to let go of your dog. Your heart and home will never be the same. It’s important not to try to forget your dog. Rather, find healthy ways to weave your dog’s memory and life into your daily life.

In Animals and the Afterlife: True Stories of Our Best Friends’ Journey Beyond Death Kim Sheridan shares how some pet owners experience their beloved animal companions after their pets died. Kim grew up with animals as her constant companions. Each time she faced the death of a beloved pet, mysterious things began to happen that she couldn’t explain. This led her on an incredible journey to uncover the truth. One of the best ways to cope with your dog’s death is believing that their souls and spirits live on and that you’ll be reunited one day.

It’s true that time does ease the pain of having to put a dog or cat to sleep, but it’s also good to learn what helped other people cope with the pain. For instance, I talked to one dog owner who got a paw print tattoo after putting her dog to sleep, as a way to remember her pet. I wouldn’t have thought of a tattoo, but she said she is comforted every time she sees it.

How do you feel about putting your dog to sleep? Your comments are welcome below. Not only is it healthy to express how you feel, writing your story can help you decide if it’s time to put your dog down.

May you find wisdom, peace, and healing. Remember Chief Seattle’s words: “There is no death. Only a change of worlds.”


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834 thoughts on “How to Know When It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Sleep”

  1. Sorry about the poor writing and grammar in my post below. I was struggling so my mind was not where it should have been. Hopefully you can get the message in-spite of my errors.

  2. Hello everyone, I have two dogs I’m going to talk about so this may take a minute, but the end result may help some of you make decision easier. I had 2 puggles (i still have one) but I lost my older puggle Zoey on black Friday 2018. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure almost exactly 1 year from the day she passed. although the first few months she seemed ok until she developed fluid on her lungs at which time she was put on meds and things starting going downhill pretty quickly. For the 6 months I did everything possible to keep her alive. she drastically lost weight, didn’t socialize and she became irritable and we no longer shared the same relationship. She spent all of her time with me before that and she loved me and we had a unique relationship. However, i believe that I was keeping her alive for my benefit and not hers. the last 2 months were complete hell for both of us. For me it was trying everything I could to keep her around to the point I was grinding up her food and using a turkey baster to feed her when she no longer wanted too. once she finally got pneumonia i had to wait to get her in to her dr. due to Thanksgiving. But I spent the entire day with her and when everyone left that night i told them to say their goodbyes.I put her in on my bed and cried a lot and kissed her goodnight. I woke up the next morning only to find her right by my side and she had passed. But she also suffered so do I have regrets, oh yeah. But, for me it was like putting a 13 year old child down. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Here’s where things start to make sense. Now my 11 year Roxy is dying. she has severe spinal injuries due to birth defects. This came on very quickly and her Dr. explained her prognosis and it wasn’t good. she was essentially dying and it was only a matter of time when I had to determine when her quality of life was at the point that putting her down was the best for her, not me. She recently has lost her back leg functions and shes not peeing like she should due to her spinal injury. After talking her Dr. today she said that things would be getting worse quickly and she said she did not feel she was no longer having the quality of life she deserves. Even though I still mourn my other dog almost daily, I think this time i will what’s best for my little girl. I think the hardest part is she so aware, she has a good appetite and she still loves to snuggle. So i have decided to put her down at the end of this month. But meanwhile, I can giver the best couple of weeks with her and spoil the crap out of her. The moral of the story is that even though your struggling with putting down your beloved friend, trust me I am still haunted by decision with Zoey. Waking up and seeing her dead lying next me will haunt me for the rest of my life and If i had to do it over again, I would have put her down and saved her the unnecessary suffering she had to endure for my benefit. Good luck to all of you with your journey.

  3. Reading this site has been comforting in that I know I am not alone as my 14years6month old chihuahua suffers. He has been my life companion since he was 9 weeks old and is just so important to me. I would be lost without him. But, he has spinal issues in the neck area and front paws slide out from under him as he tries to walk, back legs do not work well at all, headed toward not, falls a lot as ankles give way, he is overweight but for the last month I have felt he was bloated, abdomen looks and feels tight, not fat, breathing moves whole abdomen up to the chest all the time, wets constantly except does not wet at night, though we get up often very, very early to pee and usually don’t make it outside. Today I feel his rump area and back legs look noticeably swollen. He also occasionally goes behind or under tables and doesn’t seem to know how to get back out, will walk up to walls and stand and stare at it without moving, then walk away, he sleeps 80% of the time. He has always been high strung and not real cuddly, now so loving and sweet now. What is best for him? I wish I knew. This will absolutely be the hardest thing I have ever done, constantly torn as to what is best for him. I feel sometimes he fights to live to stay with me.?

  4. I have a 15-year-old Yorky that is on pain medicine twice a day so she can walk without extreme pain. The vet just found a lump in her eye telling me it may be cancer. I’m trying to decide if it is cancer if I should just put her to sleep she’s been through a lot. Her heart and lungs are fine and so is all of her blood work.

  5. My heart is breaking my jack is 17 years old she is blind deaf and sleeps nearly all day I put a nappie on her at night and get up with her twice through the night and have done this for nearly 8 months
    I cannot bring myself to make a decision I keep avoiding it
    Is she happy ? I believe not
    Although she eats and drinks if I take her to her bowls She cannot get up and down the doorstep

  6. My dog is 14 years and 3 months old. I have had him since he was a baby. He has been diagnosed with liver cancer. The last 2 weeks he has started having extreme anxiety when we are at work. I can see him from the cameras in the house on my phone. He is scratching the wall, barking and urinating on his blankets and bedding. The last couple of days I have noticed some very small watered down bloody discharge that I don’t know what part of his body it came from. He doesn’t seem like he has any energy but I can tell he still wants to be near us. He does still eat. We are sedating him when we go to work and that doesn’t work well. I would like your opinion on if it’s time to put him to sleep. I don’t want him suffering. He is a Jack Russel Terrier. Thank you.

  7. Hi I have a 17 year old Jack Russell called lucy her sight is best part gone an hearing also had a few scary moments if she’s got out an nearly ended up on busy roads she is my soul mate I’ve been fighting with is it time to let her go she sometimes wets in her sleep but just carnt do it I took her the beach we’re she would normally run round in circles loving it but just seemed lost she wondered off with other dog walkers then realised it wasn’t me when we got home she couldn’t make it up the stairs her legs are not the best an I don’t know what to do for the best any advice would be truly appreciated