Canine Euthanasia

Euthanasia is perhaps the most difficult decision that a dog parent has to make.

Dog euthanasia - putting a dog to sleep - is a decision that most dog parents do not want to have to make but unfortunately will probably need to face. For dog parents with a geriatric or terminally ill dog, the decision for euthanasia may be more immiment. However, even for dog parents whose dogs are young and healthy, accidents can occur and the decision to whether or not euthanize a seriously injured dog can fall upon us any time.

This page takes a look at the following topics regarding euthanasia:

When Should You Consider Euthanizing Your Dog?

Euthanizing a dog is a very personal decision - no one, not even your vet, can make that decision for you. It is indeed very difficult to decide the "best time" to put your dog out of his misery. Many veterinarians suggest that we should consider letting go of our pets when they can no longer enjoy a reasonable quality of life.

One way to assess your dog's quality of life is by considering the following questions:

  • Can your dog still eat and drink normally?
  • Can he move around by himself without difficulty or too much pain?
  • Can your dog go to the bathroom or does he soil himself?
  • Is he in constant pain and distress even with pain relief medications?
  • Can he still recognize you and other family members? Or does he show signs of aggression towards you and others?

Consider also some practical issues, such as:

  • If treatment is to be continued, will the cost be unbearably expensive?
  • If his conditions can be managed by medication for the time being, will your dog become chronically ill, or become unable to care for himself?
  • Will providing continuous care create serious problems for you and your family?

Upon considering and answering the above questions, you may find it easier to make a decision. (If you have children, it may not be easy to convince them that it's time to say goodbye to their dog. Please read this post and accompanying comments.)

How is Canine Euthanasia Performed?

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A Poem
Here is a poem that I have written from a dog's point of view. Hope it helps.
The euthanasia drug usually is an overdose of a barbiturate. This causes the dog's heart and breathing muscles to stop. The drug may be given to the dog as an injection, or it may be given via an IV catheter. Within a few seconds, the dog loses consciousness, slumps over, and soon afterward the vital functions cease. It is considered painless.

If the dog is agitated because of anxiety or pain, the dog may be given a sedative tranquilizer to calm him down before the final injection is given.

If you decide to witness the whole euthanasia process, be prepared for the following as death occurs:

  • There may be muscle twitching - While brain death occurs within seconds, continuing electrical activity in muscles may result in muscle twitching.
  • There may be a last reflex gasp - If the respiratory muscles are affected by the electrical activity, there can be a gasping breath which may occur up to ten minutes after death.
  • The dog may release his bladder and/or bowel contents.

Homeopathic Help for the Dog to Relax and Go Peacefully

Dogs in Sunset Homeopathy can be used to help a dying animal. Please note that the homeopathic remedy does not cause death - it only eases the transition by relieving pain, anxiety, restlessness and makes the process as smooth as possible so that the animal can pass peacefully.

If you are considering canine euthanasia, perhaps it is a good idea to find a holistic vet to perform the procedure so that he can advise you on the proper choice of a homeopathic remedy that is suitable for your dog after considering the dog's mental and physical states at the time.

As a reference, here are the most useful remedies that may help ease the transition during euthanasia:

  • Arsenicum album: The transition to death is frightening even for animals. This remedy is extremely helpful because it can help to calm a dying dog who is restless and agitated because he is in a state of fear.
  • Tarentula cubensis: This is another remedy that is associated with the dying process. It is helpful when the dog is in great pain and is struggling. This remedy is particularly helpful in the very last stages of dying, such as when a dog is dying from terminal diseases like cancers.
  • Pulsatilla: This remedy is useful for a dog who is whimpering, complaining, or wanting to be held. It is also useful for the stage right before death when breathing is loud and labored.

After Canine Euthanasia - What To Do With the Dog's Remains?

If you have an older dog or if your dog has been diagnosed with a serious disease such as cancer, it is better to think ahead and decide what to do in case you need to put him to sleep (unless of course canine euthanasia was performed due to serious injuries caused by an accident, in which case you have to make a quick decision as to what to do after his passing).

There are now many options for taking care of a dog's remains, for example, pet cremation, memorial gardens, and cemeteries for pets. Discuss with your family ahead of time and make the necessary arrangement before euthanasia.

Grieving and Coping with Pet Loss

Losing a pet is of course sad and painful. Some dog parents also have a tremendous feeling of guilt after caine euthanasia because they feel that they have taken the life of their pet. Very often, dog parents think that they have euthanized their dog "too soon" or for "selfish" reasons. Many have doubts as to whether they did the right thing, or they keep wondering if they could have done more or tried harder.

Please understand that feelings of guilt, pain, and bereavement when your dog dies are normal. Everyone grieves differently and the time to get over the grief varies. Typically, it takes as long as a year for a dog parent to evolve through the stages of grief - from disbelief through to resolution. Try to work through your feelings by reading books on pet loss, or joining a support group. If you feel you cannot deal with the feelings of shock and grief by yourself, consider grief counselling.

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Talk About Your Feelings

It is very helpful if you talk about your feelings (either with your friends, counselor, or even online).

This visitor to our Cancer Forum got emotional support from other readers and felt better gradually.