When and How Dog Euthanasia Is Necessary: How To Say Goodbye to Your Pup

sad-dog-ready-for-euthanasia

When we adopted our first dog from a rescue, they told us he was three years old. As it turns out, he was probably more like eight or nine years old, but as first-time dog owners, we had no idea. After a few years, he was aggressive, blind, deaf, and in obvious pain from multiple rotten teeth.

None of this was our fault or his. But we knew that he couldn’t go on living like this. My mom called the vet, hoping that there was a way around the obvious: putting him down. The vet told us that it was his time to go, both for our sake (he was lashing out at small kids at this point) and his.

What is Dog Euthanasia?

Dog euthanasia is a sad, but sometimes necessary thing. It is to help a dog cross over peacefully and painlessly. Euthanasia is the process of medicating a dog, usually with a form of seizure medicine, so they fall asleep. The medication slows their breathing and heart rate until it gradually stops.

Euthanasia is generally recommended when a dog is in constant pain or discomfort and doesn’t have a good quality of life. If surgery or treatment is impossible or too expensive, it might be time to let the dog go. The animal won’t feel anything.

Veterinarians are experts in keeping a dog comfortable and peaceful for the end of their life. In most cases, the owner has the option to stay with the dog or leave, depending on their choice. It’s a very personal decision and there is no judgment either way.

Dog euthanasia is not a difficult process physically. But it can be emotionally exhausting for the caretaker and the medical profession. But, if it’s what’s best for the pet, it is a labor of love to ensure that they are at peace and out of pain.

When to Put a Dog Down

The decision to put a dog down is an incredibly difficult one. It usually comes after a string of health or behavioral issues that don’t have an easy solution. 

If you and your veterinarian decide that the dog’s quality of life isn’t going to get any better, it might be time to give them a peaceful goodbye without pain.

Here are some of the most common reasons people put their dogs down:

  • Old age
  • Untreatable illness or disease
  • Vicious or aggressive behavior
  • Cancer
  • Poor quality of life 

Generally, putting a dog down is in the best interest of the dog and its family. Although it’s a very sad situation and causes grief, you and your vet will know when it’s the right time to let your pup cross the rainbow bridge and be out of pain. 

The decision is usually a medical one and comes down to how well your dog can continue living.

How Much Does it Cost to Put a Dog Down?

The cost of dog euthanasia depends on your vet, your location, and whether you have pet insurance or not. But, most cases usually cost around $50. The size or age of your dog won’t make a huge difference. If you have an especially large dog, it might cost a few dollars more for medication.

It will cost more if you want the vet to come to your house and put your dog to sleep in the privacy of your home. However, most animal clinics have a private room for euthanasia. And they will deal with your grief and your pet’s death respectfully and quietly.

Dealing With the Grief of Losing a Dog

Dogs are more than just animals–they are often part of a family. Grieving after losing a dog is a completely normal thing. Every person in your family may grieve differently, and that’s okay. Know that you’re not alone in this. Every pet owner has gone through this, and we all feel your sorrow.

Grieving anything is a slow process. It’s not something that will dissipate after a few days. As much as I wish it could, the pain you feel when you think about your dog won’t go away. But, it won’t always be as sharp and aching.

There are resources specifically for those grieving the loss of a pet. From helplines to online articles, you can find solace here. Although there’s no replacement for the dog you lost, eventually you will heal enough to open your heart to a new puppy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about dog euthanasia. Hopefully, they answer your questions! 

How do vets put dogs down?

The most common form of euthanasia performed on dogs is an injection, which can be done with either a paralytic agent or an anesthetic. Once the dog is unconscious, a lethal dose of drugs is administered to stop its heart and/or respiratory system. 

What does the vet do with my dog’s body? 

Vets will give you the option to cremate the dog and take the ashes or take the body home with you to bury. You can also leave the body for the vets to cremate and respectfully bury. This decision is up to you and your family. 

Did my dog know that he was being put to sleep?

If you had to put your dog to sleep, you can rest assured that all he knew was a release from pain and a nap. The euthanasia medication works gently to render the dog unconscious before stopping its vital functions. 

Although dogs’ eyes can stay open through the process, it doesn’t mean that they’re aware of what’s going on. As their body shuts down, dogs can go limp or twitch a bit, but they are completely unaware. 

Sometimes, dogs shudder with their last breaths as a natural reaction. However, it’s not from pain or knowledge–it’s purely physical. 

Should I stay with my dog when they put him to sleep?

This is a very individual decision and not one I can help you make. Some owners choose to be with their dogs to relax them. While others think that their emotional distress will stress their dogs out. 

It depends on your situation and what you can handle. Make sure that you’re being kind to yourself. 

I stayed with my dog when they put him down. In my personal experience, he relaxed and it felt like he was sleeping. It was a very peaceful time. Of course, I was crying, but my pup was finally out of pain. 

Are aggressive dogs put down? 

Unfortunately, healthy dogs can be put down if they prove to be aggressive to humans. Depending on the local laws, dogs with reported attacks on humans might be taken to the humane society to be put down. 

While dogs are wonderful companions and can be trained to be friendly, some dogs have too much trauma and poor training to mix with humans well. Vets are always careful when they put aggressive dogs down. But these animals can finally be at peace as well. 

Final Thoughts

As I look at the sweet puppy I have now, I dread the thought of dog euthanasia. But, I know from experience that it can be the best and most peaceful way to say goodbye to an old dog in pain. My first dog is watching over me and sent this sweet goofball to be my companion as an adult.

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Sarah Alward | Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Sarah Alward | Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Our resident DVM helps review every article to ensure we always provide scientifically accurate, up-to-date information. She’s proud to help provide pet parents everywhere with the info they need to keep their pets safe, healthy, and comfortable.