How to Know When It's Time To Euthanize Your Dog

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Few things in life are more gratifying than the companionship of a dog. One day you will have to say goodbye to your best friend. Euthanasia will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult decisions that you will ever make, but it might be the best option for your pet.

Quality of Life

It is difficult to be objective when your best friend’s life hangs in the balance. Veterinarians have developed quality of life scales that help owners objectively assess their pet’s condition. On a scale from zero to 10, you can rate your pet’s ability to eat, drink and breathe independently as well as its level of pain, mobility and joy. During the past week, ask yourself whether your pet had more good days than bad days. You should evaluate its ability to do activities that it enjoys like playing with you and its toys. If your dog’s score indicates a poor quality of life despite reasonable interventions to correct the underlying condition, it may be time to consider euthanasia.

Old Age

The average life expectancy of a dog depends on its breed. Generally the smaller the dog, the longer they can live. While Great Danes, whippets and mastiffs live only seven years, toy poodles, dachshunds and various spaniel breeds can live approximately 13 years. With advanced age, dogs are more likely to experience serious medical conditions like decreased cognition, mobility and lung capacity as well as poor kidney, heart and liver function. They can also develop malignant cancers. If your dog is at or near the end of its life expectancy, you should consider euthanasia if medicine or treatments cannot substantially improve its quality of life.

Serious Diseases and Accidents

A dog can experience serious life-threatening complications after ingesting toxins like antifreeze or seemingly innocuous foods like chocolate and xylitol. A car accident or a near drowning can compromise the health of your pet. Certain breeds are susceptible to fatal progressive neurological diseases like degenerative myelopathy that disrupts spinal cord function. When it is evident that all practical medical solutions are exhausted, you should consider euthanizing your pet instead of prolonging its suffering.

The Physical and Emotional Toll of Chronic Illness

Like humans, dogs can experience a wide range of serious medical conditions, including tumors and cancers. Hypoglycemia as well as compromised kidney and liver functions may require the use of intravenous fluids. While chemotherapy and radiation can save a dog’s life, it may not be a viable option in advanced stages of cancer. In addition to your pet’s prognosis, you must determine whether you are physically and emotionally ready to provide ongoing care for a pet that needs tube feeding or intravenous fluids. Euthanasia may be preferable to a long goodbye.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Know When It's Time To Euthanize Your Dog," in, February 9, 2016, (accessed August 9, 2022).
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