The Dog Owners Guide to Canine Euthanasia

Canine euthanasia is the medical term used by vets when they put a dog or puppy to sleep. There are many reasons why your dog may be put to sleep it might be that your dog’s life is so uncomfortable or painful or is suffering from a terminal illness that it is the kindest thing for a vet and the family to do.

There is a strict criteria for dogs and puppies to be put to sleep – in fact a vet can only put your pet to sleep with your consent. One of the most common factors that can lead to a loved pet being euthanized is when a really old and decrepit dog is taken to the vet too late to be helped. This sad situation is often as a result of the owner leaving it until the dog is too ill to be helped because they were scared that if they took it to the vet sooner the vet might have felt euthanasia was the best option.

However, the opposite can be the case when a vet thinks that a dog can survive with treatment but the owner chooses to override the vet’s opinion and requests their dog to be put to sleep – this might be as a result of financial matters, a loved one might be moving away or the owner has died and the family no longer feel they can care for the dog. However, just because the family or owner request that their dog is euthanized if the vet feels that the dog can be helped or feels that euthanasia is not necessary then the vet might refuse and request that the family take the dog to another vet.


THE BIG QUESTION – When is it time to say goodbye?

We won’t pretend to have an easy answer to this excruciating question. However, you should always keep your pet alive for THEM and not for YOU .


Canine euthanasia – What is the equivalent of dog years to humans years…?

Dog | Human

1 Year 15

3 Year 30

6 Year 40

9 Year 55

12 Year 65

15 Year 80

So to confirm – canine euthanasia is performed for the benefit of the dog, the family or because the dog is unsafe and cannot live within general society (i.e. the dog may have attacked or bitten someone and the dog has to be euthanized). More on this below…

Is euthanasia really the best course of action?

Canine euthanasia might be the best option for a dog if…

1. The dog is in so much pain that the distress and discomfort to the dog cannot be managed with modern pain control.

2. The dog is unable to walk, balance or repeatedly falls over.

3. The affected dog is unable to keep food and fluids down and repeatedly vomits – again the vet might think putting the dog to sleep after all other options have failed.

4. Your pooch has a terminal illness that cannot be treated and prolonging the life of the dog is simply prolonging the pain and discomfort. If your pet has tumors and these are causing untold pain and cannot be removed the vet may put the dog to sleep (with your consent).

5. Your pooch is unable to breath properly and this is causing your dog or puppy discomfort so euthanasia is the kindest option.

6. Your dog or puppy is unable to urinate, poop or is experiencing severe bouts of incontinence through disease or illness.

Does canine euthanasia benefit the owner or society as a whole?

Sometimes even with repeated efforts to train a dog they are just so uncontrollable that they are a significant danger to society so putting the dog to sleep might be as a result of a court order. Although we never like healthy dogs to be put to sleep you also have to weigh up the risks to people and society in general. Noone wants to see children or adults get bitten or attacked and by putting a dog to sleep due to an attack or injury sustained to humans has to be justified in most cases.

Of course these attacks are not always the fault of the dog or breed of dog but are down to a lack of training (some owners even train their dog’s to be aggressive) and the end result is that the dog ends up having to be destroyed.

Canine euthanasia might also be chosen by the owner if their dog is destroying furniture, attacking other pets, dogs or cannot be house trained. Of course the first option should always be to properly train the dog in the first place. However, when it comes to putting a dog down the final decision will always reside with the vet.

Another sad fact is that many dogs are put down because there is noone to look after them and they become strays. This has resulted in many stray dogs having no homes, living in the streets and mating with other dogs – simply perpetuating the problem. This is why a neutering program would be far more beneficial as it would stop more puppies being born which leads to more rescue dogs and more dogs ending up being put to sleep.


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Canine euthanasia – the veterinary procedure

It is entirely up to you whether you ask the vet to perform the procedure at home or whether you take your dog to the vet’s. Sometimes it is in the dog’s best interests to do the procedure at home due to the health problems being so severe that transporting the dog to the vet’s in the car would be unsafe and unkind.

When a dog is put to sleep the process is normally very smooth with the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness being achieved by the vet inserting a needle into your dog’s front leg cephalic vein. The vet will normally have the dog sat up or lying down whatever is the most comfortable position for your pooch.

When the vet is putting a dog to sleep he or she might have the support of a nurse who can hold the front leg but also comfort the dog prior to the injection. Just before the lethal dose of pentobarbitone is administered the front foreleg (just below the elbow) is gently shaved of hair. To raise the vein the nurse or vet might administer a small amount of surgical spirit with the nurse gently putting pressure on the leg across the elbow so thet the blood flow is hampered causing the vein to be more prominant (to make administering the lethal injection more easy for the vet).

If the dog or puppy is unsettled or appears worried then the vet may give it a mild sedative to relax the dog prior to the lethal dose of pentobarbitone.

After the lethal dose of the triple concentrated pentobarbitone the dog or puppy will normally fall asleep within a matter of five to ten seconds. Your dog’s breathing will stop within two minutes.

At the same time as your dog’s breathing ceases the heart will will stop. It is not unusual for a dog’s muscles to twitch – if the muscles that supply the chest are affected then your dog might let out a short breath or gasp – this can be upsetting but your dog is completely unaware and is at peace – it is just the body reacting.

The transition from being given the lethal injection to the breathing stopping is so smooth and painless that it is without doubt the kindest and most painless method to euthanaze a dog or puppy.

We hope you have found our guide to canine euthanasia thoughtful and empathetic.

The most common signs of aging in older dogs

As much as we would love to stop the clock it’s a sad fact of life that our beloved pooch and best friend will get old. Just like in humans your pooch may display a variety of different signs that he is getting older. Below is a simple guide to some of the classic signs an old pooch may exhibit…

1. One of the classic signs that most dogs start to show as they get older is a need to sleep more. Older dogs love to snooze and when they do, they snooze very soundly. Puppies are easy to wake, in fact they will jump up at slightest sound of noise. Older dogs will often need to be woken up (even at dinner time).

2. When your old trooper does decide to wake up another classic sign that he is ‘getting on’ is stiffness when he starts to move and gets up. Of course this could just be the normal signs of getting old (just like with older people) or it could be a sign of an underlying health condition such as Arthritis.

3. It is also not uncommon for older dogs to experience changes in their personality. One of the most common signs that your pooch is getting older is a tendency to get cranky when bothered (this is especially common when handled by children). Owners should not allow small children to maul, tug or overly bother an older pet. Not only is it not fair as a dog is unable to speak or let anyone know that it is bothering them it may end in the dog getting snappy.

Did you know?

1. There is growing evidence that as your dog gets older their immune system gets weaker leaving your pooch more susceptible to Cancer, infectious diseases and degenerative conditions. The reason for this increased susceptibility is due to the T-lymphocyte Suppressor cells becoming less active and diminishing as a dog gets older.

2. As a general rule older dogs are less active than when they were young so tend to need less calories. However, as dogs age they are less able to utilize the protein that they eat so although they may not need as many calories on a day to day basis they will need more protein. It is not uncommon for many commercial dog foods to have a reduced amount of protein within the ingredients.

The reason for this is because some dogs can experience kidney problems as they get older; so by reducing the protein in the dog food this reduces the workload on the kidneys. However, it is important to remember that you should speak with your vet when feeding your dog a low protein diet when there is actually no evidence of any kidney problems as this can have a negative affect on the dog’s bodily functions.

The most common health problems in older dogs

There are a variety of health problems that tend to be more common in older dogs. Below is small collection of just some of these illnesses…

As dogs age they do tend to experience systemic diseases and disorders including Heart failure.

It is also not uncommon for older dogs to develop circulatory changes and endocrine disorders such as Cushings disease and Diabetes.

Owners are often concerned that their beloved pet may be going blind when they notice that the lens in the eye has a hazy appearance. This is not an uncommon condition known as Lenticular sclerosis and does not actually affect the dog’s vision. Another condition that affects the eyes of older dogs is a condition known as Iris atrophy causing the affected dog to squint when looking at bright light (this does not affect a dog’s sight either). However one condition that can dramatically affect a dog’s vision (and can lead to blindness) is Cataracts.

It is not uncommon for dogs to become partially Deaf as they get older. Although their hearing will not always be entirely lost they can struggle to hear simple commands. It is important to remember this when taking your dog for a walk. Just because your pooch does not return to you when you shout ‘come’ or refuses to listen to you when you ask him to ‘sit’ this is not because he has suddenly forgotten all of the obedience training that you trained him he just can’t hear you!

Another common problem to affect older dogs is dental disease and teeth problems. Although this may be due to you not brushing your dog’s teeth properly it may be a sign of an underlying health condition so if in doubt take your dog to the vet.

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