How to prepare your dog and yourself for euthanasia

Is your dog affected by an incurable disease and seeing him or her in such pain aches your heart? Has your vet suggested you begin to consider putting your dog down? Hearing that your beloved dog doesn’t have much time left on this earth with you, is horrible. But, how you prepare your dog and yourself for euthanasia can help with the grieving process.

I wish I had more time with Wes and knew that he would die. That’s why in this blog post, I will share information to help you prepare and process your furry friends’ final days.

What is dog euthanasia?

Have you heard of dog euthanasia before? It’s most commonly referred to as “putting your dog down”. It’s a way to ensure your dog does not suffer if they are in a lot of pain. The last thing we want as pet owners is for our dog to be distressed or not be happy. Many veterinarians will suggest euthanasia for dogs to save them from a painful death if they have a terminal illness or if they have a poor quality of life.

Ultimately, Wes was euthanized at the emergency veterinary hospital. After we had taken him to the ER vet and they performed CPR 3x, it was recommended by the emergency veterinarian that she be able to put him down. I was asked to make one of the most difficult decisions in my life in a matter of minutes. I know I made the best decision for Wes though, because I know that it allowed him to have a peaceful death after having been in pain the last hour after he had his blood clot. And I would have hated to see him hooked up to a machine and not my fun, cuddly, squirrel-chasing dog.

How do I know if it’s the right time for my dog to be euthanized?

Unfortunately, dogs can’t talk, making it difficult to know if they are suffering or in pain. They might also not cry or whine or show you that they are in pain. Many dogs will adapt to their new state and cope with their suffering in a way you can’t see or notice. Because of these reasons, it can be challenging to know when a dog is in pain. This is why you should never be afraid to visit the vet sooner rather than later if you notice a change in your dog’s behavior. This is especially true if you have an older dog. If your dog seems more tired, not wanting to go outside as much, is withdrawn, or having difficulty getting comfortable then it would be a good idea to contact your vet’s office for a check-up as well.

Some questions you might ask are:

-Can your dog still eat, drink, sleep and move around reasonably comfortably? Thinking about this question can help determine your dog’s quality of life

-Does he or she respond to your presence and greets you? This can help decide if euthanasia is the right thing for your dog

-Living with a dog who has an underlying disease, a chronic condition, or is in pain can be emotionally (and financially) draining. If there is no chance of recovery and their quality of life will continue to diminish and become worse, it might be time to talk about euthanasia with your vet. It won’t be an easy decision, but it may be the best way for your dog to leave and have a good death.

What is the euthanasia process?

You will likely have had conversations with your vet, possibly multiple conversations. If your dog has an incurable disease or has had trauma that it can’t recover from, a euthanasia appointment will likely be recommended. If you have time, discuss it with your loved ones and those around your dog’s life. Even if you know ultimately you will be putting your dog down, talking about it happening will help you come to terms with the decision. Talk with your vet as much as you need to about the procedure and ask questions as they come up. That is what your vet is there for. 

With your vet and loved ones, you will schedule a day to bring your dog in for the appointment. Depending on the severity of your dog’s diagnosis, the appointment may be scheduled the same day, a few days out or maybe you still have a few weeks or months left with your dog. Please be sure to coordinate with loved ones and friends that you want there not only for your dog but for you too. It’s an emotional and heartbreaking moment. You will want to have loved ones to help you through the grieving process after you say your final goodbyes.

In some instances, you may also have the option to have the procedure done in the comfort of your home or a place your dog loves the most. This is a personal decision you should make ahead of time to plan out the next steps for the process to take place at your home.

Decide if you plan to bury or cremate your dog

You will want to decide if your dog will be buried or cremated. You will have likely spoken to your vet about the options available to you. Be sure to check your local, county, and state ordinances to understand if you can bury your dog at home. It is also possible that you have a pet cemetery near where you live that would be an option. You can talk to your vet about those and/or search google for a pet cemetery close to you to understand their process and options for having your dog buried there.

When Wes died, the vet had material on various options for what I could do with Wes’s body. For a cost, the vet would prepare the body for me to bury at home or I could send his body out to be cremated. We chose cremation and he now sits on my bookcase in our living room in a beautifully engraved box with his name with his picture and paw print next to it. It makes me feel better knowing he’s in our home with us. Some may find that strange, but it has helped with my grieving process.

Plan your final day with your dog and family members

One of the worst days of a pet parent’s life is the day when its pet leaves them. Undoubtedly, it’s quite an emotional moment. Instead of getting emotional, make this day the best one. Lift off all the restrictions on your pet. Give him or her the food or the treat they love the most. Ensure your pooch is happy and enjoying the day fully. Remember all the good times you had with your dog and make sure to spend as much quality time together as possible. Plan to travel to your dog’s favorite place, maybe it’s a park or a trail. Have all their doggy friends and human friends visit and give him or her hugs and belly rubs. Take out all of their favorite toys to play with, dance with them, and make new and lasting memories with your dog. Make these last moments joyful and memorable.

This is the day to bring children around and say goodbye to your dog. Having small children around on the day you decide to put your dog down may not be something you want them to experience just yet. The day will be difficult for you and hard to understand and process. This means for small children, it will likely be even more difficult for them to understand. A part of me was relieved when Wes collapsed in the middle of the night vs day. My 2 and 5-year-old were sleeping and I would not have been able to handle everything that was happening while also trying to explain it to my kids.

What happens in your best friend’s final moments?

Some vets may provide a sedative injection before the euthanasia drug. Of course, your vet will explain what they are doing as they are doing it to help you understand what is happening to your dog. You can also ask your vet if a sedative is necessary depending on your dog’s situation. Your Vet will euthanize your dog by administering a euthanizing solution. The injection will hit a very specific vein to ensure the procedure is not painful for your dog. In large doses, the solution will make your dog unconscious quickly. It will shut down your dog’s heart and brain functions usually within minutes. Be prepared for your dog’s eyes not to close. They may also urinate or twitch. This is all normal and rest assured that your dog is not in pain.

Wes did not have a sedative administered because it was happening so quickly. The vet explained every step she was taking, which looking back I am so appreciative of. Wes’s eyes did stay open and his heart stopped in less than a minute. I was able to hold him for a while but they did come and take him after about 45 minutes to make sure he didn’t urinate or defecate. Because my and Wes’s situation was traumatic, the vet came and sat with me and Wes after he was put down and explained everything in detail. It was all hard to hear but I’m better off knowing everything that happened to him. My hope for you and your dog is that you have time to prepare before your dog’s last day comes around. 

Keep talking to your dog

Do you know that hearing is the last sense your dog loses during the process? That’s why we emphasize speaking kind and loving words with your doggie. Your pet will not respond to you the way it used to but at least it’ll feel your presence and hear your voice and last words.

The most important thing to remember after your dog is gone is that you made the right decision

Many dog parents can’t get rid of the guilt of taking their beloved pet’s life. You should not feel this way. Rather, think of it as a way that you took away your dog’s pain for them. You have made a selfless decision by letting your dog peacefully die.

When we first get our furry best friends, we don’t even imagine them dying. It’s unfortunate that a dog’s life is so short compared to most humans. Our dogs provide unwavering love and comfort. When they leave us, it leaves a gap. It makes us feel empty as if something is missing. I can’t say that feeling of emptiness will ever go away. But, I also know that I wouldn’t trade the time I had with my Wes. I know that you likely feel the same way about your beloved dog. 

It may feel unfair and you will go through the grieving stages after your dog has passed away. Allowing your dog to go peacefully is a final step as their loving dog parent. You are treating your dog with compassion and dignity in its final moments on this earth. Don’t feel shame or anger about that. You gave your dog the best life you could and you are now giving them a peaceful goodbye.

golden-doodle on bed

What do I do now that my dog is gone?

The healing process will take time. There is no set amount of time for you to grieve. For some it takes months and for others, the feeling of missing their dog is always there. If you are having a hard time processing the grief, I have another post on how to stop crying after your dog has died. It was really hard for me to stop crying after Wes died, so I completely understand how you may be feeling.

It’s also important to find ways to memorialize your dog. My brother and sister-in-law gave me a sterling silver necklace with a W and a paw charm on it. It’s very beautiful and you can likely find yourself one on Etsy. My mom had a blanket made with a bunch of Wes’s pictures on it that I use almost every day. My sister had a portrait drawn of Wes that I keep next to his ashes. And I also wrote Wes an obituary to help everyone remember him, you can read his obituary here. 

Writing a dog obituary

If you want to write an obituary for your dog, I created a great workbook that you can grab for free here to help you get started on it. Just enter your email in after you click and you should see it in your inbox.

There has also been a discussion of whether we will get another dog or not. Right now, my husband is not ready for another dog but I am hopeful that one day we will have a four-legged friend running around our house again. I also sometimes think that maybe not getting another dog is best. I don’t always want to be comparing a new dog to the one and only Wes.

All I know is that making a big decision after the death of your dog is not a wise choice. Allowing yourself time to process the death and mourn your dog being gone is what you need to focus on.