Saying goodbye to your dog: How to prepare for the unpreparable
All dog owners dread this day.
It is not easy to have a dying dog.
When you get a dog, you take responsibility for the animal's life, but also its death. Of course, it is painful and sad when the time to say goodbye for good is approaching, but also, it is a natural part of being a dog owner.
Some dogs become so old that they die naturally. In contrast, others need assistance to end their lives due to illnesses and pain impairing their quality of life.
Whatever the cause, it's sad when it is time for your dog to leave for good.
You must decide when "enough is enough"
Dogs add more than joy and love to peoples life. Therefore, choosing euthanization can be a difficult decision to make. But sometimes, it is necessary because the dog is suffering. Maybe the dog is struggling to walk, has lost its hearing, sight or in general, is in pain.
Some conditions the dog can live with. When your dog isn't able to live a life as a dog should, you must judge if it is time to say goodbye. A dog loves being a dog, but its life is purposeless when it can't do the things it loves.
Your responsibility is to end the suffering before it becomes more than overwhelming for the both of you.
If the dog has more bad days than good days, if it seems depressed and behave inactively, maybe that's a sign the time is right or that the time is approaching.
Impossible to be ready
The decision to end a life is probably one of the hardest decisions you have to make in life. Such difficult choices can therefore be "easy" to postpone. Sometimes it may be suitable to postpone the decision; after all, you know your dog best.
But if you know deep down that it would be best for your dog to let go, you should make the decision, even if you do not feel ready.
If you are unsure whether euthanasia is the right choice, it is best to talk to a veterinarian.
The veterinarian can assess the dog's health, life situation, quality of life and help you make the best decision for your dog. Sometimes it turns out that the dog is still living a dignified life, and it can keep on living. Other times, unfortunately, that is not the case.
The last hours with your dog
Knowing the time when you are going to lose a family member is undoubtedly a special situation.
It is about making the most of the last time you will spend together in such a situation. Of course, what options you have depends on the dog's health. A good option is to do what the dog likes best, based on the conditions it has. Examples of activities can be walking and playing. Feel free to let the dog eat his favourite food. But for many, the most important part is to cuddle the dog. A lot.
Before the dog is put down, it is not uncommon for dog owners to worry that the dog will feel fear. A good tip is to behave as naturally as possible towards the dog in the last few hours. However, it can be difficult in practice.
When the day has come
The dog will first be anaesthetized with a remedy that causes the dog to fall asleep. When the dog is in a state of deep sleep, it will receive a syringe which in a short time causes the dog's heart to stop beating. No part of the process is painful for the dog.
Contact your veterinarian to find out more about how the process works. Many offer quiet rooms separate from the rest of the clinic and a separate exit so that you do not have to pass other people after your dog gets put down.
Should you be there with the dog when it happens?
On a general basis, we would recommend that you take part in the entire journey, which means that you are present during the happening. At the same time, it is important to respect dog owners who choose not to be present. Some people do not deal well with death, at that is ok.
Many parents wonder if their children should join or not. Often children have at least as strong ties to the dog as the adults. Even if there is no definitive answer, it is recommended that the child is allowed to participate if they wish. It can be beneficial for the grieving process to be there when it happens, as it could help provide closure.
As a dog owner, it is important to be aware of your responsibilities. You must be able to put your own needs aside in favour of the dog's best interests. You will probably never be completely ready for the decision, but talking thoroughly with a veterinarian can make you feel more confident in the decision.
Use the last time with your dog well. Play, go for walks (if possible), give it lots of joy, treats and food. Give the dog a dignified end.
Once you have said goodbye and the dog has fallen asleep, it is natural to mourn for a long time afterwards. For people who have never had a dog before, this can be difficult to understand. But allow yourself to grieve and talk a lot about the dog, also with the children.
Take care of the memories and remember everything the dog taught you, both about yourself and life.