How To Cope With Putting Your Dog To Sleep | Cesar's Way (2023)

Having to say goodbye is something every dog lover faces eventually. It’s the most difficult part of having a dog. It would be nice if they could be with us for decades, but sadly this is not the case.

In order to make it through the process of having your dog put to sleep, you need to begin preparing ahead of time. Here are the steps in the process.

When You Should Put Your Dog to Sleep

The one question that every pet owner faces after they’ve had to have their dog euthanized is, “Did I do it too early or was I too late?”When your dog’s health is declining, before you make the decision to euthanize, you need to determine your dog’s quality of life using the HHHHHMM Scale. Those letters stand for hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, and more (good days than bad). Each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 10. This should be done separately by you and the veterinarian because it can be very easy to rate your pet higher on some points than a medical professional would.

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According to some experts, focusing on the good days versus the bad is probably the most objective way a pet owner can make the decision. Make a list of things that your dog enjoys doing, then keep track of how many days they can’t do those things compared to how many days they can.

Although modern veterinary medicine can extend a dog’s life, this isn’t always what’s best for the dog. While she can’t necessarily tell you she’s suffering, she can show you that she isn’t having a good time anymore.

Prepare Yourself

Discuss the decision with your vet to euthanize and be sure to ask any questions you have, even if they seem trivial. Remember, you may have never gone through this before, but your vet has to frequently. It’s part of his or her job. You’ll need to discuss options for palliative care if you want to try to extend your dog’s life, as well as the costs involved. Most vets will be honest and won’t try to sell you on shooting your dog up with painkillers just to give him another month of low-quality life and get more money out of you. No matter how much you love your dog, your choices at this point should reflect what’s best for him, not what you can do to keep him alive for you.

Once you and the vet have agreed that euthanasia is the only right decision, it’s time to plan for the procedure and afterward. If at all possible, have them calculate the costs ahead of time and pay upfront — the staff at the clinic are only human, and they don’t want to hand you a bill right after your dog has been put to sleep any more than you want to deal with paying it.

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What to Do With the Dog Remains

This is also the time to decide what should happen to your dog’s remains afterward. The options are mostly the same as with humans — burial or cremation. Organ donation for research or transplantation is also becoming a much more common option, as are less traditional methods.

Once the arrangements have been made, the final decision is the time and location of the procedure. Some people prefer (and many vets will perform) euthanasia at the owner’s home so the dog can be in familiar surroundings. There’s also the question of whether the vet recommends doing the procedure immediately or waiting a few days. If you have the option of waiting, take the opportunity to break out the steak and sweet treats and give your dog a farewell party by letting her do all those things you’ve never let her do before.

Finally, when you do schedule the procedure, ask your vet if you can make it the last appointment of the day — he or she will appreciate the gesture because neither one of you will feel like going back to work afterwards.

The Procedure

A good vet will let you spend as long as you want alone with your dog both before and after the procedure. One big question people have is whether they want to be there during the euthanasia. It isn’t absolutely necessary and a vet will never require it. There are valid arguments for and against being present, although the most commonly reported negative of not being there is a sense of regret for having abandoned the dog in her final moments. Many pet owners wouldn’t even think of not being there, but it really is a matter of personal preference with no right or wrong choice.

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There are various steps in the process of euthanasia, although nowadays almost all dogs are euthanized by injection. What’s going on and why could be an entire article on its own. The short version, though, is that it is almost always a very peaceful process. There’s a reason that people use the euphemism “put to sleep” to describe it. Even so, if your vet didn’t make a house call, it’s a good idea to arrange for a friend to drive you and any other family members to and from the clinic.

What to Do After They Are Put to Sleep

The most important thing is to not immediately run out and rescue another dog, especially if you only had one. You won’t be in the right emotional state and will be bringing the dog into a place with weak, negative energy — and which still smells strongly of another dog. Give yourself the time and tools to go through the grieving process.If you don’t have other pets but think that you will adopt again eventually, donate your dog’s bedding, toys, bowls, leash, and so on to a shelter now. These will help with the grieving process by not being constant reminders, as well as allow you to start fresh if and when you adopt another dog. Many people do keep their dog’s collar and tags or a favorite toy, though, and these can be a nice memorial touch if you have your dog cremated and the ashes returned to you.

Everyone deals with grief in different ways, which you should keep in mind especially if there is more than one human in the household. Some people may seem to get over it quickly, while others may become depressed for weeks or months. A person may even feel like they’re long past the grief, and then a sudden reminder triggers the feelings of loss all over again.

The important thing is to not let the feelings of grief turn into anger or resentment toward each other, such as feeling that your partner isn’t sad enough or should have “snapped out of it” by now. If you have children, you’ll also have plenty to deal with in explaining your dog’s death to them.

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Keep in mind also that the attitudes of people outside your pack about losing a pet are different and many of them, especially those without pets, don’t realize that the experience can be just as traumatic as losing a parent or child. If a friend or acquaintance doesn’t seem overly moved, don’t take it personally.

And remember that there are many pet loss support helplines available to call.

Although saying good-bye is the hardest part of our relationships with our dogs, we can console ourselves by remembering that by rescuing that dog we gave it a chance at a happy life in the first place — and left us with many pleasant memories. Once you’re done with the grieving and back in a positive place, the best tribute you can pay to a dog that’s passed is to give another dog a second chance.

Have you experienced having to euthanize a pet? What helped you to cope with the process? Let us know in the comments.

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FAQs

How do I grieve over putting my dog to sleep? ›

Grieving the loss of a pet after euthanasia (' put to sleep') and coping with the loss
  1. Talk about it. ...
  2. Be kind to yourself. ...
  3. Remember what is best for your pet. ...
  4. Honour their memory. ...
  5. Take your time before getting another pet. ...
  6. Understand your feelings. ...
  7. Give yourself time. ...
  8. Forgive yourself.
Oct 12, 2021

Why do I feel so guilty for putting my dog to sleep? ›

It's not a sign that you've done anything wrong or that you're somehow weak for being emotionally impacted by your pet's departure. After all, you and your pet were close. Feeling guilt is a sign of just how much you cared about your pet.

Will God forgive me for putting my dog to sleep? ›

We do not conclude from scripture that euthanizing pets, if done for humane reasons, is not a sin. God has given us the authority and responsibility to care for our animals, and euthanizing them is, in certain situations, a God-honoring expression of our care.

How do I deal with guilt after putting my dog down? ›

Dealing with Guilt After Pet Euthanasia
  1. Talk through your feelings with someone you trust. ...
  2. When you start replaying events in your mind, remind yourself that you did what was best for your beloved pet.
  3. Think about all the great things you gave your animal.
Dec 27, 2022

Should I stay with my dog when he is put to sleep? ›

Choosing to stay with your pet during euthanasia is best because it alleviates their stress. Having you present reduces the anxiety and fear they may experience at the end of life. The process of dying can trigger anxiety in a pet. Having their loved one near relieves some of their discomfort.

Do dogs cry when being put to sleep? ›

Occasionally, as pentobarbital is injected, a dog may cry out or yelp loudly. This is obviously quite shocking and can be upsetting for owners and vets alike.

Why am I so sad about putting my dog down? ›

People often struggle with overwhelming feelings of grief, loss, and guilt after choosing to put their pets to sleep. These strong feelings that accompany euthanizing a pet come as the result of their roles in our lives and the strong bonds we are capable of developing with animals.

Should I say goodbye to my dog when I leave? ›

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

If your dog does not appear to get upset after you have left, then you can continue to say goodbye to them when you leave. If you have determined that your dog does get upset in your absence, it is best to seek professional help right away.

Does my dog know Im going to put him down? ›

Answer: Fortunately for us, dogs do not understand they are going to be put down and what happens after they are given the injection that puts them to sleep.

Is it selfish to not put your dog down? ›

Euthanasia is selfish.

worries so much about not having done enough is usually the person who has already gone to great lengths to care for their pet. A far more dangerous form of selfishness is to prolong a pet's suffering simply to postpone one's own.

Is it normal to feel guilt after a pet dies? ›

Guilt is a normal response to the death of a pet. We want to make sense out of what has happened and as a result, we frequently blame ourselves. Feelings of guilt should subside as you progress through the grieving process.

How do you say goodbye to a dog before euthanasia? ›

Give them all the things they enjoy most – their favourite toys, their favourite food. You know what will make your pet feel most at ease in the time that remains. If you become tearful, ask a family member, friend or other trusted person to take care of your pet so you can leave the room and have a cry.

How do I not feel bad about surrendering my dog? ›

Be gentle with yourself and be willing to forgive yourself.

Accept what you had to do and let it go. Don't dwell on what-ifs. Pet rehoming guilt is real but, you can't change the past or the circumstances that led to this, so keeping it with you and holding onto the guilt will only make you feel worse.

How do you mentally prepare yourself for putting your dog down? ›

Ways to emotionally prepare for their death
  1. Spend time together. ...
  2. Find a vet you are comfortable with and talk to them. ...
  3. Talk to people who understand. ...
  4. Make them comfortable and do your best. ...
  5. Know that it's OK to grieve.
Aug 17, 2020

Why is it so hard to say goodbye to your dog? ›

Losing a cherished dog can feel especially devastating to people with a history of trauma or adverse early life experiences because they relied on their dog as a protector, safe companion, and confidante. Others may view their dog as a surrogate child, and losing that treasured connection can feel especially painful.

What do you say when a pet is put down? ›

  • “[Pet's name] was such a good dog/cat. ...
  • “I am so sorry for your loss. ...
  • Losing such a big part of your family is never easy. ...
  • “[Pet's name] was so lucky to have chosen you. ...
  • “May the memories of [pet's name] bring you comfort during this time of loss.”
  • “I know how much [pet's name] meant to you.

Can a dog wake up after euthanasia? ›

The doctor will listen carefully to your pet's heart to ensure it has stopped before pronouncing him or her gone. After that, there is no danger of your pet waking up. This is a very common fear for pet owners.

Do vets cry during euthanasia? ›

We cry when we euthanize beloved patients. We cry when we're frustrated at our often vain attempts to heal our sickest patients. In my case, I have a particular sensitivity to watching others cry –– children, especially.

Do dogs know they are loved? ›

"Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.

How do I prepare to say goodbye to my dog? ›

How to Prepare to Say Goodbye to Your Beloved Pet?
  1. Reaching a Decision. This is perhaps the most important thing, and this is where you will start to feel the pain. ...
  2. Meditate. ...
  3. Ask How It is Performed. ...
  4. Handling Aftercare. ...
  5. Provide Emotional Support. ...
  6. Say a Prayer.

When should you start leaving your dog? ›

Ideally, you should never leave a puppy or young dog alone for more than 2 hours until they have been with you for 6 months so if you need to be out for longer then make sure someone can let your pup out for a toilet break; otherwise, this could hinder their toilet training.

How do you tell your dog you're leaving for a while? ›

Don't make a big deal out of arrivals and departures—talk to your dog in a calm voice when you're leaving or returning. Establish a word or action that you use every time you leave that tells your dog you'll be back.

Is it cruel to put your dog down? ›

There's no right or wrong answer. It's a personal matter for each pet owner. The goal is to keep your friend with you for as long as they are comfortable, but let them go if they are in pain.

How long will I be sad after my dog died? ›

Symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months, with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average).

How sad should I be when my dog dies? ›

Feeling sad, shocked, or lonely is a normal reaction to the loss of a beloved pet. Exhibiting these feelings doesn't mean you are weak or your feelings are somehow misplaced. It just means that you're mourning the loss of an animal you loved, so you shouldn't feel ashamed.

How do I spend my last day with my dog? ›

Enjoy family time

Depending on your pet's personality, spend her final days with only close family or invite friends and other loved ones over to say goodbye. Watch your pet closely and allow plenty of time to rest to ensure she does not become tired or stressed.

How do you thank a vet after euthanasia? ›

You have been the most amazing vet and friend a person could ask for. I never thought I'd find someone to help my pet through the final years of her illness. You not only helped her — you helped me as well. Thank you for caring about your four-legged and winged patients and their parents.

Is euthanasia traumatic? ›

Many people feel it is important to be present during euthanasia. Many others feel unable to handle this traumatic event. And make no mistake: Witnessing the euthanasia of your beloved companion IS traumatic (though it can also help allay fears that your companion suffered).

Why does losing my dog hurt so much? ›

Psychologist Julie Axelrod has pointed out that the loss of a dog is so painful because owners aren't just losing the pet. It could mean the loss of a source of unconditional love, a primary companion who provides security and comfort, and maybe even a protégé that's been mentored like a child.

How do I know I'm making the right decision to euthanize my dog? ›

Here are five things to consider as you determine your next steps.
  • What do you know about euthanasia? First, ask yourself what you know about euthanasia. ...
  • What's your pet's quality of life? ...
  • Is your pet in pain or anxious? ...
  • Can you provide long‑term care? ...
  • Do you fear choosing too soon?
Mar 9, 2021

How do you know when your dog has had enough? ›

The most prominent sign that you will notice is a complete relaxation of the body, your dog will no longer appear tense, rather they will “let go.” You will notice a slimming of the body as the air is expelled from their lungs for the last time and you may notice the lack of life in their eyes if they are still open.

Can you get PTSD from losing your dog? ›

Seventy-five responders reported the loss of a pet and filled out a battery of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I've often written about PTSD; it's defined as the recurring memories and heightened state of arousal that lingers for more than a month after a traumatic event.

Is it okay to cry during euthanasia? ›

It is ok to cry in front of your pet, to tell him how much you will miss him, to let him see you absolutely beside yourself. I'm sure your pet has seen you at your worst before – I know mine has. But remember to celebrate, no matter how grief-stricken you are. I promise it will make it easier for both you and your pet.

How long until I stop grieving my dog? ›

A small 2019 study of 82 people found that the length of intense grief experienced by bereaved pet owners varies —with 25 % taking between 3 months to a year, 50% between one year and 19 months, and 25 % between two and six years. It's no wonder that pet loss therapy is an emerging field.

Will I ever stop grieving for my dog? ›

Acute grief symptoms after the death of a pet can last from one to three months and general symptoms of grief can continue, on average, for six months to a year This grieving period can vary significantly from person to person and can be much longer or shorter.

Is losing a dog harder than a person? ›

In fact, sometimes that loss can feel as bad—or even worse—than the loss of a human friend or relative. That's not just anecdotal, either: Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is comparable to the loss of a human loved one, in almost every way.

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