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When to put dog to sleep?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by Jcrown, Feb 2, 2005.

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  1. Jcrown

    Jcrown Member 5+ Year Member

    Dec 11, 2004
    My dog, spooky, is sixteen years old. I think that I soon may need to put her to sleep and it will probably be the hardest thing i have ever done. There have been several problem that have gradually gotten worse over the last two years.

    1. She can hardly make up and done steps any more. The biggest problem with this is letting her outside. Every time i let her out i have to pick her up (she weighs about thirty pounds), carry her down the steps, wait till she is done, pick her up and carry her back inside. This is a real issue when it is raining and she gets muddy.

    2. Consistantly messes on our floor. It doesn't matter how often i let her out, she WILL pee on the floor. It averages now about twice a day. This gets very old, and started about two years ago. don't they have doggie diapers or something? the other day she was walking one minute, and just dropped to the floor like she fainted or something, and then crapped on the floor while still laying done.

    3. She paces constantly. she will walk around the house over and over and over for like 35-40 minutes at a time. i don't know if this is because she is in pain from arthritis (sp?) or anxiety or what.

    *the biggest issue however is this. She does NOT seem to be a miserable dog. she still plays with me (not near as often as in the past) every once in awhile, and seems to have a good time outdoors with the neighbors dog (even runs a little bit with tail wagging).

    I don't know if they teach stuff like this in vet-school, but i figured i'd see what you guys have to say. at point does one say that enough is enough. How does the process of outting a dog to sleep happen? Do I stand there and watch? or do I just leave her? This is going to be a very painful process.
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  3. chris03333

    chris03333 Veterinarian 7+ Year Member

    Jan 21, 2005
    Have you taken her to the vet? They might be able to see if there is something medical for the urination problems to help. When it comes to puting her to sleep, that is ultimately your choice. The best thing to do is make a list of her favorite things. When she starts to not show interest in these things or seems depressed you might want to talk with a veterinarian. I really cannot tell you when the best time to put your dog to sleep is but I am sure you can have some questions answered by taking her to a vet so that he/she can evaluate her.

    Hope this helps some.

  4. bjolly

    bjolly Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Jan 14, 2003
    I'm not a vet but I had to have my 17 year old cat put to sleep last week. : ( I can tell you that it was very hard, but the vet (who I have gone to for years) was very caring and understanding, and that helped.

    they gave me the option of whether to stay there while he was put to sleep. There are 2 injections, one to put the animal "under" and one to stop the heart. They said that I could be there for both injections or neither, they left it totally up to what I was most comfortable with. I stayed for both -- I felt I just couldn't leave him alone. He complained when he got the first shot (he never did like shots) and then he fell asleep within less than a minute, I'd say. they let me hold him while he fell asleep. for the second shot, he was asleep and he just went very quietly. the vet gave me all the time I needed with him from the beginning up to and including after it was over.

    as for when to do it, that's such a hard thing and no one else can tell you when it's time. I think you know in your heart when your pet just isn't enjoying life anymore. : (
  5. youthman

    youthman Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jan 31, 2005
    I had to put one of my dogs to sleep a couple years ago. I brought him to the vet and asked his opinion, he still left it up to me of course but I went with what the vet recommended. It was the hardest thing to do. You should have the option to stay there, I was able to hold his head in my arms the whole time. I'm sorry for what you are going through.
  6. VeganSoprano

    VeganSoprano Queen of Spayeds 7+ Year Member

    May 27, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I think that given the circumstances you described, your dog isn't ready to be euthanized yet. The biggest criteria I look for with an old animal is quality of life - if the animal is comfortable and still enjoying things like attention from his human and eating. It sounds like while your dog has slowed down quite a bit, she still enjoys her life.

    You should visit the vet to see if any of her issues can be treated. Painkillers can be prescribed for arthritis, for instance. Her pacing might be related to dementia, or might be from discomfort, or might be because her vision and/or hearing are failing. If you find out what is going on, the vet can help you make her life easier. Incontinence is often a part of the aging process, but you can cope with it by putting puppy housetraining pads in a few places in the house. She can pee on those and you can just toss them and replace them - no problem at all.

    I think when it's time to let her go, you'll know. You'll know that you're keeping her alive for you and not for her. But it doesn't sound like you are there yet.
  7. HeartSong

    HeartSong Okstate 2010 5+ Year Member

    Jul 1, 2004
    It doesn't sound like she needs to be euthanized yet so I would suggest considering some ways to make your dog happier. As others have said, first take to the vet to see if there are any medications that can help. For potty problems, there are dog diapers (and other senior pet products) at this site http://www.seniorpetproducts.com/diapers.html, they may be available at some pet stores too. You could invest in a ramp to go in and out instead of having to be carried (make sure it is non-slip for rainy days).

    This is long, but it is a article that tries to help owners determine the right time to euthanize.

    By Alice Villalobos, DVM

    For Veterinary Practice News
    There is a real need for assessing various levels of quality of life for aging, ailing and terminally ill pets.

    Most geriatric animals have one or more abnormal conditions that appear in their senior years and these conditions generally worsen with time. One third of senior pets are obese. Additionally, half of our nation’s companion animals over the age of 10 become burdened with cancer and its related treatment issues.

    Veterinarians are frequently asked, “When is the right time to euthanize my beloved pet? How will I know?”

    A quality of life scale may help everyone, especially those in denial, to look at difficult-to-face issues. Caretakers can use this itemized scale to ask themselves if they are able to provide enough help to maintain an ailing pet in a humane way.
    Every animal has certain needs that should be recognized and respected.
    If we can meet these basic needs at a satisfactory level for our ailing companion animals, then we are justified in preserving the life of the ill pet during its decline.
    The goal in setting up the Quality of Life Scale is to provide a guideline so that pet owners can maintain a rewarding relationship that nurtures the human-animal bond.

    This scale alleviates owners’ feelings of guilt and engenders the support of the veterinary team to actively help in the care and decision making for end-of-life, or “pawspice,” patients.
    It is up to the veterinary profession and to the pet’s caretaker to design an end-of-life pet hospice program that encounters each factor and deals with it openly and honestly. We canuse a quality of life scale from one to 10. Ten is the best.

    This list, called “HHHHHMM,” stands for: hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility and more good days than bad days. A score above five on most of these issues is acceptable in maintaining an end-of-life program. Each pet’s situation needs an individual, kind and supportive approach.

    The HHHHHMM Scale

    Hurt: 1-10

    Adequate pain control is first and foremost on the scale. This includes the pet’s ability to breathe properly. Most people do not realize that not being able to breathe is ranked at the top of the pain scale.

    Some families are willing to provide oxygen therapy at home for their ailing pets and the veterinarian can prescribe it through a medical supply house. Pain control may include oral, transdermal and injectable medications.

    Hunger: 1-10

    If a pet is not receiving adequate nutrition willingly, by hand or force feeding, then consider placing a feeding tube especially for cats.

    Malnutrition develops quickly in sick animals when the caretaker is not educated. Instruct owners to use blended or liquid diets to help their best friend maintain proper nutritional and caloric intake.

    Hydration: 1-10
    Subcutaneous fluids are a wonderful way to supplement the fluid intake of ailing pets. It may take a few sessions for a pet owner to get the hang of this helpful procedure.

    Hygiene: 1-10

    Can the pet be kept brushed and cleaned? Is the coat matted? Is the pet situated properly so that it won’t have to lie in its own waste after eliminations? Pets, especially cats with oral cancer, can’t keep themselves clean, so they get demoralized quickly.

    The odor associated with necrotic oral tumors can be offensive and cause social rejection by family members. Antibiotics help reduce foul-smelling infections and using a sponge dampened with a very dilute solution of lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide (to mimic the gentle stroking action of a “mother tongue” on the face, paws and legs) helps soothe and clean cats’ fur. Dogs enjoy this, too.

    Happiness: 1-10

    Is the pet able to experience any joy or mental stimulation? It is easy to see that our pets communicate with their eyes. They know what is going on.

    Is the ailing pet willing to interact with the family and be responsive to things going on around him? Is the aging cat able to purr and enjoy being on the bed or in one’s lap? Is there a response to a bit of catnip? Can the cat bat at toys or look at and follow a laser light?

    Can the ailing pet enjoy the upbeat greetings and petting of loving family members? Can the pet’s bed be moved close to the family’s activities and not left in an isolated or neglected area? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid?

    Mobility: 1-10

    Ask if the pet is able to move around on its own or with help in order to satisfy its desires. Does the pet feel like going out for a walk? Is the pet showing central nervous system problems, seizures or stumbling?

    Can the pet be taken outdoors or helped into the litter box to eliminate with assistance? Will a harness, sling or a cart be helpful? Is medication helping?

    The answer to the mobility question has variable scenarios. I have met some utilitarian pet owners who are too rigid in the mobility area.

    For instance, they regretfully but willingly sacrifice their pet’s life rather than elect amputation of a limb. Some pet owners have the honest yet teleological feeling that amputation is mutilation and not fair to the pet. Instead, they allow the pet to bear a painful limb for months before euthanasia.

    Then there are cases like Krash, a 12-year-old, male, 90-pound, golden retriever, in Orange County, Calif.

    Krash’s mobility was already borderline when he entered our pawspice program with osteosarcoma of his left distal radius. His history precluded amputation because of severe degenerative joint disease, degenerative myelitis, (some dogs have had previous bilateral knee surgery) and hip dysplasia. Krash wears a splint to offset a pathological fracture.

    The mobility scale can be variable from 1 to 10. The need for mobility seems dependent on the species and breed. Cats and small lap dogs can and do enjoy life with much less mobility than large and giant-breed dogs.

    If the pet is compromised and is only able to lie in bed, is there a schedule to change the position of the pet and rotate the body as often as every two hours?

    Atelectasis and decubital ulcers must be avoided. The nursing care of large immobile dogs is very demanding.

    Is the bedding material soft enough? Can an egg crate mattress be used and set up properly to avoid decubital ulcers? Is there a role for a pet mobility cart or an Evans standing cart?

    These items really make a difference in the quality of life for the pet that has limited mobility yet is alert and responsive.

    More Good Days Than Bad: 1-10

    When there are too many bad days in a row or if the pet seems to be “turned off” to life, quality of life is compromised.

    Bad days are filled with undesirable experiences such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, frustration, seizures, etc. Bad days could be from profound weakness caused by anemia or from the discomfort caused by an obstruction or a large, inoperable tumor in the abdomen.

    This was the situation with my own dear Australian shepherd, Alfie, who had a huge undifferentiated mass rapidly overtake his liver.

    If the two-way exchange needed to communicate and maintain a healthy human-animal bond is just not there, the pet owner must be gently told that the end may be near.

    It is very difficult for families to make the final decision to end a beloved pet’s life with euthanasia. This is usually avoided when euthanasia is against the pet owner’s religious beliefs.

    A decision to euthanize can be made more clear to clients if the standard scale for quality of life is set ahead of time and re-evaluated every couple of weeks or every few days as required.

    If the pet is slowly passing on with a peaceful tranquility, it may be a satisfactory situation. People often want their pet to pass on naturally at home in their arms or in their own bed. That is OK as long as the pet is just weakening steadily and not suffering to death.

    Home euthanasia with a kindly house call veterinarian may be elected.

    Hopefully, the concept of a scale for quality of life and our professional guidance can help relieve the angst and regret about a beloved pet’s death.

    Alice Villalobos, DVM, owns Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Woodland Hills, Calif. She received the 1999 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian Award and is associated with VCA Clarmar and Coast animal hospitals in Torrance and Hermosa Beach, Calif.
    This article first appeared in the September 2004 issue of Veterinary Practice News.
  8. Jcrown

    Jcrown Member 5+ Year Member

    Dec 11, 2004
    Thanks for all of your responses. I agree that it is not quite time yet, and when I get paid next week I will take a trip to my vet. The ramp idea is great! I'll see what i can create this weekend.
  9. MicheleVet

    MicheleVet DVM c/o 2005 5+ Year Member

    Feb 10, 2005
    We recommend keeping a calendar and marking a happy face or sad face on each day depending on she's doing. If at the end of a week or month you have more sad faces, it might be easier to make the difficult decision. It's a very basic, bare bones version of the HHHHHMM scale.
  10. Whodathunkit

    Whodathunkit Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    How's your dog now?

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