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Post  Amanda on 7/14/2010, 11:15 am

Blanche kindly condensed the comments from the previous thread re: euthanasia. Hopefully this will be helpful to others when they face this difficult decision.



I will say that my vet always honours my decision, but I'm not always sure she agrees with me on when. She did alot of talking while I was there with Lola and while she never said that she didn't agree, she talked for a long time about being sure and what her life was like. I value that in her, frankly, but it does often leave me thinking "Was I wrong?". I think it's hard for vets to deal with it, especially when there's not an obvious ailment. In Lola's case, clearly she wasn't well, but there wasn't any prior indicator of a "disease" per se.

But I knew that she was done. I knew it. And I would always rather let them go a day too early than a minute too late. And, of course, my dogs almost always rally at the vets and look better while they are there, but I know that as soon as we return home--if I chicken out--that I see again the very behaviours that worry me to begin with. As I said to my vet, "Yes, she can rally for an hour in a high stress, high excitement environment. It's the other 23 hours I have to worry about".

I think here's the other thing that makes it hard for my vet, in particular. I don't drone on and on about my dog's struggles and I don't run them in for every thing that I see. I will initially, but once it's clear to me that there isn't anything more the vet can do than I do, I don't do it. Lola has had off and on vomiting for several months--even the last year. This improved after the enucleation, but re-appeared in the last 6 weeks. She'd eat, throw up, not eat, bring up bile or foam. We know her blood work was good in April so no indication of anything obvious. As we went along, I did take her in and we put her on tilosin and famitidine. That's all that could be done. I've used both over the last several weeks with little to no effect really other than to give her a day or two of improved gastric health. But she began to refuse even the cream cheese with the pill or would promptly throw it back up and then she refused to eat at all. She began to have trouble navigating even the sidewalk and was falling back into her excreta. She was lying around refusing to engage. That's all I needed to see. I wasn't going to start a bunch of invasive tests on her. She was dead terrified of the vets in any case.

As I said, I'm not sure Judy thought the time was right and I am sure that the fact that I mull this stuff over in my head for weeks and only discuss it with a very few people doesn't help--especially since once I make the decision to end it, I move quickly. It doesn't give Judy much time to absorb the fact that I think we're done. But I'll be damned if I'm going to make my dogs linger on so I can make anyone else but me more comfortable with the decision.

I always, always feel a mixture of guilt and relief when I let one of them go. Did I try hard enough? Should I have waited? Would she have rallied? I feel this alot with Lola given that Judy droned on and on about her--so it made me question myself. So I'm not sure where Judy was with this and I'm not sure if I'm projecting. In the end, she did as I asked. And agreed that if not Tuesday, then probably within the next week or so I'd be back with the same request.

I will fight hard to save my dogs, but not against unwin-able odds and I won't make them suffer needlessly so that I can have closure and clarity. There often isn't any closure or clarity with some of the old dogs who just start to fail. I've learned to live with it, but it's damned hard and a vet who won't talk to you about it makes it very difficult indeed.

Ultimately, the vet doesn't live with the animal. And if I was getting rid of a "pain in the ass" animal, I've have euthed Lola YEARS ago and I certainly wouldn't have shelled out 2 grand for her enucleation or the grand for her teeth. It IS ultimately our decision. And most vets won't tell you flat out that it's time--they may hint around about it, but rarely will they say it is time. And I assume if Judy really did think I was "dumping" Lola, she would have said something to me. At least, I hope she would.

Vets, like doctors, are trained to save not to "kill" and euthanizing an animal has got to be hard. But in all good conscience, I can't wait for my animals to be so miserable that they are suffering badly. I try to step back and objectively evaluate their life and their enjoyment. To see Lola just hiding under furniture and not even acknowledging me, was too much. There was no joy there in a dog that lived so large. So yes, sometimes my animals aren't skin and bones and limp rags when I say good bye. I don't want them to go that way and I don't want my last memory to be that. I want to know that I didn't make them hang on so that I could feel that no one would question me.


This is a very helpful thread for a lot of us dealing with seniors. I know what Blanche means about feeling a mixture of guilt and relief and always second-guessing oneself, but the bottom line is that we know our dogs best and love our dogs best and have to trust our own judgment.

But to play devil's advocate for a moment, I can see where a vet might balk in some instances (I'm not suggesting in this case; I'm just saying ...). We've had more than one instance of a rescue pug being taken to a vet to be euthanized by owners who were thinking more about themselves than the dog. Betsy and Jake were two examples. And we had an old dear taken to a vet in the north end of Toronto to be put down although in decent health but the vet intervened and called us. I guess it comes down to how well the vet knows you/your dog and your motivation for euthanizing.

In February, although it was sudden, I knew that unless the vet could pull a rabbit out of a hat, that it was time to say goodbye to Jake. I psyched myself up as best I could for the visit and off we went. Unfortunately because it was a last minute visit, I got the 3rd vet, not either of the owners that I like so much. While discussing the dismal options, during which I dismissed each as not viable, I gave some pretty strong clues that I thought the only option was to say goodbye to him. She didn't bite and kept "chatting", long silences in between. And I wasn't adding much to the conversation as my heart was breaking with an immobile Jake in my arms. Finally I pretty much flat out told her that I thought it was time. She then excused herself from the room, saying that she'd come back in 5 minutes for my decision. Duh! I was trying to keep it together for Jake, not letting him see my grief in his last minutes and she left me to think about it???? She came back and I said goodbye to him and left with my heart in little pieces. It was already hard enough without having to "manage" the vet. When it came time to say goodbye to Kimmy 3 months later, there was a little more flexibility over time and I insisted on one of the owners doing it. At the last minute, the wife-owner had a schedule conflict and they offered me the 3rd vet. I said absolutely not, I'm not putting Bryan through that with his Kim. So the husband-owner did it. Although he witnessed Bryan having a complete melt-down, he was compassionate and professional and managed what could have been a very embarrassing and awkward male moment well.

To me, putting your dog down is one of life's most intimate moments and I want to make sure I have the help of a vet who knows me, trusts me, knows my dog and is caring and sympathetic. I don't care how knowledgeable a vet is (well, I actually do), relationship is equally important.


The cats, dogs, and horses I have lost in the past few years I have been blessed to have large and small animal vets that understood quality time versus quantity. That my animals and I would decide when it was time and there would be no fight to the bitter end. No drastic measures and experimental treatments to buy an extra hour, day, or week.

In each case, the animals said quite clearly ... we are done. My mule and Karol's mare were colicing and both elderly. The surgery and anesthesia were far more dangerous to them than was worth risking. Karol and I chose to end their pain with kindness and love. The vet desperately wanted to find a different solution for us, but kept coming back to the need for them to have quality ... and surgery was not going to give that to us, nor was further medication. Karol's ShellyDog went just as Lola did. One day, she just quit. No more eating, no more drinking, just no more. We all said our good byes, took her to Doc, and he never questioned the decision. If he had, i'da fired him on the spot.
Being a Healer is more than curing diseases and patching up owies ... it is about ensuring dignity. A life comes to a close, that has to be our final gift to them.


I had a Kerry Blue Terrier with several serious health issues, all chronic. When she was about 11, I asked our vet what to expect and how to make the decision, or even know when to consider making it.

He talked about her quality of life, and he felt that as long as she was enjoying life and comfortable that it would not be time to put her down. I'll always remember his telling me that I would know when the time was right, because my dog would let me know, if I would only listen to her.

She lived for 2 more years, was wonderful with our two young children, but then I saw her having more health problems, wanting to sleep all the time, not wanting to eat...one day she looked at me, and I could hear the thought "I'm so tired" from her. I looked in her eyes, and they were empty - no spark, no interest. I knew it was time.

I called the vet and told him. He very kindly told us to bring her in as office hours were ending so we didn't have to wait in a waiting room filled with young and lively animals. He explained how the injection would work, warned us that she might howl (not from pain, just from the reaction to the drug - he said some dogs howled as they went under anesthesia, some didn't) and let me hold her as she left us. He told me that I'd kept her alive and happy longer than most people would have and that he agreed it was now time to let her go.

His kindness meant so much to us on that sad evening.

Amanda, mom to Nell, Lucy & Ava

Number of posts : 6990
Location : Maryland


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