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November 9, 2012
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Euthanizing a pet - when do you decide that it's time?

:icongingernutgin:
GingerNutGin Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012
Bit of a long back-story here. I apologize in advance for the spelling errors and the like.

I always knew that my dog (Little Bear) was getting older. He was already older than even by his breed's standards as a bichon frise when he hit his fourteenth birthday last month. At the time he was just suffering from some skin problems, but nothing that a weekly medicated bath couldn't help. He was just as perky as ever.

Very recently though, he managed to throw his back out. The vet gave him some pain killers and he went on his merry way for a while until they ran out just last week. We can't afford anymore, so we just give him some baby aspirin. As long we give him something, he never seems to be in pain unless he has an off-moment, which only happens once every two days or so. During those times he lays in bed, not moving a muscle with an occasional whine.

Yesterday my parents said that they had scheduled an appointment on Saturday to get him euthanized, and when they told me that Bear was just circling around my feet without a care in the world, just licking at my ankles.

In my own panic I managed to convince them to cancel and reschedule, but now I feel incredibly selfish for doing so. Keep in mind that I'm usually at college most of the day, so I can't take care of him or pay attention to him as much. I can understand that they're busy and that they're concerned with the amount of pain that he might be in, nor should I minimize the equal love that they have for him with me.

I'm nineteen now, and I've had this dog ever since I was five. I knew that this day would eventually rear it's ugly head, but now that it's nearly here I've just felt utterly sick and terrified at the thought of losing him.

This must sound silly, I realize, but this is a member of my family that I've lived with most of my life. I love him so much. I named him after my favorite cartoon character when I was little. I feel like that when he goes I'll have lost that one remaining totem of my childhood.

I know that there are times when he is in pain, but then there are the times when he's just so happy to see me or my mom and dad home from somewhere. It makes it hard for me to think that this is the right thing to do. Or is there even a right answer?

If you ever had to make such a decision, what did you do? How did you cope with the fact that it was time to let go?

Again, I'm sorry for forcing you to read so much and being so sobby over something so trivial compared to other problems that people are facing here. I feel like I'm at a fork in the road, unable to decide which is the proper path to take.
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:iconnocturn0wl:
Nocturn0wl Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:iconsadhugplz: What you're going through isn't trivial at all, nor is your reaction silly or stupid. You're facing the prospect of losing a family member in the very near future, which is a very, very difficult and sad situation to be in. Especially when you have to make a decision like the one you face. I know; my family's had to put down two of our pets (one dog, one cat) because of either severe injury or severe illness.

Basically, what it came down to with our cat was the quality of the life that he had left. After living with us for several years, Sneakers was injured badly enough in an accident that, as an outdoor cat in the country, it would've only been a short matter of time before a coyote or hawk got to him. And keeping him as an indoor cat wasn't really an option (my dad had serious cat allergies at the time, and Sneakers had been outdoors all his life; he was a farm cat for the few years before he adopted us), so we elected to give him a quiet, peaceful, dignified rest. That decision was really hard, but knowing that he wasn't going to be suffering anymore and also that he would be guaranteed a peaceful, painless death made it easier to cope with.

Our dog Buddy (a golden lab) was a little bit different. He got really, really sick with what we think was cancer after we'd had him for eight years. We did everything we could to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. In his case, it was ultimately him who decided it was time-- one night, all he wanted to do was get up, go outside, and lay down on the back patio; he very reluctantly came back inside each time when we realized he didn't actually have to potty. Because he'd never done that before, we knew then that he was ready to go, so we took him into the vet the next day. The fact that Buddy let us know he was ready to go made saying goodbye a lot easier than it would've been otherwise, to be honest. Knowing he wanted to be at peace really eased his passing for me and I think for the rest of my family as well.

In a nutshell, I'd say that if Little Bear is suffering enough for the pain to outweigh the joys in his life, it's time to let him go. And likewise, if he tells you that he's ready, you'll know that it's time. But in the meantime, just shower him with love and attention, cherish every moment you still have together, and make him as comfortable as you possibly can until that time comes.
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:iconauburna:
Auburna Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Student Interface Designer
I had the same dog and I went trough the same thing.

My dog, also a bichon, had quite serious illnesses throughout her life - ovarian cancer and hearth disease. She went trough a couple of operations and she lived a good 12 years. I also felt that she was part of my family, as did my mum and dad - we all cried when she was gone, and we were quite depressed afterwards.

As people here say, don't hurry to euthanize your pet, especially if it's this old. It should be a very last resort, when there is no cure and misery is inevitable. More often than not the pet just dies in it's sleep from old age. Euthanasia is necessary whenever there is a fatal disease, something that's making the little fella miserable and it's better to not further it's misery. My dog wasn't euthanized officially, she just never woke up from the anesthesia of her last operation - and judging by her state before it, I think it was for the best.

My best advice I could give is - love your pet as long as it is alive and don't worry that you'll misjudge the situation - people rarely go wrong with their instincts on things they love and find endearing. Grieving is normal, we bond. But don't despair - when our pooch died, we saved another one from a shelter and saved her life. So it's not all bad.

I wish you luck!
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:iconcrumblerumble:
CrumbleRumble Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012
When it's time, you'll know.

I had to make this choice 2 weeks ago, when my parents were on a holiday and me and my little sister had to watch the dog. She was looking so miserable and skinny that we took her to the vet to check.
Unfortunatly it was cancer and we were adviced to put her down.

We dediced not to look as the shots sometime do not instantly kill. We didn't want to take the risk and be stuck with that terrible last image of a limping dog on the vet table, but it wasn't an easy choice.
We were the onces who picked her up as a puppy and the onces who brought her to her final station.

Bear's situation sounds different to be honest, but I am not a vet. Do you have the idea that she's suffering a lot?
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:iconshadee:
shadee Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've asked myself the same question recently and for a few days, I'd gone back an forth on it to the point of being emotionally exhausted. Our dog is 12, a fairly large breed so she's also at that time of her life. She started showing a lump on her side which, after taking x-rays, the vet concluded was inoperable since it's attached to her ribs (and bigger on the inside than what's showing outside, which would mean major surgery and partial rib case removal which would be very hard on a dog at any age but especially at hers).

Since she didn't seem to be in any pain at the time, touching it didn't even seem to bother her in the slightest, he suggested we'd just leave it be and keep an eye on it. I agreed. At her age she couldn't have that much time left so I'd rather have it be shorter but happy and enjoyable than slightly longer but in pain, recovering from a massive operation, just to have her die of old age once (or if) she finally recovered.

She was fine for at least a year but then suddenly looked really bloated one day. We took her in again and apparently the mass had grown inside, preventing fluids from circulating properly and being absorbed again. They drained some of the fluids, she had a few rough nights where she seemed uncomfortable and had trouble finding a good position to lie down in. I almost took her in to have her euthanized twice but each time, come very early morning (I'd stay downstairs with her), she'd seem to perk up and be happy and active again. Our vet gave her meds, so I decided to brave a few more nights and see what they would do for her and with that, eventually the swelling went down and now she's actually pretty much back to her old self. Being goofy and playful, tail wagging non-stop, great appetite and not seeming to be in any discomfort anymore. I know it's not going to last forever but I think she deserves a chance to enjoy life for as long as she seems to want to, and right now she really seems to want to, to the point of her even baffling our vet.

So yeah, honestly, go with what feels right and keep a close eye on his behavior and demeanor. If there's medication to be had which might recover or improve his condition to a point where he could still enjoy life then give it a chance. If the vet seems to think it's only going to get worse and his behavior reflects that then it might be time to say goodbye and spare him the pain. The fact that you're worried about being selfish in the decision tells me that you actually very much are thinking of him though.

Wishing you all the best.
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:iconcedarwoods:
CedarWoods Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm sorry to hear this. The best thing to do is to put the animal down when it's gets too old to function and still feel good. It's a hard thing (I know) but it's the most loving thing for the animal.

When he goes, let him lay his head in your lap while the vet gives him the shot. I did this with my favorite dog a while back. It was sad but she went very peacefully, and she seemed happy.

If anyone argues with you about doing this, tell them you really want to be there to kiss your friend goodbye. Best wishes.
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:iconkrazehkittehkat:
KrazehKittehKat Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Sorry if I sound a bit harsh or anything, but this is my view...
It sounds like your dog is in plenty of pain and deserves to be released from such. I understand the pain killers help save for off-days, but those days are only going to get more frequent, most likely, and you're only going to feel worse.
I mean, that's the case I had with my cat. He may not have been in my life since I was five, but he was around a good half of my life. My biggest regret was begging my parents not to put him down because I honestly deluded myself into believing he'd pull through and make it at least until his and my next birthday. He ended up dying in my closet of all places because of that.
So yeah... My belief is that you should consider it soon before it's too late and you end up feeling worse about it in the end... Because no animal deserves to suffer and at this point, I think your dog has had a long and happy enough life.
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:icontheliarwolfram:
TheLiarWolfram Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012  Student Filmographer
DON'T just get your dog euthanized. For real. Don't. Tell your parents not to. Tell them to talk to a vet and ask when it's time. A vet will be honest with you and tell you, because they're not in their job to kill old dogs. I'm sure that's the last thing they want to do, but it's something they have to do.

If your dog's pain keeps him in bed all day and he can't get up to relieve himself, then it's time. But otherwise, don't use your own judgment to decide when your dog should die. He might still have a good year in him. A vet's going to be the expert on this, not you, and not your parents. And they should know that.
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:iconkdaanimefan:
KdaAnimefan Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012  Student Writer
There is a point where putting them to sleep is the best option if their old age and pain is affecting their quality of life. Keep your friend in your heart and your memory.

for me I've never had to make that decision to put down a pet, I'm the youngest of three and the only boy, I must say though that our cats have died more naturally then our dogs, buddy, little kitty, solo. our current cats are getting up there too. My sisters have had Alex and Puppy put down when they gotten really sick. Alex used to be an outdoor guard dog before we got him( I'm fairly certain english bulldog, he was big), where they had him before had as I know he had either had eatten rats or rat poison and later down the line it like turned his brain to swiss. Puppy had renal failure if i remember correctly.
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:iconbohobella:
bohobella Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
It sounds to me like if he could recover from his back, he would be fine, but I'm not a vet. Talk it over with your parents and the vet, too. For me, I have to see it in my dog. When she's completely gone of her old self and pep, I'll know she's ready.
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:iconpuripie:
PuriPie Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012  Hobbyist
I think it's time when they start to feel so much pain it stops them from doing things they want. Like siting in bed all day and limping to eat or go to the washroom, not being able to play. Just need to put yourself in the little guy's paws.
It's really hard, because you have to live with what happens. But remember he doesn't know what's going to happen, he lives in the now.
So if the now is usually pain then... ya
/tries not to bawl/
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