General Question

marshallagency's avatar

When to euthanize old dog?

Asked by marshallagency (11points) June 30th, 2012

Our 14 year old dog has been pooping in the house lately. He is a 60lb mixed breed who has been the best dog we have ever had. He could go 12 hours alone at home without ever having an accident in the house, now he will be walking along and pooping, I don’t think he even realizes he is pooping. He is very weak in the back legs and can no longer climb stairs and often has difficulty getting up, and has been on medication for pain for about 4 months. He still has life in his eyes and gets very excited to see all of us when we get home. How do you know when it’s time to euthanize?

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10 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Have you had him to the vet recently? It sounds as if his quality of life is suffering and I would suggest a vet visit ASAP to fully evaluate his condition. It sounds as if he is on the edge and you must do what’s in his best interest. Living with chronic pain and being incontinent is not a happy way to “live.” Best wishes to you.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

This is always a challenging situation. It all comes down to the quality of life that they are now experiencing. It doesn’t sound like your dog is getting any better, even with medication. It sounds like it might be time to put him to sleep, but your vet can give you a better assessment.

My heart goes out to you and your family.

filmfann's avatar

I had to put two dogs down a few years back, and I regretted waiting so long to do it. These were good pets, and my delay caused them to live a long time in misery.
Don’t think about your missing the dog. Think about the dog, and not letting them suffer.

gailcalled's avatar

My sister, who just did this, said that if the dog can eat, sleep, poop and pee ((never mind where) and greets you with pleasure, wait a few more days.

She knew the moment had come when her dog couldn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep for more than a few minutes.

It is heartbreaking, I know.

YARNLADY's avatar

Our vet helped us decide when it was time. If you want to prolong his life, and he’s not in pain, you could consider confining him to one room where you place a tarp for his incontinentence. If he is in pain, sooner is probably better.

laureth's avatar

Oh my gosh, I know exactly what this is like. Mr. Laureth and I had to do this with our old dog Digger last fall, and it about tore our hearts out. Digger started going down that path just the same way it sounds like your pup is, and it’s so hard. My heart goes out to you.

(There’s a bit about it here and here.)

Mr. Laureth decided that the right time would be “when Digger stopped enjoying life,” but it’s hard to know when that is for a dog. Digger’s favorite thing in the world was food, though, so as long as he was excited come feeding time, he appeared to have some joy that we were unwilling to take away prematurely.

Something else to consider, though, is how much energy you, the caretaker, have for the situation. In Digger’s case, we waited patiently through his “accidents” when he finally forgot how to ask to go outside, even carrying him outside and holding him up so he could “go” without toppling over into his own poops. (This failed often, and we washed him off.) At the end, when he couldn’t walk anymore at all, he rested on bedding that was also a diaper, that we washed a few times every day and traded out with clean bedding. We brought the food and water dishes to him and held his head up so he could eat, and finally when he lost interest in kibble, we tried people food. (I know people food is bad for dogs all the time, but we knew Digger was never going to get better from this.)

When Digger finally didn’t lift his head in welcome or for food, we made the appointment at the vet. It was a combination of his complete lethargy, increasing pain, apparent embarrassment at not being able to control his functions, and finally it was just getting very hard to live with a dog like that. (You do all that for a baby, for sure, but you know a baby will eventually grow up – and we knew Digger was only going to get worse.) When we packed Digger up for the last vet trip, he was so limp and gone, that Mr. Laureth realized that out of nostalgia he’d waited far too long to end Digger’s pain and suffering.

I guess, only you can know the time. There will be a time when you know your pup just doesn’t want to be here, that the pain is too much. I remember a bit of advice I heard once, that the last gift we give to our pets is to take that suffering and pain away from them, and instead hold it inside our hearts as we make that decision.

rooeytoo's avatar

If you have a good vet, then ask his advice, but don’t be guilted into trying just one more med or surgical procedure to help secure the vet’s retirement fund at your dog’s expense. I think you are the best judge of when it is time. Here is a poem that I have found helpful. And when the deed is done, find a new dog to love, not to replace the one that is gone but to save a life and enrich your own.

You’re giving me a special gift,
So sorrowfully endowed,
And through these last few cherished days,
Your courage makes me proud.

But really, love is knowing
When your best friend is in pain,
And understanding earthly acts
Will only be in vain.
So looking deep into your eyes,
Beyond, into your soul,
I see in you the magic that will
Once more make me whole.

The strength that you possess,
this why I look to you today,
To do this thing that must be done,
For it’s the only way.
That strength is why I’ve followed you,
And chose you for my friend,
And why I loved you all these years…
My partner ‘til the end.

Please, understand just what this gift, You’re giving , means to me,
It gives me back the strength I’ve lost,
And all my dignity.
You take a stand on my behalf,
For that is what friends do.
And know that what you do is right,
For I believe it too.

So one last time, I breath your scent,
And through your hand I feel,
The courage that’s within you,
To now grant me this appeal.
Cut the leash that holds me here,

Dear friend, and let me run,
Once more a strong and steady dog,
My pain and struggle gone.

And don’t despair my passing,
For I won’t be far away,
Forever here, within your heart,
And memory I will stay.

I’ll be there watching over you,
Your ever faithful friend,
And in your memories I will run,
….. a young dog once again……

Author unknown

Judi's avatar

It depends on how willing you are to continue paying for his care. My vet swears that acupuncture is helpful for this nerological hind leg stuff. My dog (also 14) is bladder incontinent that is controlled with meds. Her hind legs are also giving out. The vet says she doesn’t think Molly is in pain though.
I opted not to do the acupuncture because I wasn’t willing to pay $65 per session. I might change my mind if she was bowel incontinent and it would help.

ccrow's avatar

Oh, I’m sorry…
A lot of it depends on how willing you are to clean up. I had a dog who had seizures and heart failure, and became unable to go all night without eliminating; I confined him to a couple of rooms, and he would use one for sleeping and one for pooping. (I tried using a baby monitor so I could let him out, but he never made any noise!) I just cleaned up every morning. DH said many times that he wouldn’t have done it as long as I ended up doing it. We had another, a GSD, who had issues similar to what you’re describing. He was weak in the hindquarters and had to walk around while eliminating, eventually losing the ability to get around much at all. And, as you say, he sometimes seemed unaware of what was happening back there. He got pressure sores in spite of my efforts, one of which went septic.

There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer… it depends on the dog, the human(s), the illness/infirmity, etc. For me, as long as the dog still seems to be reasonably happy most of the time, I’m willing to go pretty far to manage problems.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

As the human being in the relationship, it is your place to do what is best for your long-time companion. You will mourn no matter when your pet dies. For a pet who long ago learned that pooping in the house is “bad”, being unable to control his bowels makes him fearful of consequences, even though none will really come. Living in chronic pain is terrible as I know from personal experience. Not understanding the pain and increasing muscular weakness must be a source of fear and confusion for your pet.

Ask yourself regularly for whose benefit do you desire to extend your pets life. If it is not for his benefit, then regardless of your feelings, you owe it to him to act in his best interest. I have been through this and it is gut wrenching. The only thing that will ease your pain is knowing that you have returned your pet’s love and dedication will selfless concern for what is best for him.

I truly empathize with your situation and I know you will do what is right and at the right time.

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