It's a heart-breaking thought, but putting a dog to sleep (euthanasia) is something every dog owner may have to consider in their dog’s later years, or before if their dog becomes seriously ill enough to lose his quality of life..
Unless he has been in a serious accident, you will probably have time to examine your options, talk to family and friends and consult your vet first. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but should be based on what's right for your dog. If he is in a lot of pain or can’t enjoy life anymore, sometimes putting him to sleep is the kindest, most selfless decision, no matter how hard you want to hold on to him.
However hard the decision is for you, it will be equally hard for other members of your family, and especially for any children. Sitting down to discuss the decision with them, and being honest about what it means, can be for the best in the long run. You will all be affected by the outcome, and it can help children come to terms with what’s happened later if they understand the reasons for it.
Euthanasia is usually quick and, most importantly, considered painless. If your dog is distressed or upset, he may be given a mild sedative first to relax him. Then your vet will administer a measured overdose of a drug similar to an anaesthetic, and your dog will slip into a deep and permanent ‘sleep’. The drug is usually given through a vein in the front leg, and your vet may put a ‘line’ or catheter into the vein first.
Depending on circumstances your vet may be able to come to your house and perform the procedure there.. A veterinary nurse will usually come with the vet to assist, but you can usually stroke or cuddle your dog throughout.
When it’s over, you may chose to bury your dog in your garden yourself, find a nearby pet cemetery, or you can have the vet take his remains away and ask for his ashes to be returned. Some people like to scatter the ashes in a favourite place, or keep them in a special container. Tell your vet what you would prefer.
There’s no need to feel foolish or embarrassed about grieving. You have just lost a valued member of your family, and although some non-pet-owners may not understand the strength of the bond you shared with your dog, your sense of loss is real and can be very strong.
If you feel you need to, take some time off work, especially if you have children who would be comforted by your presence. Grieving is a normal, healthy reaction to the loss of a family member and is the start of the healing process. And never forget, however tempting it may be to regret it, that putting your dog to sleep was the final kindness you could show him. You allowed him to pass away with dignity.
Lastly, it’s important to remember your dog for all the amazing times you had together. The sense of loss may be overwhelming at first, as it should be when a best friend leaves, but in the years to come you will look back with warm tenderness on the wonderful memories you made together and the loving bond you shared. As any dog owner can tell you, there is no other bond like it in the world.
For more help and advice on coping with your loss, see Saying Goodbye