Putting Your Dog Down: Is It The Right Time?

Many pet owners struggle with the thought of having to put their dog down. How do you know when it’s the right time?

The right time to put a dog down is when their quality of life has degraded so much that you personally wouldn’t want to be their shoes, so to speak, and live their current life.

Deciding to put your dog down is an extremely difficult decision that only you can make. Below, you will find a list of 8 questions to determine your dog’s current quality of life.

Take a deep breath. And go through each question slowly and thoughtfully.

Can Your Dog Walk?

One of the biggest factors when considering putting a dog down is if they can stand or walk on their own.

A dog not having the ability to walk is not a death sentence. There are many dogs with disabilities who do just fine running around in a wheelchair. In fact, I had gotten my own dog a wheelchair in her older years and she absolutely loved it. It supported her hind legs and as a result, she became much more active.

Here’s a photo of her.

However, the quality of life question comes into effect when a dog is no longer able to walk because they are in excruciating pain, or because they have no energy.

Sometimes pain medicine can make a big difference in a dog’s mobility. Especially dogs who are suffering from arthritis or other old-age related symptoms.

Dogs need their daily dose of physical activity to be healthy and mentally well. And a dog that is bed-bound all day, or that has to be carried everywhere, even when having to go to the bathroom, is not a life I would personally want as a dog.

If you are in this situation, I feel for you. The question you have to ask yourself is if you think things can get better. Consult with your veterinarian to get their professional advice.

Is Your Dog In Pain?

Dogs aren’t like humans. They can’t tell you if they’re in pain or if they’re feeling discomfort. Most dogs hide their pain as a primal survival instinct.

If your dog is showing signs of pain or discomfort, you can bet that they’re feeling it way worse than what they’re showing.

Signs of pain can be anything like whining, crying and the unwillingness to move.

Pain medication can help manage these symptoms, however they do not solve the underlying issues. For example, a dog with arthritis can have a better life with pain medicine. But if it gets to the point where they’re in excruciating pain for simply going for a walk around the block, then it’s time to talk to a veterinarian.

They can often prescribe a higher dose of the pain medication, but there’s a limit. Many of these pain medications are hard on the dog’s organs, such as their liver.

And if the pain is too severe, and the pain medications don’t help or unable to help. It may, unfortunately, be time to think about your dog’s quality of life.

Does Your Dog Have A Medical Condition?

One of the hardest things to deal with as a dog owner is getting your dog diagnosed with a disease or cancer.

Sometimes a disease can be treated and managed and the dog can live a normal life for many years thereafter. However, in some cases, treatment requires thousands of dollars which the dog owner does not have.

This puts the dog owner in a terrible position. There’s a treatment possible that may or may not be successful with their dog. But on the other hand, it’s such a large expense. It’s not unheard of for some surgical procedures to cost several thousand dollars.

If you’re faced with this situation, what can you do? If it can be avoided, the last thing you want to do is get into debt over your dog’s medical bills. You could start a GoFundMe campaign which is very popular amongst pet owners needing financial help.

You also have to weigh in the age of your dog compared to their breed’s life expectancy. For example, it may not be a wise idea to spend $7,000 for a treatment on a ten year old dog who’s breed has a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years.

Not to mention that there’s often a recovery stage after these treatments, and there could be unforeseen medical costs such as costly medication or in-home care.

There’s really no simple answer.

It’s something that you will have to consul with your veterinarian and family members. Discuss what the best scenario outcomes could be, as well as the worse case scenario outcomes. If you carefully weigh in both options, you should be able to make an informed, rational decision.

Is Your Dog Having a Hard Time Breathing?

First of all – if your dog is having severe difficulties breathing, such as shallow breathes, not moving or not responding to you, then you should seek medical help immediately. Do not wait.

It could be a sign that there’s something seriously wrong and taking your dog to the veterinarian or to the emergency clinic now could possibly save their life.

On the other hand, if your dog is battling an occasional bout of coughing or sneezing. Then it could simply be allergies. If the symptoms remains after a few days or weeks, be sure to contact your veterinarian for additional testing.

My dog Chase had developed coughing issues after a battle with pancreatitis which cost me $6,000 at the emergency clinic. Her cough slowly worsen over the years, to the point where she could no longer run around like she used to.

Here’s a photo of her.

I did my best to get her healthy. I took her to several veterinarians and tried many different diets. At one point, she was eating home cooked rice and chicken breasts every night. (She was eating better than I was!)

I tried everything, but nothing helped. The only option left was to get he lungs scoped at a local University. This would have cost several thousands dollars.

I couldn’t afford it, and there was no guarantee it was going to show anything was wrong. So, I just ended up managing her symptoms instead. We played for short amounts of time and went for slow walks instead of playing fetch at the park.

Life was different. But I managed her symptoms for 8 more years.

If your dog has lungs or coughing issues, I feel for you. It’s tough feeling like there’s nothing you can do to get your dog healthy again.

Can Your Dog Go To The Bathroom?

One of the biggest telltale signs that you should consider putting your dog down is when your dog loses control of their bladder or if they are in pain when eliminating or can’t stand up afterwards.

By all means, I’m not saying you should put your dog to sleep if your dog is having accidents around the house. Those could be caused by a variety of issues, like a bladder infection or could be solved with training.

However, when an older dog has trouble eliminating, their quality of life decreases dramatically.

To this day – I remember my beautiful dog Onyx trying to poop outside in the snow. She was 15 at the time, and her hind legs were so weak and painful that she would yipe when pooping.

Then, she would get stuck in the snow.

Seeing that broke my heart and hurt my soul.

Luckily, my veterinarian recommended a pain medication that helped her greatly. She rebounded and was a fresh new dog. But I knew that this was only temporary and that it was only a matter of time before I would have to make the decision of putting her to sleep.

She made it for 6 more months.

A telltale sign is to look if your dog is eliminating on their bed or in their sleeping area. A dog laying in their own urine or feces all day isn’t a good sign. Definitely get your dog checked out by your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

If your dog is having mobility issues and you need to carry them outside to eliminate. It’s still somewhat manageable.

However, you have to consider their quality of life in other areas of their life. If they can’t walk to go to eliminate outside, then they most likely can’t enjoy going for a daily neighbourhood walk.

In that instance, it becomes a quality of life issue. Would you want that life?

Is Your Dog Eating & Drinking?

One of the BIGGEST tell-tale signs there’s something wrong with your dog is if they stop eating or drinking.

It’s totally possible that your dog is simply feeling unwell, and that he or she will get better in a day or two. However, if your dog is not interested in food or treats that they normally love, then it’s a sign that something is wrong.

You should book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

It could also be that time. As painful as it is to accept, every dog will at some point pass away. It is as nature intended. Dogs tend to stop eating and drinking, and retreats to be by themselves when that time comes.

It happens very fast. Your dog could have lots of energy and then three days after, they pass away.

Sadly, there’s literally nothing we can do other than to celebrate their life and how much they’ve given us throughout their lives.

Do You Worry About Your Dog?

Caring for an older dog can be very emotionally demanding. As pet owners, our dogs are like our kids, and when they get old, it’s very hard to provide for their needs.

The question is, are you able to cope emotionally?

If you’re always on the edge of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or worried about your dog’s health. Or if your dog’s medical bills are piling up so high that it’s creating huge amounts of stress in your life.

Then you may need to have a serious discussion with your family about sharing the responsibilities so they don’t all end up on your shoulders. You should also explore and discuss the possibility of seeking other caring accommodations.

Your well-being is important.

However, if it comes to the point where taking care of your dog is too big of a burden to bare, it may be that time. Always consult with your veterinarian and seek their professional advice.

Is Your Pet Social?

Lastly, if your dog spends a lot of time alone, by themselves and away from the family. It could be an indication that something is wrong or that they are in pain.

Dogs are social animals and they need social interactions with us and other dogs to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilled.

When a dog gets older, they tend to keep to themselves more than when they were younger.

However, if your dog doesn’t come and greet you when you get home from work, or if your dog has no desire to meet a stranger that just walked through your front door, then it may indicate that your dog is in pain or living with discomfort.

Related Questions

Why do I feel guilty about putting my dog down, even though I know it’s the right thing to do? That is normal. Our minds like to protect us from pain, and losing your dog is going to be one of the hardest things you’ll have to go through. Second guessing your decision, or thinking about what else you could have done doesn’t help. Instead, it’s best to focus on the reasons you’ve reached this decision and how your dog will now be free of pain.

How long will it take before I feel better after losing my dog? It depends. You will have to go through a grieving period. It will be difficult and many tears will be shed. It may take you a few days, a week, a month or a year. You will always feel the loss when you think back about your dog, but it does get better with time. It is as they say, time heals all wounds.

Try to avoid dwelling on the “what if’s” scenarios surrounding your dog’s passing. It’s much better to think about the good times you shared with your dog. Think about the happy memories, and how they are now free from pain.

Is there anything I can do to feel better now? One of the biggest things that helped me was putting my dog’s belongings in a box and putting the box away. I did this because everything reminded me of my dog. Her leash. Her food bowl. Her dog bed. And it was amplifying my emotions to the point where I would get tear-eyed no matter where I went in the house.


In the end, only you and you alone can make this decision. It’s a burden that every pet owner has to bear.

Wise words were once spoken to me by my veterinarian when it was time to put my dog Chase to sleep. He said…

“You will know when it’s time. Listen to your yourself. What is your gut feeling telling you? Ask yourself, would you want your dog’s life going forward? If the answer is no, then it’s probably time to put your dog down.”

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