We all worry about losing our canine friends. Some dogs will age without any serious problems, while others can suffer from debilitating or terminal diseases that affect their quality of life. We will eventually have to face the heartbreaking reality that our beloved companion may be nearing their end.
One of the most common questions pet owners ask is if the time is the right is it too early? Some pet owners wonder whether they should let their pets die at home “naturally”, without any medical assistance. Pet owners hope that this scenario plays out in a peaceful manner, and their dogs will pass away quietly while they sleep.
Natural death, on the other hand, can be a painful experience for dogs. They may suffer from nausea and anguish while their body begins to shut down. It is because of this that veterinarians offer a painless and humane method to put an end to a pet’s suffering.
What are the signs that a dog is dying?
Many clinical signs can indicate that a dog is on the decline toward death. These signs may also indicate other, non-terminal, health problems. Therefore, it is important to take your dog to their veterinarian if they show any changes in health.
Three months before death, changes may occur. Changes can occur in either the physical or behavioral aspects of a person’s life.
- Changes in mental/behavioral behavior– This could include depression, confusion, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, increased clinginess, isolation, becoming detached from humans or animals, loss of interest or enjoyment for social interactions, toys, or activities; or aggressiveness (usually caused by chronic or persistent discomfort, but can also result from a tumor).
- Circulatory shutdown — Heart failure in dogs can cause a cough, due to the changes in their size and anemia.
- Changes to breathing patterns — A dog may pant even when at rest or develop a sneeze. It can also be caused by heart failure or respiratory diseases that cause a shift in the acid-base balance. Cancer, diabetes or kidney or adrenal gland problems are other metabolic disorders.
- A change in thirst or appetite — The dog’s body organs will begin to shut off, causing a gradual decline in water and food intake. Dogs with kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal diseases may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Lethargy or pain can cause loss of mobility.
- This can occur due to both not eating and significant muscle atrophy caused by neoplasia, or another disease.
- Incontinence — Dogs who are unable to get up from bed to go out may suffer musculoskeletal or neurological damage to their anal and urethral sphincters.
How to Assess Your Dog’s Life Quality
These questions will help you determine the quality of your dog’s life if you are looking for signs it is time to discuss euthanasia.
- Does your dog drink and eat? Can you help them eat and drink comfortably if they are unable to do so on their own?
- Can they enjoy the same social interaction and activities with you as well as other animals in your household?
- Does your dog feel comfortable in its home? Can it move around to urinate and/or poop without pain, or can they rest comfortably at night?
- Do they have more bad days than good?
It’s time to think about end-of-life care for your pet if you answered no to any of these questions. Palliative care or hospice, euthanasia at home or clinic, and discussion on how to memorialize your pet after death are all options.
The Quality of Life Scale
You can use the Quality of Life Scale created by Dr. Alice Villalobos, which is similar to the above questions to evaluate a dog’s physical and mental health. Scale parameters include:
- There are more good days than bad
The “H” or “M” are rated from 1 to 10. A total score of 35 points or more indicates that the dog has a good quality of life, and palliative options are beneficial. Below 35 indicates a dog’s unacceptable quality of living and may require hospice care or euthanasia sooner than later.
How do you “naturally” kill a dog?
A natural death does not mean a peaceful death. It can be stressful to witness the stages of death. Euthanasia can be used as a humane and painless way to end a pet’s life.
If you don’t do this, your pet will continue to have breathing problems. Dogs may even develop “death rumbling” when mucus accumulates in their throat. They will feel their body temperature drop and may even experience a cooling sensation on the extremities.
Pet parents need to have disposable bedding and pads for dogs that are in the dying stage. This will ensure proper comfort and hygiene. It is common for dogs to show little interest in drinking or eating during this period.
When a dog stops breathing and its heart ceases to beat, it has reached the final stage of death. Pet parents know that their dogs have died when the breathing and heartbeat stop for at least 30 minutes following a natural demise.
There may be some muscle twitching after death. You might also notice a deep breath and the loss of control over your bladder or bowels as muscles relax. It can be a very disturbing thing to see, as you might think your dog is still breathing.
Euthanasia: How does it help dying dogs?
Euthanasia is a less painful and stressful alternative to natural death. It also offers a more stress-free and fearless experience for pet owners and their pets.
To ensure the injections are delivered smoothly, veterinary technicians will insert an IV catheter in your dog’s vein. The catheter may cause some discomfort to your dog.
The veterinarian injects sedatives to help your dog relax, and then allow him to fall into semiconsciousness. The final euthanasia shot is then administered, usually within two minutes. Before their entire body is relaxed, your dog might do a complete stretch of the whole body and breathe deeply. They will see their pupils dilate and stop breathing.
A veterinarian can confirm that the animal is dead by listening to a heartbeat and feeling for pulse. They will also listen for sounds of breathing. The veterinarian may gently tap the eye surface to ensure there’s no blinking reflex.
If you think your dog is dying, what should you do?
Take this information to the vet so they can discuss options. Your vet may tell you that they can put your dog in palliative or hospice care or suggest that you euthanize as soon as it is possible.
Euthanasia vs. Palliative care
Palliative treatment aims to reduce pain and improve comfort in the dying stages of life. Palliative medicine is an excellent alternative to aggressive treatments, but it’s not always a viable option. It is up to you whether palliative care makes sense and ask yourself these questions.
- Do you have to administer multiple medications, with complicated schedules or frequently changing dosages? It is common for diseases such as diabetes, Cushing, Addison’s, Addison’s, and heart failure.
- Does your dog need mobility assistance beyond your abilities? A 90-pound elderly person may not be able to take a large pet outside to potty several times per day.
- Is it dangerous to try palliative care at home if your dog has a temperamental nature?
- Do you have any personal, religious, or cultural beliefs that conflict with the plan?
When palliative measures and medications are not able to provide a dog with a quality of life that is acceptable, you should be willing to consider humane euthanasia. It can be scary, and some pet owners struggle to make the decision. However, there is no better option than humane euthanasia for dying animals.
As their bodies fail, dogs enter the last stages of life. This can lead to vomiting and seizures, as well as severe nausea. Joint disease and neoplasia, which can cause intractable pain, may also prevent the dog from being able to rest comfortably. It will be difficult to get the dog up, to eat or drink or to go to the toilet. Both respiratory and cardiac problems can be very stressful for dogs who are struggling to breathe.
This appointment can be scheduled in the clinic or at home. The appointment can be in a clinic or even at your home. However, it is important to make a decision quickly.
What to do when your dog is dying?
In the final hours of your pet’s life, you should make them as comfortable as possible.
If incontinence becomes a problem, keep clean and supportive bedding (cushioned, orthopedic, or cushioned) available. Also, have a disposable potty pad on hand to prevent soiling of the bedding. You may find that some dogs tolerate diapers. However, you should change them frequently to prevent skin irritation and infection.
Keep a blanket, toy, or item of clothing that you know your dog loves nearby so they can be comforted if you need to leave for some time. You can give your dog the comfort and emotional support they need by spending as much time with them as you possibly can.
To keep anxiety and pain to a minimum, continue to administer all medications prescribed if you dog tolerates them. If you give medications to dogs who aren’t eating properly, they may feel nauseated. Talk to your vet about how you can adjust any medication so that it provides maximum relief. If your dog is restless, they may benefit from a mild sedative to put them to sleep.
You may be conflicted when your pet’s last moments approach. It will be a great comfort to them to have their family with them, no matter how difficult it is.
It is up to each family to decide whether or not to let children and other pets be in the room during a death.
Many experts feel children and pets shouldn’t be involved in the last goodbye. Others believe seeing the companion moments after their death can help to bring closure and understand that the pet is no longer with them.