Putting a dog to sleep - now or later?
January 12, 2017 2:12 PM   Subscribe

One of my dogs is heading towards needing to be put to sleep if he's not already there - I'm having trouble sorting my feelings and if I'm putting him to sleep for the right reasons.

I have two dogs, the one is question (puggle breed) was a foster fail and while we think he is prob. about 8, we really don't know. When he came to us, he was severely overweight to the point that he weighed more then my 65 lb pit mix. He went on a strict diet and lost the weight over about two years but the damage was already done, he tore an ACL which had to be repaired and the vet said that most likely there was some heart and lung damage due to the morbid obesity. Fast forward 2 years (so we've had him for 4 years total) and he suddenly goes blind which the vet believes is related to a tumor on his optic nerve. Within 6 months, he's now blind, has arthritis, most likely deaf in his one ear and has the appearance of beginning dementia. He constantly trips over things, runs into walls, smacks his head on tables, gets stuck in between chairs, falls down the stairs, no longer plays and gets lost in the back yard. His life pretty much consists of just sleeping, eating and shitting these days but he seems content.

My problem is coming from that to me, his quality of life is poor but at the same time, he really isn't in any pain that can't be controlled by pain meds and he seems content enough to sleep away his days. I'm feeling guilty about possibly putting him down because at the same time, I don't think it's fair to my second dog to limit her life because we use to be big into hiking, camping, canoeing, things like that. All these things are now out or at least the puggle needs to be excluded which means paying for a sitter. We also can no longer take him to our border due to the special needs so our life is limited as well. In addition, our pit mix has started acting more aggressively towards him since going blind which we're not sure if it's a reaction to us treating him differently or because she can sense that he's weaker now. I've had to break up 2 fights in the past 3 months where they previously had 2 fights total prior to him going blind (both were when we first got him and we most likely introduced them wrong - one was related to food, another was her being protective of my wife). Before he went blind, I would like to think he had a really good life - plenty of plush toys, a few bones/antlers, daily walks, weekend trips but now? He won't walk unless my wife is with me and constantly talking to him, doesn't play, doesn't do anything but sleep, and eat.

My question - am I wrong for wanting to put him down even though his life isn't total shit right now? By that, again, I mean he seems content but like "I'm resigned to my fate" content and not the "I'm old, sitting by a fireplace, and looking back at a good life" content. I'm not willing to put him up for adoption as it would be much too stressful (for him) to rehome and the rescue I would go through would have him living with us anyway.

How did you decide when it was time to put your pet down?
posted by lpcxa0 to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I know it would be stressful for him to adopt him out, but please consider it before putting him down! Him sleeping and needing little maintenance would be perfect for a family who was less inclined to outdoor activity and just wanted a cuddle bug.
posted by corb at 2:24 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I say put him to sleep. Dogs don't count their days, and in my opinion it is a benign use of your power as a human to give him a gentle death now. He has not got quality of life any more- it might not be as bad as it could possibly be, but there is no good reason at all to hang on until it IS that bad. He won't thank you for the extra days which will just lead to suffering and pain. Wanting a better life for your other dog is a very valid reason, too.

And thank you for not trying to dump him off on a rescue. It speaks well of your commitment to the responsibilty of pet ownership that you are facing this difficult decision down yourself, instead of pushing it away and letting someone else decide. Rehoming a dog with dementia would not be kind. He needs stabilty and comfort and the people he loves.
posted by mymbleth at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2017 [33 favorites]

It may be worth approaching your rescue organization to see how they might be able to handle this. A friend of mine provides hospice for dogs just like this. They have anywhere from days to months with her, being spoiled rotten, living a quiet, cozy life and getting the occasional hamburger to keep their strength up. Your organization might have a similar wonderful person in their network.
posted by goggie at 2:28 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to quick chime in, the rescue is completely out - he's with us for the rest of his life either way. I adopted him, he's my responsibility and it's on me to provide the best home for him along with the best quality of life.
posted by lpcxa0 at 2:34 PM on January 12, 2017 [25 favorites]

I just randomly stumbled on to the post. It makes me sad to read the OP.

Even though I don't have the pet I want to advise you one thing.

Just as long as the dog recognizes you and feels loved, it is the reason not to put him to sleep.

I'd say give it another few months. If he is in real pain along with all other symptoms, then do it.

I wish you all the best!
posted by samcivic at 2:40 PM on January 12, 2017

Seconding everything Mymbleth said.

Countless happy, healthy, engaged-in-life dogs who need a home will be put down today. Think of this as making room for one of them to survive.
posted by she's not there at 2:41 PM on January 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

In addition, our pit mix has started acting more aggressively towards him since going blind which we're not sure if it's a reaction to us treating him differently or because she can sense that he's weaker now. I've had to break up 2 fights in the past 3 months where they previously had 2 fights total prior to him going blind.

If you need a specific reason to put your dog to sleep, I think this qualifies. But more generally, I'd say that your full description of the situation is evidence that your actions here are motivated by your love and concern for your dog, which I think makes you uniquely qualified to make the decision about the end of his life.

I don't think you'd be wrong to put the dog down now, and I don't think you'd be wrong if you decided now wasn't the time. I do think it you do what's in your heart, that will be the right thing.
posted by layceepee at 2:50 PM on January 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Just to quick chime in, the rescue is completely out - he's with us for the rest of his life either way. I adopted him, he's my responsibility and it's on me to provide the best home for him along with the best quality of life.

I urge you to think deeply about this particular statement in terms of what's best for the dog, not what's best for you.
posted by mochapickle at 2:57 PM on January 12, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Hi. We foster for a rescue. We have two dogs with terminal conditions. Neither is approaching end of life, but we have made the decision to put down previous dogs and will make that decision for these girls too in due course.

So this is a dog who is blind, partially deaf, disoriented, and is at risk because your other dog is trying to cut her from the pack. I would vote for making sure the dog has a great week filled with love and great food and a lot of time spent in the arms of loving people and then end it. Your dog does not value time the way we do, and isn't valuing what you're trying to buy by putting this off.

This seems, to me, to genuinely be the most merciful option.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:03 PM on January 12, 2017 [47 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear this. Dog end-of-life is hard. No, you're not wrong, not wrong at all. You're being thoughtful and compassionate. Just make sure you're there for them right at the end. Good luck.
posted by carter at 3:06 PM on January 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: For what it's worth, I've had to put down several dogs in the past, and the only ones I regret are the times I think I waited too long. Sometimes, they deteriorate slowly enough that they and you just sort of get used to it. I think it was selfish of me to keep a couple of them hanging on too long despite their discomfort and declining quality of life.

You don't sound selfish at all to me. You sound like a conscientious, caring person, and a great advocate for your dog. So if you're considering it at this point, it's probably time.

Maybe board your other dog for a day and devote a day to indulging him in the things he likes. Give him a whole cheeseburger, an ice cream cone, or something you know he'll love that he can't normally have, and let him enjoy that while he still can instead of waiting until he doesn't have the capacity anymore. Then hold him close and be there with him until the very end. Euthanasia is a gift. We take on a lot of pain to provide them with a peaceful and painless end.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:23 PM on January 12, 2017 [32 favorites]

Best answer: I'll give my view. I'm a veterinarian. I understand the need for euthanasia, and I also fight the good fight for my pets. My oldest dog was 15, had neurological issues, and was mostly blind. He had fought his way out of pneumonia twice and extremely resistant bladder infections numerous times in the past few years. I had to carry him outside but he could still walk, just needed assistance. People were always saying I should put him down, he looks awful. Neuro issues make anyone look hideous. But I could tell he was still happy.

I kept a watchful eye. When he was having trouble getting comfortable (this was in October), I decided that he should have his Best Last Day. I spent the whole day with him. He had a bath, he ate, we had hamburgers, talked about stuff...right before a friend came over to help me, I even gave him a chocolate cookie. Because everyone should get to have chocolate, if only once in their lives. He had a great day. And it all went smoothly. And I found that, while it makes me sad, I am glad I didn't wait until he crashed. I find it easier to deal with a peaceful departure rather than a traumatic one that happens suddenly, unexpectedly. And I know he appreciated his Best Last Day. I told him that I'd see him later, and to be good.

Step back and look at your dog, and I think you will know (most people do) if he's ready for his Best Last Day. It's one of the best gifts you can give him.
posted by bolognius maximus at 4:04 PM on January 12, 2017 [70 favorites]

He's very close to the end now. I believe the quality of life applies to everyone involved in a pet's death. He's affecting your quality of life, he's affecting your other dog, and his quality of life isn't so great that he is enjoying his life. He's disoriented--which has to be frightening, he's blind and partially deaf--which has to be limiting, and most, is scary to a dog, and he's loosing his ability to get along with your other dog--which has to be contributing to his fear and makes him feel an outcast. All this leads to a depressing outlook on life. As DarlingBri said and I agree, that for all of you considered, this appears to genuinely be the most merciful option. As blolgnius maximus said, it's not a good thing when they are hurt or they become terminal and they crash. I agree that It's one of the best gifts you can give him.

Often posters on MeFi and other people not involved in the house don't know the dynamics of how your day goes. They have one sole idea in their heads, that any pet MUST be kept alive, assuming it is eating, sleeping, and eliminating adequately. Only you can judge the quality of life for YOUR dog at this point. Perhaps it is fair to tell you that you owe certain considerations to your old pet, however you also owe considerations to your other dog. He needs to be in a home with attention paid to his needs--the play and walks he loves, where he feels safe and has plenty of your affection and attention. You sound like you gave your old buddy a good life. Let him go gentle into his death, rather than suffering. (One, or both of you, please be there.) Giving him to anyone else at this point isn't being kind, and anyone that suggests that he would be better off in another home is just plain wrong about how animals work.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:05 PM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

I am of the opinion that animals are often put down too early, and often for the sake of convenience (not saying this is the situation here). I choose to let the animal approach death on its own terms. Please read the excerpt from Heart of the Dog, a film by Laurie Anderson.
posted by falsedmitri at 5:38 PM on January 12, 2017

I tend to fall with bolognius maximus on this issue. Dogs can put up with a LOT and still be happy. They are incredible teachers that way. My metric is how much pain they are in, not if they have all their limbs/sight/etc. They get by on far less in terms of sensory ability, and can still be blissful cuddle buds for it.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:46 PM on January 12, 2017

Do not put him to sleep. He is still alive and it is a gift for him, his life. You do not have the right to end his life (put him to sleep is a strange statement because he is not going to go to sleep, he is going to be killed) because having him is inconvenient right now (I understand that there are reasons of health of course but he is alive and not in pain). There may be other options which are kinder and may require adjustments but I hope he is worth it to you, to make those adjustments.
posted by metajim at 6:14 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

You know your puggle best. Unfortunately, we internet strangers cannot know enough of the context to give you sound advice in this matter. I would encourage you to consult your vet. I'm sorry you and your puggle and your family are going through this.
posted by sockermom at 7:36 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

As a pressure-release for right now when you're in this emotional limbo, think about ways to allow your family to go on more adventures with your pittie.

Do you have a neighbor or family friend who would be happy to house and puggle-sit? Since he's not large, extracting him from whatever trouble he gets stuck into isn't something one would have to be very strong to do. Maybe someone who was involved with the group you were fostering for who can't do the high energy stuff anymore but is available for puggle-watch, or an older teen or early twenty-something living with their parents who would relish an empty house to relax in? Take stock of everyone you know and ask around - many people are willing to help out a dog in need, and with the ease of communication these days you can check in quite often on a day trip to settle any worries.

Or, could your puggle be brought with you on trips if he was comfy? I'm thinking some kind of sweet dog stroller or backpack situation. A little wagon with removable/washable plush lining, or fitting out the back of an SUV with a little puggle habitat. Could you bring someone who doesn't want to hike/canoe/whatever but who does want to hang out in nature to stay back at "base" with your puggle and have a picnic and read a book while you and your pittie run around like crazy? If you're in the Seattle area, I volunteer for this arduous job.

If your pittie gets the stimulation he needs and your family gets the adventure and nature they need, you can more easily judge the situation for your puggle and make the choice that's right for you and your family.
posted by Mizu at 8:22 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you say that you're breaking up fights between the dog, what does that mean? Are they snapping at each other, or is the younger dog seriously threatening the older one? I mean, the younger dog is fighting with a dog who is blind and partially deaf. I think that's disturbing behavior for one, and what happens when these fights occur without you around? If the older dog is under serious threat from the younger one, I would certainly factor that in to my decision.
posted by cnc at 9:23 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

My dog suffered a slow decline. I knew the end was coming, but I didn’t think it was *yet*. Then, one day, things went south fast. I regret not putting him to sleep before that day came. I hate that his last day was full of fear and suffering. And the sliver of quality of life he had for his last six months or so does not balance out that day in my mind.

To me, it sounds like that is where your dog is.
posted by Kriesa at 7:05 AM on January 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

one day, things went south fast. I regret not putting him to sleep before that day came. I hate that his last day was full of fear and suffering. And the sliver of quality of life he had for his last six months or so does not balance out that day in my mind.

This was exactly my situation, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:43 AM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

An acquaintance had a pretty good metric for the many cats she sheltered - she looked for whether they still had appetite, activity, and affection. As long as they still had two, she'd continue to support them.
posted by Candleman at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

If he has a tumor pressing on his optic nerve he likely is in pain. And that tumor is likelly going to start affecting more of his function sooner than later. Dogs are very stoic and the fact that he isn't enjoying sniffing around or any activity is worrisome.

Putting a dog to sleep is not a violation of its rights, I understand some people believe that but it is a very fringe belief. Very very few people put animals to sleep for convenience, I'd argue that many keep them alive to the point it's basically torture. Humane euthanasia is something I want for myself when it comes to it.
posted by fshgrl at 9:36 AM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I put my beloved 18-year-old cat to sleep EXACTLY 24 hours ago. There is a huge hole in my heart. I scheduled it a week ago, because I could see the end coming and this Friday was payday and I could afford to have a vet come to the house. I wanted to spare him (and me!) a middle-of-the-night taxi ride to a strange scary place that smelled of other animals. I did not want his sister to think I just took him away.

When she came, the vet also found a large growth in his abdomen. (I had called her because although he still enjoyed eating, his kidneys were failing in spite of daily sub-q fluids, he could barely walk, and his hair was falling out.) Things would have gone down quickly, and they would have gone down in pain and in terror for both of us.

MY HEART IS BREAKING. And yet for one minute I do not regret giving him that last hardest gift, the day that I did. I also did it on a Friday, so I have 3 days to blubber my head off before I have to be back in the office.

It is so, so much worse to be a day too late than a day too soon.
posted by cyndigo at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

One more thing: he had a beautiful day, with catnip and cream and a naps in the sun. It was a good day. His passage was dignified and painless and peaceful, which is more than most of us get. If you can at all manage it, in-home euthanasia is definitely the way to go. And because I am crying and forgot to say it in the first message ... I am very sorry for your loss.
posted by cyndigo at 1:18 PM on January 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

You are a good person doing good things. The next good thing you should do is give your friend a quiet, peaceful, loving death.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2017

Response by poster: In case anyone is reading this, we decided after taking into consideration the multiple replies (especially bolognius maximus') that he still had some life left in him. It might be days, weeks, months or even years but he isn't ready for his "last best day" yet or maybe I'm just not ready to give it to him while peanut butter and pain pills still allow him to wag his tail and be fairly pain free. I admittedly do need to scoop some more poop from the porch but it's a small price to pay to listen to him snore at night.
posted by lpcxa0 at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I wanted to post an update - I put my dog down on 4/10/17. He had a good life, and his last day was filled with a peanut butter kong combined with turkey breast and chicken broth. For dinner, he had 2 McDonald plain cheeseburgers and a half of a McChicken. He got a freshly washed blanket to sleep in and even slept on the bed when he woke at midnight. I was lucky, I don't regret when I put him down as it was a kindness - I think someone mentioned it up above that "we take the pain so they can have a painless death" and that's the absolute truth. I haven't cried as much in years as to the time we put him down. I stayed with him until the very end, please know I loved him.

I write this both as a final comfort to myself and to honor his memory. I made the decision, because he tore his other hind leg ACL and I wasn't willing to put him through the surgery again. It wasn't a cost item although admittedly I'm not torn on that aspect, but rather, it was hell for him the first time around. At the time, I was feeding him triple the dose of RXed pain pills to even make him comfortable but it turned him into a zombie which is understandable. That wasn't a life to lead, not with his puggle snout that would take off in a million directions at once.

His name was Tater, he loved to smell flowers, he was protective of the fence, he chased whatever scent caught his nose and he was an absolute chow-hound along with being constantly, frustratingly loveable . The only regret I have was naming him Tater as "Hoover" would have suited his kitchen floor cleaning abilities better. But I named him Tater as when I first got him, he looked like an overweight potato with legs. Given all that, he was loved and he was a dearest friend to me. I miss him, hug your pets and know this life is temporary and I hope in the next, we have fields of green that they can run in.

If it matters, life goes on - it never happened before but 2 weeks after his death, I have a super calm duck nesting in a tree outside my house. I wrapped it in chicken wire to protect them and the duck just stared at me. I think that's Tater's way of saying life goes on and "Dust to Dust".
posted by lpcxa0 at 5:36 PM on April 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

Thank you for writing and sharing this beautiful tribute to your puggle. I am so sorry for your loss.
posted by sockermom at 7:16 PM on April 20, 2017

« Older Here's my plan: buy land, build cheap. How do I...   |   Can I connect wireless headphones to this receiver... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.