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When Is the Right Time for Euthanasia?


My sister and her husband have a really old Schnauzer-mix named Beau. He might even be a real Schnauzer. He’s so old, it’s hard to tell! They took in Beau when a friend in distress couldn’t keep him. The friend had gotten Beau as a puppy when her son was 10 years old, and that son is in his late twenties now, so… Beau is old. He has limited vision, limited hearing, has had several strokes and can’t walk a straight line, and is growing increasingly incontinent. On his bad days, it seems almost cruel that he is being kept alive. He may stagger or not be able to get up, he acts like he doesn’t know where he is and is anxious, and he may just suddenly completely empty his bladder on the carpet while standing still, seemingly unaware he is doing so.

But on his good days, he runs up the hall with the rest of his housemates, eats with gusto, goes outside through the dog door and potties without assistance or a reminder to do so, and enjoys his time on the sofa and in bed with his human and canine housemates. So they are very much afraid that if they call the vet to make a euthanasia appointment on one of his bad days, and he’s having a good day on the day of the appointment, the vet may decline to euthanize, or the staff may make them feel like creeps! In fact, they feel sort of pre-emptively guilty about even just talking about “Beau’s time.” My sister and brother-in-law love Beau and want him to have a good end. But when is the right time?

Chaco and Lena

There is Chaco, one of my former foster dogs. She’s younger than Otto, but has two failing knees and severe arthritis, and her owner lacks the health insurance or budget to pay for two knee surgeries. Her declining mobility has contributed, it seems, to weight gain, which compounds her problems.

Another friend is in a similar position with Lena, Otto’s very first playmate and friend. She has had one ACL surgically repaired, and underwent “conservative management” when the second one tore; her veterinarian says her hips, too, are quite dysplastic, and would have benefitted from surgery. Both hips and both knees, too? Her very devoted owner, my friend, could not have possibly paid for four surgeries – nor could she have gotten or afforded insurance after the first knee injury and x-rays showed the hip problems. Lena is maintained on daily pain medication and various joint supplements, and my friend takes her for frequent drives to places where she can take short, gentle walks. My friend has also been shopping for some sort of wagon or cart she could use to take the 70-pound dog on walks, so she at least can enjoy the changing scenery and odors. Lena, like Chaco, is getting fairly crippled, but is in otherwise good health and appetite. How long can my friends maintain them in this condition?

How to know when to let them go

Super dedicated owners can provide hospice care for dogs, if they are physically and emotionally able and have an appropriate home and time to do so. We ran a great article about this in 2010; it holds up well today. But not everyone has a schedule and home that would permit, as just one example, helping a large non-ambulatory dog outside to potty several times a day.

Not unrelated: Between all my dog-loving friends, I am aware of exactly ONE DOG who died peacefully in his sleep.

I just went looking; here are some links for information on how to know when “the time” is right for euthanasia:


When it is getting close to time to make an appointment for euthanasia, we have some other helpful articles to read. This one is by a long-time contributor to WDJ, trainer Lisa Rodier.

Also, trainer Jill Breitner’s article on what to ask before making an appointment for euthanasia and the companion piece to that article by Dr. Sally J. Foote are excellent sources of information about what you should know in advance.

3 responses to “When Is the Right Time for Euthanasia?”

  1. Malissa Adams says:

    I need help to euthanize my sick dog. I cant’t afford it and dont know what to do.

  2. Facing the decision of when it’s the right time to consider euthanasia for a beloved pet is one of the most emotionally challenging experiences a pet owner can go through. During this difficult journey, Codapet has proven to be a compassionate and invaluable resource, offering guidance and support to pet owners in their time of need.

    The Codapet team’s dedication to helping pet owners make the right decision shines through their expertise and empathetic approach. Their understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this deeply personal choice sets them apart. Instead, they provide a thoughtful framework that considers various factors, ensuring that the welfare and comfort of the pet remain at the forefront.

    Codapet encourages pet owners to evaluate their pet’s quality of life, consult with a veterinarian, and closely observe their furry friend’s daily activities. They emphasize the importance of managing pain effectively and provide a safe space for pet owners to explore their feelings and concerns. This comprehensive approach aids in making an informed decision.

    What sets Codapet apart is their unwavering commitment to the pet’s comfort and dignity. They understand that euthanasia is a compassionate option when suffering becomes unbearable. Their guidance ensures that the process is conducted with utmost care and empathy, allowing pets to pass away peacefully and painlessly.

    Furthermore, Codapet recognizes that the journey doesn’t end with the decision. They offer a lifeline of support, resources, and assistance to help pet owners navigate their grief and honor their cherished companion’s memory.

    In summary, Codapet’s expertise on determining the right time for euthanasia is a shining example of compassionate care in the pet industry. Their guidance helps pet owners make a profoundly difficult decision with love and empathy, ensuring their beloved companions receive the respect and care they deserve in their final moments. Codapet truly stands as a beacon of compassion and support for pet owners during this heart-wrenching journey.

  3. This is a deeply thoughtful and informative article on a topic that many pet owners find immensely challenging. Deciding when it’s the right time for euthanasia is a decision that’s filled with love and compassion for our furry family members.

    For those searching for “euthanasia cat near me,” the guidance provided here is invaluable. It reinforces the importance of seeking the support of compassionate veterinarians who can provide in-home euthanasia services, ensuring that our cats can have a peaceful and dignified transition in the comfort of their familiar surroundings.

    The emotional bond we share with our pets is a testament to the love and care we provide them throughout their lives. Knowing that there are professional and caring services available, like in-home euthanasia, offers solace during these difficult moments.

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