questionshow do i decide if now is the time to say goodbye…


Letting nature takes its course can be cruel. Few animals pass quietly in the night. Better to let the vet help him die peacefully. Good luck wit this difficult time.


We had to make a similar choice for our Border Collie recently. It's tough. Even if he's not in pain, when he reaches the point that he's too weak to get around, it's probably time to let him go. I wish I could help, but I received some good advice and a lot of comforting notes from fellow Wooters. We'll be thinking of you.


My heart goes out to you. The situation you are in is so very painful.
I think you know what the right thing to do is; if you are asking the question, it's probably time to let him go. If you can see him worsening every day, I have to think he is in pain, regardless of what the vet says. I'm not saying that I don't trust vets, because I do (trust them), but unless there is an obvious wound, I don't see how they can be certain as to when an animal is or is not in pain. You, his caretaker for all these years, know him, so you know better when he is in pain. Having been in your situation, I know how hard it is. If it helps any, try to focus on what a good life he had. Take good care of yourself.


The choice should be hard to make, that is part of what makes us human is our compassion for others. Perhaps if the time is coming near you should think of how you want to remember him, not how you want to extend the last days of his life.

You may also be able to talk to your vet and ask for them to describe signs you should look for to use in your decision. Our vet came up with some for us and that made the decision less painful.

And if you happen to live far enough outside a city and have some land, you may be able to bury your pet yourself. Generally not technically "legal" but if you live far enough outside of town you may be able to get away with it just from nobody knowing you did it. This also helped bring closure to us.


My heart goes out to you. There was a similar thread about a year ago by commodog here. It's my opinion that when the quality of life is gone it's time. If you decide to put your puppy down, try and find a local vet that will make a house call. There are many advantages to taking this route (see the previous post for my thought on this). Again you have my sympathy.


Having and loving an animal is similar to having a balloon mortgage: we get enormous love and companionship from them for years, but eventually we have to make a decision which just breaks our hearts. Nevertheless, it's our obligation to do what's best for our friends, not what makes us feel better or less bad.

I've been responsible for the decision to put down a half dozen dogs over the last 40 years, and it's been painfully hard each time. The only one I regret, though, is the one I waited way too long to do. I was in a disastrous relationship at the time and let my need for a "safe" entity to hold and hug blind me to the desperate needs of my elderly dog. He was blind, mostly deaf, and (unrecognized by me) had developed canine dementia. I waited an extra month to do the right thing so that I could take him 400 miles "home" afterward and bury him in my own backyard. That was 15 years ago, and I still regret the delay.

Pay attention to your guy's needs, not to your heartache.


As hard as this situation is, trying to guilt us into upvoting is a little messed up. I was with you right until the last two lines. That's the kind of stuff you'd see on a YouTube comment, and really, it almost feels like you yourself are trivializing the situation by giving importance to the votes.


It makes me nearly cry to read this, because (like many) I've been there. As others have said, letting him go before he's completely miserable is the most humane thing to do -- keep him around too long, and you'll feel guilty for having been selfish.

I echo jimmyd103's suggestion to see if your vet will make a house call for administering the final injections. I can't recommend this highly enough -- this lets the poor old guy go without any added stress to him OR to you of having to get him into the car and over to the clinic. Just be sure to have him lie down on the stretcher and/or blanket that will be used to move his body afterward (sorry to bring it down to such a practical level, but this would have saved my own vet's back a bit). And know beforehand what you'll want done, and what the vet can help arrange to have done, with the body: do you want a burial? Cremation and receive the cremains? Just let the vet dispose of it (my choice)?

More condolences; hang in there!


Caution this post is Horrifying:
A couple of my friends from school decided to rent a farm house. They rescued a dog and all was good. A few years past and it was time to but him down, to save time and money they decided to 'do it themselves, dad did it that way' the 3 of them all grabbed the biggest guns they had and got in a semi circle.
In the porch light, on the count of 3 1.2.3. Everything seemed to go good, until they realized the dog was running before it left the small circle of light provided by the porch light, they could see that it was hit, they were panicked. The grabbed flashlights but did not see any sign of the beloved dog. They sat outside after deciding that they would need to wait till morning to retrieve the body...

Seriously this is horrible do not read on.

About an hour later into the light comes the dog, flesh hanging off of his body. Wagging his tail, and wanting to be petted. They finished the job. Swearing to never try that again. Cont.


The story was shared with me, so I would never try such an act.

This story may have been told to me when I mistakenly chose to let my dog live as long as possible and the guilt was crushing, as I knew the last days were close but I waited too long and in the end she was in too much pain to move and died a painful death.

Like they said above you know what to do. I wanted to show you what could happen if you wait too long, or try to take care him yourself.

Be strong for your pet.


@lobstrain: I hadn't even noticed the last 2 lines, until you pointed them out. I hope this is not a scam of some kind. What does one gain by having a lot of upvotes?


@susan11125 I'm giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, and assuming he/she just hopes to derive some comfort from seeing a numeric indicator of other people's commiseration.


@susan11125: I wouldn't call it a scam. I'm sure the story is real and the OP's pain is genuine, but the mention of upvotes leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


First of all, I absolutely know how hard this is. I have had to put down several animals, and two were due to chronic conditions.

I think that you know that it is time. The vet isn't going to tell you to put the animal down unless it is really very far gone: they generally don't do that. When you look into your friend's eyes, I'm sure you see that he has very little happiness in his life. He is just trying to hang on.

Like caffienedude said, now is the time for you to be strong for your friend. Please don't let him suffer: it sounds like he is in heart failure, can't breathe well. That is an awful feeling. He has been there for you in the past, so now it's your turn. There is one last thing that you can do for your beloved friend: give him a quiet, calm, exit on his way to the Bridge, with the feel of a familiar hand on his head and your voice in his ear.


Please forgive the long post. Also, I realize my tone sounds mean, but it's not.

It's impossibly painful to have to make that decision. I have buried 2 cats and lost one in the last 2 years. One was put down, one passed under treatment at the vet, and one ran away.

Truly, at some point you just know. It's hard to let go of your best friend, but at some point you realize that you are being selfish trying to keep him around when he is in pain. You may not be at that point yet, but you will get there.

My advice: try to get as much fun and life into the last days/weeks as possible. Try hard to remember your friend as the vibrant individual he was, not the invalid that he is becoming. At some time you'll just know and it will be about the hardest decision you'll have to make. But at that point, his needs will outweigh yours.


@wilfbrim: Well said my friend. Well said!


With our last dog, we had a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and time to prepare emotionally. We got a couple kinds of drug from the vet to give her, and stepped the dosages up a few times as each increase would perk her up for a while, but then begin to wear off. So we had several chances to see the dramatic difference between how she felt when her system was depressed by the cancer and how much better she could/should/used to feel. If the vet can give you anything to make your old boy feel better, by all means use it.

Finally, we were giving the drugs at a higher level than the vet would ever prescribe for a dog who was expected to survive, and we knew we'd pretty much hit the limit. That's when we scheduled the house-call from the vet -- before the benefits of the last dosage increase completely wore off.


Putting down a cat that I owned for 2 years was difficult enough. I can't even imagine putting down a dog that you've owned for 13 years. I can only hope that you have the strength to do what is best for your dog.


First, this breaks my heart to read. I'm sorry you're forced to make this tough decision.

Second, I think it's one of those things you'll just know. Might sound hokey, but he's your friend, and i'm sure you guys know how to read each other, and dogs just have a way of letting you know when it's time.

Regardless of the outcome, I hope you're able to spend some quality time with Mr. Chester.

Always love your kids and pets like it's their last day.


I was avoiding answering this as I didn't want to cry at work. But my office door is shut so I will forge on. I have had to face this question far too many times over the years. Doing senior adoptions of a short-lived breed makes this an all too frequent experience. That unwanted experience has taught me this: There comes a time in almost every pet's life when you are keeping them alive for you, and not for them. There's a day when you look in their eyes and you can see that they are ready to be done. That's when it's time. It is an act of love and sacrifice on your part to give them a peaceful ending, and it's the last, worst responsibility of a pet owner.


We had to put our cocker spaniel down a few years ago. Vet determined he had cancer (amoung other things) and was in some pain. He'd lost most of his hearing and his sense of smell. We'd rescued him from a shelter and was a big part of our lives for 9 years.

While this was tough enough, we learned it the week following our 19 year old (who was still living with us) had Hodkin's.

Because of his connection to the dog, and both having found out they had cancer at the same time, we decided not to have him put to sleep. Despite our son being 19, didn't need any bad thoughts in his head about his prospects.

Once our son was fully recovered (he was an early responder), we had Charlie put to sleep. That was one of the toughest things for me to do.

There were times it was very clear he was in pain, but we just kept loving him until we could reach a point that we'd get through the event.


My first dog had to be put down under similar circumstances. He had broken both back legs very young (due to disuse since he came from a pet store; we didn't know back then that they kept them caged 100% of the time) and had plates in both. When he was 8 or so years old he developed cancer in one of his legs; I was still young (in my early teens).

Ultimately we did the right thing and had him put down at the vet. When the animal is clearly suffering it's the kinder thing to do; if you're not sure how your dog is doing, do like some other folks have said and ask the vet. Pets can become a part of the family so it's definitely not easy, but when it gets to that point it's definitely the more humane thing.


I am not sure why I received all the negative votes. I did not do\condone what I reported, only cautioned against it. Tears came to my eyes as I wrote the parts about my dog. It was a terrible thing I wish on no one.


I am overwhelmed by all of the compassion and advice I've received here - thank you everyone. I will respond more in depth tonight.

Regarding the up vote comment, please forgive me. I am not trying to guilt anyone into up-voting, nor am I seeking a large number of up votes whatsoever. Through my tears last night I added that at the last minute - I was suddenly worried that people saddened by the question would down-vote it. If I could remove it, I would. I was not thinking clearly - I'm very sorry.

I told my husband just yesterday afternoon "Chester's eyes are telling me that it's time, honey". He is having a very hard time with this as well, but is making the decision even harder by pointing out everytime Chester does well or seems happy.

My vet will make house calls, and I have already scheduled her to come - tomorrow afternoon. I told my husband that the appointment can be cancelled, but I don't think that it will be.

Thank you everyone



@michaels1715: If there is anything we can do, please let us know.

I really want to hug my animals right now.


As I said above, with a diagnosis of terminal cancer for our girl, we had time to get accustomed to the idea. Sharing here how very differently each of us handled it, to show the range of different, perfectly normal, natural ways of getting through this: When she was first diagnosed, I was absolutely devastated. For a couple weeks I felt as if I were walking around with my chest ripped open, my heart beating & breaking, open to the cold of winter. My husband was a rock for me through that. I cried at the end, of course, but afterward it was my husband who was the basket case.

I think the diff was partly just personalities, but also that over the months of doing the best for our sweet dog, I was the main one trying to manage her condition, watching & discussing & deciding each step, so along the way I was becoming prepared for the end. When I decided to make the appointment my husband seemed a little surprised. I, too, told him we could put it off if he wanted. He chose to go ahead.


One more thing, and then I'll shut up.

We got another dog (an adolescent) immediately. I already had it lined up -- we picked her up that evening. My husband, being so freshly bereaved, kind of resisted falling in love with the new one, but he fell sure enough.

It was the best thing we could have done. Might not be for everyone, but it was definitely right for us -- I couldn't bear to be dogless.


I'll just break it down real quick and dirty and this comes from helping literally hundreds of people through this process working at an all services animal shelter. If you're debating whether or not it's time to put your beloved pet down because of their condition then it is. It's usually that simple. People want to hang on to their pets for too long past what's good for the animal. You have to let go at the point where their quality of life is more bad than good. Thank them for their companionship and hold them while the vet is administering the shot. It's hard but you'll feel better about the whole thing when it's over if you can give them that final bit of comfort.


We had to say goodbye to our 14-year-old Rottie/Shepherd mix in March. It was incredibly hard. The previous night she kept wanting to go lie out on our balcony, something she's never done in the 6 years we've lived in the apartment. Looking back, I think she knew her time was coming and she was looking for a place to pass that was "outside" and away from her family.

That last day was devastating. She was in obvious discomfort. Her eyes were only half-opened and she would stare right through us, as if she was pleading and at the same time sorry that she had to go. Oh boy, this is hard to type about. But basically, we wish had made the call sooner because that look will always haunt me. We cried for days but in the end we know it was her time. She was sick, her quality of life was gone, and it's no kind of life for at dog at her age to try to prolong her life with a battery of tests and medications and life restrictions.


@caffeine_dude: well at least your story is a compelling case for contraception.


@wootfast: There's really no connection between what this woman is going through and contraception. She never said it was an unwanted animal. I don't see where you see how the two are related.


@susan11125: the kids that thought it was a good idea to shoot their dog. contraception is a good argument so that the kids would have never been born.
nothing to do with animals.
everything to do with stupid people.
[also there's almost always a bad ending to stories involving a firing range consisting of people in a circle or in this case a semi-circle]


and to directly address the main topic
"Although I don't think he's "in pain"
This might be the most important factor in the decision of putting your dog down. You don't want to keep any animal alive for selfish reasons when it is in pain.
When the time comes to put down your friend, make sure you are there at the end. The vets say that the last thing a pet does is look around for its owner.


@caffeine_dude: I really don't understand what you thought this contributed to this topic. So, according to your statement "I wanted to show you what could happen if you wait too long, or try to take care him yourself.", the OP's options are humanely put the dog down otherwise it will face death by firing squad by some ignorant teenagers? This is a completely worthless anecdote that doesn't offer help, advice, or consolation to the poster.


Personally I don't think it's a bad idea to get a second opinion. If the specialist is an option, go see him and find out what he thinks. Take into account that surgery does get riskier with age, so weigh that in along with the specialist's feedback.

Either way, some suggestions:
-Make all preparations beforehand--it only gets harder to work out the logistics of what to do with his body after the act;
-Be sure your vet uses a two-stage, barbiturate-based method;
-Be happy and soothing for him until he's passed. You'll have plenty of time for tears later--right now he needs you to give back some of the love and comfort he's given you all those years;
-Don't rush it. These will be his last moments. A good vet will be patient;
-Cherish the remaining time with him. Consider what treats, toys, or attention he's enjoy.


Chester had a good day today. We were out in the yard as usual, but today instead of just laying there, he actually picked up a stick and started playing with his "wife" (my other child - 9-yr old yellow lab e"Holly Berry Gold" aka "Holly" or "Bear" depending on who you talk to), something he hasn't done in ages. Also, his tail wagged a few times today, and he ate all of his dinner and kept it down. At first I thought this made my tough decision even harder - but then, thanks in part to some of the great posts here, I realized that it actually makes it easier - letting him go when he's feeling (relatively) good is a great ending for his wonderful life. My husband wants to postpone this, and he does not know how much harder he is making it for me, but I am standing firm and keeping the appointment for tomorrow.


I have not had time to reply to everyone's comments yet, but I am going to post the responses I have written so far. I will try to reply to the rest a little later on tonight (if I can stay awake). I would like to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you - for the sharing, the caring, the compassion and most of all, for your support. 

Here's what I've written so far ( and I expect it will need to be continued to a new post more than once):
@spinoza - I agree with you completely - thank you for your response.
@belyndag - Thank you for your comforting words, and I'm sorry for your loss as well.
@susan11125 - Thank you for your advice. My vet did not say whether Chester was in pain or not - that was my own opinion, but I know he doesn't feel good, and that's awfully close to being in pain. I do know in my heart that his time has come, and that is why I won't be canceling the vet's visit tomorrow. Cont.


@meh3884: Sadly they were in there early 20's. They mistakenly thought it was a good option for them "this is how dad used to do it". Putting a dog down with a gun this day and age is stupid, when you can do it humanly with a vet. Thank god that is what they took away from that experience.

My point was a vet is the way to go. I am embarrassed if anyone took it any other way.

As for my dog, she seemed sick for a few days, we did not know what was wrong, I thought she just had the flu, by the time we realized something was seriously wrong, a few days later, she bit at us if we even touched her, the next day she passed away. Do not wait too long, I did and my dog suffered for a day and I still feel guilty to this day.


@susan11125 - Regarding my poor choice of words at the end of my post - please forgive me, I really wish I could remove them. Thanks again for all of your kind words, your compassion, and advice.
@lparsons42 - Thank you for your excellent words of wisdom.  I live in the country, and yes, Chester will be buried here. Legal or not, I wouldn't have it any other way. My husband and I dug his grave together earlier this evening. 
@jimmyd103 - Thank you for your kind words and also for the link. Your idea of a vet making a house call is great one - it's not an option many people are even aware of. Since going to the vet is the one thing that really upsets my otherwise very laid-back boy, I had already inquired about her coming to my house. The only reason I even thought to ask, however, is because my vet has a mobile animal hospital (van) that she takes out once a week to help the people who can't go to her. I'm not sure it would have been possible or if I even would have *cont..


@jimmyd103 ... considered it with my previous vet. Doing this will be my final gift to Chester.
@magic cave - Thank you for your excellent advice & for sharing your experience. Im sorry for your losses as well. 
@lobstram - I am very sorry for offending you. I did not intend to guilt anyone into up-voting - that didn't even cross my mind. I certainly wasn't thinking clearly at 3:00AM last night, but I said that because I wasn't sure if other people would be unsure of how to vote for a post like this - I guess something like (but not quite) what happened to caffeine_dude's post. I don't know if that explanation made sense or not, but please accept my apologies. 
@tmdowling -Thank you for your compassionate words & practical advice. I had not thought about having him lay on a blanket, so I really appreciate that suggestion.

More Later

@caffeine_dude I will reply to you as well, but for now I just want to let you know that I do appreciate your response to my situation. TY


@michaels1715: I just wanted to add that we said goodbye to Jesse at home. There was a group in our area that specialized in at-home visits.

She wasn't walking around much that last day (walking had become very hard for her). Once she got up to go lie in the kitchen and I moved her dog bed there. She surprised me by getting up and moving to it. When they came, myself, my boyfriend, and our other dog were all on the floor crouched around her. We kept telling her what a good girl she was and that we'll see her later. When they gave her the first shot, it actually perked her up. It eased her pain and made her feel a bit goofy and relaxed and it was the first time all day that she actually seemed present. At first, it made it harder because I was like "SEE! She's fine!! We can't do this!!!" But I know it was only temporary; once she got really sleepy the 2nd shot came and that was it. It's so hard, but it was the right thing to do.

My best to you and your family.


@michaels1715 I've been thinking of you all day, as I'm sure others have. Our warmest thoughts and best wishes are with you and your family.

I hope Chester had another perky day today, because you're absolutely right: in a situation like his, a good day is not a sign that things are going to turn around -- it's just a little blessing, and a good day to go.


@tmdowling: Thank you SO MUCH - your kind words and thoughts really mean a lot.  Yes, Chester had a good last day - I will post a final update when I can.

I'm sorry for the delay in responding but I'm sure you understand why - I just haven't felt like doing anything, including getting on the Internet or checking email. 

I'll post again soon. Thanks again tmdowling - and everyone else too.