How To Know When It’s Time To Put Your Dog Down

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How Do You Know When To Make That Heartbreaking Decision?


My Sarah

I have a tough decision to make and it’s getting more pressing every day. I have a sweet pug, who just passed her 15th birthday. She is blind, diabetic and is now having problems with her back legs. She also has cognitive dysfunction, meaning a sort of doggie Alzheimer has set in.

When I am working at the computer, she will suddenly think she’s alone and begin to bark. If I’m gone, she has separation anxiety, which causes her to do her “business” anywhere and everywhere, and then track it all over. I love her fiercely and it is a heartbreak to see her with no quality of life.

But is it time to put her down?

How will I know?



Source: “Greyfriars-bobby-edin” by Michael Reeve – Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 15 September 2003. Uploaded to en.wikipedia 22:02, 9 Jun 2004 by en:User


Our dogs, special beings. – Loyal and devoted.

The love we have for dogs is returned to us in many ways, not the least of which are qualities of loyalty and devotion. We all have heard stories of the unending devotion of famous dogs throughout history, such as Capitan, a German Shepherd who slept on his master’s grave for six years. There are other stories of dogs grieving for their lost masters. A famous story is the one of Greyfriars Bobby in 19th century Edinburgh, Scotland. His devotion was such that he sat by the grave of his master for 14 years. There’s a statue erected in Edinburgh, to bear testimony to his love for his master. Can we do any less than what they give us?

The Decline and Loss of My Sarah

Sarah developed diabetes in the last 3 years of her life. She seemed to do pretty well with the food and insulin shots prescribed by the doctor for a while. We kept her blood sugar under control with the regimen he prescribed. But then, I began to notice that she didn’t play with her toys as she used to, and that she slept a lot. She would also “lose” me, when normally I couldn’t get out of her sight for a minute.

I looked into her eyes and saw they were clouding over. It broke my heart when I realized she had cataracts. For a while she could see shadows, but soon she went totally blind. I used to guide her to her bed at night, where she slept on the floor beside my bed.

She had her 15th birthday in February of 2014, and by that time she had doggie Alzheimer’s and incontinence. We tried diapers, they didn’t fit well and she still had “accidents.” We were constantly cleaning the carpet. Finally, her back legs gave out and she could no longer stand.

We were devastated because we knew her time had come. I could no longer bear to see her deteriorated quality of life. Because I loved her so much, I had to think of her and not myself.

I remember when…. – …Sarah played with toys, played with visiting dogs and practically smiled all the time.

These are Sarah’s basket of toys in our living room. She used her front paw to turn the basket over, and went through all of them to pick out her favorite of the moment. She loved the colorful stuffed birthday cake with candles that played Happy Birthday as she mauled it all over the room, a brown and white cow that she loved so much she slept with it for a time, and an orange stuffed pumpkin we got her for Halloween one year that she would chew on and bring to us to throw for her.

When my uncle would bring his pug Mandy up from Tucson to visit us, Sarah and Mandy played like two little kids. Sarah was a happy dog, with her pug tail curled over her back and her head proudly lifted. Now she walks with her head down, her tail is rarely curled, and she has problems with her back legs. She no longer plays because she is blind and can’t see to do it. The toy basket hasn’t been touched in a long time. She either sleeps all the time, or gets scared and anxious and needs reassuring. If a dog can droop and show depression, Sarah exhibits that behavior.

Pet Quality of Life Scale

  • Lap Of Love – Quality of Life Scale
    There’s a scale for determining if and when it’s time to put your dog down. This is a PDF file you will need to download, but if you’re considering euthanasia for your dog, it may help ease your mind.

What are my reasons for considering ending her life? – Am I being selfish or loving?

I Question My Motives

These are the questions I struggle with every day. Losing a dog to sickness or an accident is one thing, but what about when we have to make a conscious decision to euthanize our pet? How could I just put her down when she meant so much to me? Sarah is 15 years old, blind, infirm, has cognitive issues, potty problems and her back legs are going out on her. I’m finding it harder every day to see my Sarah in this condition and to do the things she needs done. I’m also in bad health, and 75 years old. I have emphysema/COPD, I’m on oxygen 24 hours a day, and life is already hard. Taking care of her, no matter how much I love her, is taking a toll on me. So I ask myself almost daily, am I considering putting her down for my own convenience? Or because she no longer has a quality of life?

With eye upraised his master’s looks to scan,

The joy, the solace, the aid of man,

The rich man’s guardian,

and the poor man’s friend,

The only being, faithful to the end.

— George Crabbe, English Poet and Minister

My Sarah, when she was young and healthy

Her Stance Shows Depression

She stands with her head down, her tail drooping. She looks sad and she can no longer see to do anything, so she just sleeps. I can feel her depression and it breaks my heart. I can’t allow her to go on this way, but can I steel myself to the act of actually having her put down? This little girl and I have been together for almost 15 years, since she was 11 months old. How can I make the decision that she should no longer be alive? But on the other hand, how can I make the decision that she should continue to live in this condition?

What does our veterinarian say? – He knows my problems.


Our Compassionate Vet

We’ve known our veterinarian for years. He’s a kind, compassionate man who knows what it’s like to love, and lose, an animal. He even babysat Sarah for me when we took a trip last year. Since they no longer board animals at his clinic, he actually took her home with him each evening and brought her to work each day. The last time I had her in to him, because she wasn’t doing well, he told me, “Nancy, you know the time is drawing near,” and I hear him, but my heart doesn’t want to acknowledge what I hear. He has been there for me through the whole time I’ve had her, and even before that with my little black Cocker Spaniel, Sam. I cried on his shoulder over that one too. Sarah is my last dog and I so hate to give her up, and he knows that. But he also knows she and I are both miserable and that the day is fast approaching when I must make that dreaded decision.

NOTE: Queen Sarah Rala Hardin went across the Rainbow Bridge on March 29, 2014. She was 15 years old, well loved and terribly missed. I will never forget her love for me and mine for her.

More information about euthanasia. – How can you tell if it’s time?

Th link below may help you to know when it’s time to put your dog down. People have many reasons for doing so, some are valid and some are not. If it’s for the convenience of the owner (moving, owner died, can’t have pets in residence, etc.) that’s no reason to put a healthy pet down. However, if your problem is of the nature mentioned on this page, you may find yourself having to make that decision. Make sure you talk with your veterinarian before making it.

  • Pet Informed Veterinary Advice
    This link provides information about euthanasia and the reasons for putting a pet down. But always, always take your dog to a local veterinarian, preferably one who knows your dog.







Nancy Hardin is a highly experienced writer and author. A retired journalist, she is also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother with a wealth of experience in many fields. In addition, she is a retiree veteran, having spent many years in the Women’s Army Corps. She is also an experienced ghostwriter and you can see more about her skills at the The Writers’Door. YOu can visit Nancy’s website here and discover more of her work at this site.

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  1. I have had to take two labradors over my life so far to be put down. Both were at the end of their lives, blind and unable to eat or walk properly. It was two of the hardest things I have done in my life to date, and I could not stop myself weeping in public.

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  2. My pug Bill was put down December 9th, 2015. He had diabetes, and his eyes were cataracts. His back leg had no muscles. He couldn’t stand up and walk. You had to carry him place to place and put him down. He would pee because he had no control over it so he would be miserable sitting in his own pee. So we had to put him down. Now he went across the Rainbow Bridge to be with his brother who died two years ago. I love you Bill and Chester.

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