One of the most difficult parts of loving a dog is having to make end-of-life decisions for them. Our dogs become members of our families, and we love them almost as much as we love the rest of our family. Most of us believe that our dogs love us back just as fiercely.
The price we pay for this special relationship is a heavy one – dogs don’t live nearly as long as people, and so we know that inevitably one day we might have to decide if it’s time to put them down.
After a lifetime of love, putting down a dog is one of the hardest things a dog owner has to do.
Making the decision to put your dog to sleep is incredibly difficult. Our dogs can’t tell us when it’s time for them to move on, which means that the decision falls to us. This responsibility comes with a lot of second-guessing – Should I wait? Did I wait too long?
We all want to do right by our dogs after a lifetime of love and companionship, but trying to make these decisions when your dog is in distress can make an already difficult situation even worse.
On top of the heavy emotional costs, there are financial costs to consider as well.
No one wants to think about money at a time like this, but taking some time to learn about the process, the options and the costs and making a plan in advance is essential. Being prepared will allow you to focus on what matters during this difficult time – being there for your dog the way they’ve been there for you.
When Is It Time to Put Your Dog To Sleep?
Making the decision to put your dog to sleep is never simple. Even when you know that they are terminally ill, it can be tempting to put it off to prolong your time together.
It can be hard to know when it’s time to put your dog down.
What makes is especially hard is the fact that our dogs can’t tell us what to do, so we can’t know for sure that we’re doing the right thing at the right time. Planning ahead can help alleviate some of this guilt and second-guessing.
There is no “right” time to put a dog down, so it’s better to focus on trying to find the “best” time for you and your dog. Many vets recommend that it’s better to euthanize your dog sooner rather than later, before they are in pain and suffering. Here are a few factors to consider when trying to decide if it’s time to put your dog down:
Your Dog’s Prognosis
Whether putting your dog down is the right decision depends a lot on their particular situation. The type of health condition your dog is facing will factor heavily in your decision, depending on the specific symptoms your dog is experience, the prognosis for their condition, and the treatment options available and potential side effects.
You might also weigh factors such as their age and health before they got sick, as experimental treatments may be more effective for younger, healthier dogs.
Quality of Life
Your dog’s current quality of life will be one of the biggest factors when deciding if it’s time to put them down. Since your dog can’t tell you what they’re feeling, keep a close eye on them and track any symptoms or changes.
Quality of life is a big factor in deciding whether it’s time to put your dog down.
Is your dog still eating? Are they getting up to greet you like normal? Do they appear to be in pain? As long as your dog is behaving normally and doesn’t seem to be in pain, you may be able to put off the procedure.
Although it can be tempting to prolong your time together by letting nature take its course, it’s not an ideal option – your dog could be in extreme pain, could have trouble eating and eventually become dehydrated, and waiting for a natural death could prolong their suffering.
You and your family’s situation and emotional endurance are important factors in deciding when it’s time to put your dog down.
Your own feelings play a big part in your decision.
On a practical level, you need to consider whether you can handle the physical and financial aspects of caring for an ill pet. Will you be able to take time away from work to be with them on bad days or check on them throughout the day? Can you afford the cost of treatments and medications to prolong your dog’s life? It may seem harsh to consider these things, but it’s important that you have the resources to make your dog’s final days as comfortable as possible, for both them and you.
Your emotional endurance is as important as any practical consideration, especially if you have children. Will prolonging it make things easier or more difficult in the end? Would you rather have every last minute together, or forestall you dog’s suffering – as well as your family’s?
Good Days and Bad Days
Once you’ve made the decision that it’s time to put your dog down, it’s best to schedule a date and stick to it. Before that day comes, your dog will have good days and bad days. If the procedure happens to fall on a good day, don’t let it cause you to second-guess yourself. It’s better to spend a nice day last day together than wait until your dog is in distress before making an emergency call.
How to Make The Process Easier
Although putting your dog down will always be difficult, there are ways to make it easier on your dog, yourself and your family, including any other pets in the home. Here are some ways to create the best possible experience.
Knowing what to expect can make the process a little easier.
Know What To Expect
Knowing what to expect from the euthanasia procedure can help aleviate some of your stress on the day of. Talk to your vet so you know exactly what to expect and get all your questions answered ahead of time.
Putting a dog down typically involves a series of two shots, and takes about an hour overall. The first shot is a sedative, and will take 5-10 minutes to take full effect. The sedative will help your dog fall into a deeper and deeper sleep, and they won’t be aware or feel any pain.
Once your dog is sedated, your vet will administer the anesthetic. Phenobarbital is commonly used – it’s a seizure medication that will slow and eventually stop the heart. The dog feels nothing throughout this process, but you may notice some reactions to the medications. Their eyes may open, they may twitch and take a final breath, and they may even urinate or defecate.
Vets typically allow owners to be with their dogs throughout the procedure, as your presence and touch can help keep your dog calm and comfort them during their final moments.
Consider A Home Visit
Many vets will perform the procedure at your home.
Many vets now offer at-home services, including putting a dog down at home. Spending their last minutes at home can be more comfortable and calming for your dog, and it avoids the stress of a car ride and vet visit. If other dogs are in the home, it can be good for them to be there at the end as well.
Think carefully before booking a home visit. It may be difficult for you to have that last memory in your home, and it may not be ideal if you have young children at home.
Make (and complete) a “Doggy Bucket List”:
Once you’ve started to talk to your vet about putting your dog down, it can be hard to think about anything else. Rather than spending your dog’s last days in tears, consider creating and completing a “Doggy Bucket List” together to create some more happy memories.
A doggy bucket list is a great way to enjoy your last weeks together.
Choose calm, relaxing activities and avoid any places or things that could cause your dog stress or get them too worked up.
Here are a few ideas for your “Doggy Bucket List”:
- Take an adventure together. Take a walk, hike or drive. Visit some of their favourite places, or check out some new parks, trails or beaches.
- Treat your dog. Indulge your dog with extra treats, fancy meals, and maybe even the last of your sandwich.
- Spa day: Indulge in some TLC with lots of pets and pampering.
- Dog Party: Invite your dog’s best friends over for play dates.
- Relax the Rules: Let them on the couch, sleep in bed together, share your scraps.
Make sure to plan a relaxing and special day together on the day of the procedure, too. Schedule your appointment for a quiet time of day and make sure you have a few hours together. Plan a special morning walk, lots of snuggle time and plenty of treats.
Plan ahead to make the day of the procedure as easy as possible.
Decide in advance who will be with your dog as they are put to sleep. Make sure everyone in your family gets some special time with your dog that day, including other pets in the home. Don’t second-guess yourself if your dog is having a good day on surgery day – it’s better to enjoy your last day together than to wait until your dog is in distress.
Give yourself lots of time before the procedure – get to the vet’s office early, or block out some extra down time before a home visit. Take as much time as you need before the procedure to make yourself and your dog comfortable. Bring a favourite toy or blanket to set your dog at ease and remind them of home, and give them plenty of pets and affection. Dogs can pick up on our emotions, so do your best to be calm so that your dog will be, too. The best thing you can do for your dog at this moment is just to be with them and provide comfort and love in their last moments, they way they’ve always done for you.
After the Procedure
You should be able to take as much time as you need to sit with your dog’s remains after the procedure. There’s no need to rush to remove your dog’s remains, and you should take all the time you need to gather yourself and say your final goodbyes.
You’ll have many options for honouring your dog’s memory.
Eventually, though, you will need to make some arrangements. Thinking through these important decisions ahead of time will make things much easier to deal with during your time of loss.
You’ll need to decide what to do with your dog’s remains, and how best to honour their memory.
Post-mortem exams are not common after a dog has been put down, unless the owner requests it (and pays for it). Although it can provide some closure and reassurance that you did the right thing, it won’t bring your pet back. You may be able to donate your dog’s remains to science – vet clinics and schools can benefit from your generous gift and further research that may help other dogs in the future.
Cremation is a common option, and many vets offer this service in-house or through a partner organization. If you want your dog’s ashes returned to you, you’ll need to opt for individual cremation instead of the default communal cremation.
If you decide to bury your dog’s remains or spread their ashes, you’ll want to check local laws first. If burying your dog at home isn’t an option, look for dedicated pet cemeteries in your area. In recent years, some human cemeteries allow pets to be buried in their owner’s reserved plot, allowing you to be with your pet for eternity.
Although it may be painful now, eventually you will be able to look back at all the happy memories you had with your dog, and you’ll want to have something to remember them by. This may not be on your mind in the moment, so planning ahead can help ensure you always have a memento of your special friend.
You’ll want to have a memento of your dog.
If your dog is being individually cremated, you can choose a beautiful urn to display. Many cremation services also offer the option to take paw prints.
Your dog’s collar, favourite toy or blanket make a nice daily reminder of your lost friend, and also helps other dogs in your home with their grieving process. It can be stressful to a dog if a member of it’s pack leaves and doesn’t return, so having items that smell like your dog, or even some of her fur, can help other dogs cope.
You undoubtedly have a phone full of pictures of your dog – make a special photo collage to display in your home and keep their memory alive.
The Cost of Putting Your Dog to Sleep
It may seem insensitive to talk about money at a time like this, but planning ahead can save you a lot of added stress during an already difficult time.
The cost of putting a dog to sleep varies widely from city to city, and even from vet to vet. Prices can also vary depending on your dog’s age, size and specific health conditions. Shop around and do your research well before a decision needs to be made to avoid getting overwhelmed or overpaying during your time of grief.
To help with your research, here is a breakdown of the different costs associated with putting your dog to sleep and how much you can expect to pay.
Euthanasia Procedure ($50-300)
The cost of the procedure itself can vary widely, so it pays to shop around and ask questions.
Some vets don’t charge for the procedure itself, only for the cremation at their facilities; others charge for the procedure plus equipment and medication separately.
Larger dogs can cost more than smaller ones, as they require more medication and more time.
Overall, you could pay up to $300 just for the procedure, and that may not cover any of the associated costs below.
You have many different options to choose from when it comes to your dog’s remains.
If your city allows it, you may be able to bury your dog’s remains on your property. Not only is this a cost-effective option, but it allows you to keep your friend close, and you can honour their memory with a statue or special plant. If your town does not allow at-home burial or you don’t have the space, many cities now have dedicated pet cemeteries. It can cost between $400 and $600 just to have the grave dug.
Cremation is very popular, and can be more cost-effective than a burial. Many vets offer this service in-house, or can make arrangements easily with a partner company. The total cost will depend on the weight of your dog, and whether you opt for communal cremation or choose individual cremation so that you can have your pets ashes returned to you. Expect to pay up to $200 for the cremation alone, and more for extras like an urn.
On top of the costs for the procedures and services themselves, there are endless extra costs that you may have to pay, or choose to pay in order to honour your pet’s memory.
- Additional Vet Costs: If the pet performing the procedure has not seen your dog before, you can expect to pay up to $100 for a legally-required exam fee. If you opt for an at-home procedure, you’ll have to pay a travel fee to have the vet come to your home. This fee can range from $25 to a few hundred, depending on where you live. If your dog is in distress and you need an emergency vet appointment, expect to pay another $100 or more.
- Mementos: No matter what option you choose for your dog’s remains, you’ll want to do something to honour their memory. If you opt for individual cremation, you may want to purchase an urn for $100 or more. If you choose a burial, you may want to spend a bit of money on a headstone, statue or special plant. Dog caskets are even available, for thousands! Many vets offer other memento services, such as paw prints, or you may create your own memorial photo collage or display. Whatever you do, expect to spend at least a little money on mementos for your pet.
The True Cost of Putting Your Dog Down
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that affect the overall cost of putting your dog down. Although it can be done for a few hundred dollars, the optional extras and unforeseen expenses can quickly add up, and it’s not impossible to spend thousands! Planning ahead and making some decisions in advance will help keep costs under control and let you focus on being there for your dog.
How to Save on Putting Your Dog to Sleep
If the potentially high cost of having your dog put down is scaring you, don’t worry – there are ways to save if you plan ahead and do some research. The last thing you want to do is put off the decision because of cost, or hope that nature will take its course and save you the stress and cost of a vet visit.
There are ways to save on putting your dog down.
Planning ahead is the single best thing you can do to keep costs manageable. If possible, do this before your dog even gets sick – be realistic about your financial situation, your time and your emotional endurance and outline a for what you would do in the case of your dog becoming terminally ill. If money is a concern, opt for less expensive options, like a visit to the clinic, at-home burial or communal creation, and inexpensive DIY mementos.
Organizations like the ASPCA offer services for low-income families, and can put your dog down for around $50. A good vet will work with you to cut costs where possible and create a payment plan that doesn’t cause you undue stress during this difficult time.
When all else fails, there are credit cards and loans available to cover pet-related emergencies, and some comprehensive pet insurance plans may help cover some of the costs.
The True Cost of Losing a Dog
The cost of losing a dog is steep, both financially and emotionally.
Talking about money at a time like this may seem insensitive, but planning ahead is important so that you don’t need to make important, possibly expensive decisions during a time of crisis. Money is the last thing you want to worry about at the end of your pet’s life, so knowing your options and making a plan will help you avoid a surprise bill.
The costs are more than just financial, and taking care of the money ahead of time lets you focus on you and your dog. After a lifetime of love and loyalty from our dogs, the only thing you should have to think about is being there for them at the end.