October 18, 2018

The Editor speaks: When is it time to put down an old dog?


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Our elderly dog Sugar, a , is 13 years old plus, and has gone blind and deaf. She walks slowly and has difficulty in getting up.

Our friends and family all tell us it’s time for Sugar to be put permanently to sleep.

Are they right?

On the plus side:

She loves to eat.

She drinks well

She lets us know when she wants to go out to pee and poo.

She reacts well with both my wife and I.

Therefore, it is a difficult decision.

When asking a vet for an opinion the first thing they assess is the dog’s quality of .

“Quality of life is all about making the pet as much as possible comfortable. Owners and veterinarians therefore can assess together how the quality of life of a dog can be increased, courtesy of medications and lots of tender loving care. When the chances of a good quality of life are poor, often euthanasia is considered.” – Pethelpful.com

This website gives an An Example of a Quality of Life Scale


Is your dog in obvious pain? Has he been benefiting from pain relievers? Does she have trouble breathing? Pain is one of the main considerations when assessing the quality of life of an animal. While there are many effective pain relievers, at times, they may not be sufficient, or the side effects may outweigh the benefits.


Eating is essential for life and dogs that have lost appetite need to receive nutrition. How well is your dog eating? Does he need to be force fed? Can he eat on his own? There are some medications that may increase appetite and some foods made for dogs that need extra nutrition (Hill’s A/D, Nutrical) In severe cases, a stomach tube may be inserted.


A dog needs water more than food, so adequate hydration is crucial. Is your dog drinking enough? If you lift up the skin over the shoulders in a tent, does it spring back quickly or does it take time or worse remain lifted? Fluids injected under the skin may help be a great way to supplement water. Some dog owners may learn how to give fluids at home.


Is your dog’s coat dull and smelly? Is the coat matted? Is your dog’s mobility affected so much that he lies on its waste after elimination? Can your dog control its bladder and bowel functions? A lack of hygiene is often seen in sick, debilitated pets and this can significantly affect quality of life.

-Joy of Life

How happy is your dog? Does he still walk? Does she still enjoy time with you? Is he still interacting with your family? Look for signs of joy and general happiness related with enjoying life.Dogs that appear depressed, lonely, anxious or fearful may be in pain or have started to give up on life.


Dogs rely on their legs a lot. Unlike humans, dog cannot live using a wheelchair or a cane. In nature, dogs that have loss their mobility eventually die. Questions to ask are: ”How much can my dog get around? Is his mobility affected by seizures or other nervous system disorders? Can she get up to relieve herself? Dogs that have painful joints may be helped out with medications. A sling, harness or cart may be helpful in some circumstances.

-Being Bright and Alert

One of the most common things veterinarians look at when they assess the level of health in an animal is how bright and alert the animal is to its surrounding. Indeed, a dog that is withdrawn and lethargic is not a dog feeling well. Signs of brightness and alertness includes response to noises, lifting up the head, ear movements, tail wags etc.

-Assessing Days

This is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind. Is my dog having more good days than bad? Marking on a calendar how your dog feels each day may be helpful. A bad day of course is characterized by the dog suffering, either from lethargy, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting or simply pain. Good days are when your dog responds to you, is alert and active, demonstrating a general willingness to enjoy life.

This is just an example of a typical quality of life scale. One of the first most interesting and and thorough scales was crafted by Dr. Villalobos a veterinarian in order to help dog owners and veterinarians to come to a decision or at least a discussion and thoughts. stands for Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Mobility and ‘More Good Days than Bad”

: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Determine-a-Dogs-Quality-of-Life

Looking at that list, thankfully, Sugar has passed the test. It’s not yet time to put our old dog down.

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