Saying Goodbye To Your Dog: Euthanasia, Cremation & Grieving

It’s a topic that no dog owner likes to discuss.

But the reality is there’ll come a day when you’ll have to say goodbye to your beloved canine.

And when this terrible day arrives, you can help your pet end their suffering with the help of your veterinarian.

How Do I Know When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To My Dog?

No dog owner wants to see their dog suffer. But how do you know when it’s time to take that final trip to the veterinarian?

The following can help you determine if the time has come:

  • Your Dog Has Stopped Eating. Anorexia that goes longer than 24 hours is frequently a sign that something is wrong.
  • Your Dog No Longer Shows Interest In Their Favorite Things. For some dogs, this would mean the loss of interest in a favorite toy. Others will no longer want to dig holes or chase birds.
  • Your Dog Has Difficulty Breathing. As many terminal diseases progress the lungs can become damaged or filled with fluid. If your pet has difficulty breathing you need to take them to the vet immediately.
  • Your Dog Can’t Stand Or Walk. Loss of control could indicate a neurological issue.

It’s a very difficult decision to make, but most dog owners agree that your dog will communicate in their own way that the time has come.

Can I Let My Dog Die A Natural Death?

Yes, technically you can allow natural death to occur. Although some dogs do pass peacefully in their sleep, this is very rare.

The process of the body shutting down during a natural death can be quite prolonged and painful.

Every pet owner has their own opinions and feelings about euthanasia and must do what’s best for their family. However, nearly all owners who’ve watched their dog die a natural death express deep regret, wishing they had made a different choice and spared their dog pain.

Euthanasia: What To Expect

Every veterinary hospital has its own procedures, but typically, dog owners and their loved ones will be taken to a room with their pet where they can spend as much time as they like saying goodbye. If you’d like to bring your pet’s favorite bed or toys to make them feel comfortable, this is usually ok.

When you and your family are ready to move forward, your veterinarian will explain the procedure to you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

It’s common for an I.V. catheter to be placed in your dog’s leg so that medications can be administered quickly and easily.

Many veterinarians will administer a gentle sedative first, helping the dog to relax. Then a drug call sodium pentobarbital will be administered. This drug causes your dog to quickly lose consciousness and gently stops the heart. The process is painless.

Your veterinarian will check to ensure that your dog has passed by listening for a heartbeat. Then, if you wish, you can spend additional time, grieving.

Another difficult decision will need to be made regarding the remains.

Some pet owners prefer to take their deceased home with them for home burial. The majority, however, chose to have their dog cremated.

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Having Your Dog Cremated: The Facts

Veterinary hospitals typically have a crematorium that they work with. When a pet dies, the crematorium usually sends a representative to retrieve the body. Then, depending on the owner’s wishes, the body will be cremated in either a group or individual setting.

The ashes are returned to the owner in an urn. Some owners decide to keep the ashes in the urn in a private place. Others sprinkle their dog’s ashes in a special place. Those who are looking for a creative way to pay tribute to their pet can even pay to have the ashes turned into glass, jewelry, or a stone.

How Much Does Having A Dog Cremated Cost?

The cost of cremation can vary widely from location to location but the average range is between $50 and $350.

This price is often based on your dog’s weight, the type of cremation, and the urn chosen.

Grieving For Your Dog

Never let anyone tell you that you’ve lost “just a dog”. There is no such thing as just a dog. You have lost a best friend, protector, and family member. You are allowed to grieve, a process that can look very different for different people.

In fact, researchers have determined that when people look at their dogs, the same centers of the brain are activated as when a mother looks at their child. This means that your brain, logical or not, sees your dog as your child.

Children, unlike dogs, are expected to outlive their parents, which is why the loss of a child is so devastating.

Although we understand that dogs don’t live as long as humans, our brains still love and attach to our dogs in the same way.

Everyone grieves in their own way but here are a few ideas for how to express your grief:

1. Journal: Writing all of your feelings in a journal can help you to let those feelings go. Even if you’ve never journaled before this can be an excellent outlet.

2. Join A Pet Loss Support Group: Many veterinary hospitals have information on local support groups for pet owners. Don’t hesitate to ask for this information.

3. Create A Memorial: Consider making a small memorial in your home for your dog. You might include pictures, candles, their collar, or their favorite toy.

4. Keep Up Routines With Living Pets: If you still have living pets, the routine of taking care of them can be very helpful.

5. Discover A New Hobby: Creative hobbies like painting, glass blowing, or pottery can help to release any built-up energy.

6. Exercise: Even the simple act of going for a walk can help relax the body and produce endorphins.

If you find that your grief has changed into depression you may want to consider seeking individual therapy with a counselor who can help.

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Can Dogs Feel Grief?

Many dog owners have more than one dog and wonder how the loss of one will impact the other.

Dogs can grieve just like humans.

Signs that a dog is grieving include lethargy, loss of appetite, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.

Spending time with a grieving dog can help comfort them and may be beneficial for you as well! One on one activity can strengthen your bond as you share a loss.

Most dogs recover and resume normal activity in their own time.

How Long Should I Wait To Adopt Another Dog?

The decision to adopt another dog is a very personal one and the time it takes to reach this point varies widely.

While there is no formula that can tell you when the perfect time to adopt another dog is, it is best to do your best to process your grief first. It might seem like a good idea to distract yourself with a new dog, however, unprocessed grief can leak out as anger.

You might find that you unfairly take your emotions out on your new pet, making the relationship challenging and confusing.

You’ll know when the time is right to move forward with a new canine companion.