Dog Euthanasia: Knowing When to Let Go of Your Labrador

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When our dogs become old, we face some heartbreaking decisions.

And it is important that we have help and support in doing so.

Since I first shared my personal views on end of life care and dog euthanasia, many have added their own moving stories to this page.

I hope that they will bring you support and comfort at this difficult time.

Putting A Dog To Sleep

The option for euthanasia is not available to humans in the UK or USA,  but we do have the option of putting a dog to sleep.

When is the right time to use that choice, if at all, is an intensely personal and tough decision.

This is my personal slant on a difficult subject.  One that comes up quite regularly in many doggy forums.

I know this won’t be popular with some,  but I do feel that there is sometimes a tendency now to drag a dog’s life out to the bitter end.

Even when quality of life is really all but gone.

It is probably showing my age,  but there seems to be a modern reluctance to ‘let go’ that you didn’t see so much thirty years ago,  and I am not sure that it does dogs any favours.

In some cases,  I think owners feel they will be judged and disapproved of,  if they put their dog to sleep ‘too early’.

Palliative Care For Dogs

When people are dying, we accept that all we can do is make them comfortable.  Palliative care is an important branch of medecine that many of us will depend on in our twilight months.

Palliative care for dogs is a somewhat newer concept.

When I was young, if a dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer, as my golden retriever was, the dog was normally put to sleep on the spot, or very shortly afterwards.

Our vet made the diagnosis in his surgery and we took our dog home to have a last couple of days together.

The vet then came out to put him to sleep in his own home.

At this point, pain meds controlled his pain absolutely without making him drowsy,  in a week or two that would not have been the case.

He was also in full control of his bodily functions.  Still continent,  and able bodied.  Still enjoying life.  Later on he would have become incontinent,  and may have had problems with his balance.

A Dog’s Quality Of Life

There was no chemotherapy for dogs then,  and my parents refused surgery as the side effects would have curtailed his pleasure and joy in life.  No one suggested that we extend his last few weeks with drugs.  Though he might have  lived for several more months this way,  it was not considered to be an option by my family or our vet.

He never suffered,  apart from the mild symptoms that had led us to the vet in the first place.  And he spent his last couple of days pottering about the house and garden quite happily.

I have no regrets about the decision we made.  It was the first time,  at just 18 years old,  that I had been involved in such a decision,  and I have made many such decisions in the intervening years.

Yes,  he could probably have had a few more days of joyful living.  Possibly a few more weeks.  And we may have deprived him of that time.   But the risk that he would then begin to suffer was not acceptable to us.   And knowing that he never suffered at all,  was and still is, a comfort to me.

But he isn’t suffering yet

The heartbreak of losing a dog is so very cruel on the owner,  but I believe that putting off what is inevitable may cause much suffering on both sides.

I believe that the course many people take nowadays,  the course that they may be encouraged to take by their vet and by friends and family, of waiting for the suffering to start before making that final decision,  does not benefit our dogs.

Younger Dog Euthanasia

Of course with younger dogs,  especially if the illness is not terminal,  then there are a whole range of other factors to consider.   The dog’s quality of life during convalescence has to be balanced against the potential for quality of life in the future.

With elderly dogs,  once illness has set in,  there is very often only one way to go.  And that is downhill.

When A Labrador Loses Control Of His Back Legs

A common end of life problem for very old dogs is a loss of control over their back legs. This is heartbreaking for owners and poses a dilemma, because the dog is often otherwise well in himself, and not necessarily in pain.

Loss of back end awareness is sometimes accompanied by loss of control over bowels, with the inevitable distress that this causes to both of you.

Does Dignity Matter To Dogs?

I was saddened to read recently about a person who had nursed their own elderly dog through weeks of incontinence before death.   She talked about ‘peri-care’  and ‘diapers’ and the difficulties of caring for aging and incontinent dogs.

I was sad for her,  and doubly sad for her dog.

For me,  that would not be an option.

I feel that ‘dignity’ in some sense of the word, does matter to dogs.

And that an elderly dog would be very distressed by being unable to keep itself clean.

Knowing that there is no hope of recovery,  and believing that a dog has no concept of or fear of death, is enough to keep me from going down that route.

The Wrong Decision For The Right Reasons

Sometimes I think people make the wrong decision for the right reasons.   They hate the mess and stress of caring for a sick old dog,  the broken nights,  the smell, and the worry.   They quite naturally want it to end.   But they are afraid that making the decision to end their dog’s life might be based on their own convenience.

So they make the wrong decision.  For all the right reasons.  They are trying to put the dog first, and to ignore their own needs.   So they keep the dog alive for a few more weeks.

Only in this case,  it isn’t really a life.   It is miserable for the owner,  and miserable for the dog too.  Ending the dog’s life at an earlier stage would quite probably have been the right decision.

Better Too Soon Than Too Late

Many would like to see euthanasia made available for people too.   That is a whole other topic,  but perhaps we are too reluctant to make use of this option which is readily available for our dogs and can prevent a great deal of suffering.

I read this sentence recently

“better a week too early than a day too late”

and it kind of sums up how I feel.

I’m all for quality of life, over quantity.

What do you think?  Is there ever a right time to let go?  Or should we let just let nature take its course?

More information on Labradors

labrador-jacket-800You can find out more about dealing with age related issues in Labradors in our Health and Care sections.

I also address these issues in detail in my guide, The Labrador Handbook.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects of your Labradors life, through daily care and training at each stage of their life.

The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.


 

This article has been revised and republished for 2016.

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

350 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for this article. There were many points that really hit home. At the moment, we are happy guardians of a 13 year old lab named Beau. For the past year or so she developed arthritis in her hips. Its very minor. She gets up slowly and it takes her a minute to get going, but once she does shes active and happy. The days of jumping up onto the bed are long gone, but that is small potatoes. About 2 months ago she developed a mass on her foot ( I thought it was an abscess) but the vet said it is a tumor. It is inflamed and infected so he sent us home with prednisone and antibiotics and wanted to recheck it once it cleared up. The drugs worked and it was greatly reduced. He said however that we would have to see a surgical specialist because removing just the tumor was not an option. We saw the specialist yesterday. He wants us to remove her entire hind leg to the hip, saying her mobility will only be slightly jeopardized. I don’t agree with that part. We live in a split ranch so there are steps everywhere, those would then be off limits. Even to go to the bathroom she would need to be carried down a flight of steps, at 70 lbs it is going to be a physical feat for me, my husband will be ok but we both work full time. So many hours of the day she will be confined to the living, dining, kitchen area, with limited mobility. I should note that the surgery comes with a $6,000.00 price tag. I don’t have it but if I had to beg and borrow I think I could get it. The vet said this could buy her up to a year of life. The other alternative would be to do nothing and when the tumor finally ruptures and she goes septic, to put her down. The specialist made us feel like people who dont deserve pets because we didnt opt for surgery immediately. The guilt and wanting to do what is right for her are overwhelming. Aside from that, we are saving for the surgery to remove one of our cat’s toes because he has a mass there as well. He is 14 and could live a while longer. The decision is ours to make, I know that. But has anyone had experience removing a hind leg of a 13 year old, 70 lb lab, with minor hip arthritis? Her end of life options are all awful and it isnt fair to do this to her, she doesnt deserve it. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • What a terrible dilemma for you. All anyone can give you is opinions of course, only you can make this difficult and personal decision. I can tell you that I probably would not put my own eldest Lab through this kind of life changing surgery. And she is ten not thirteen. Adapting to life on three legs is definitely achievable, but it seems a lot to ask of a dog at the very end of her life. I don’t suppose that is any comfort, but I do wish you all the best.

  2. Did anyone have an older lab that had a ruptured spleen mass or spleen mass that didn’t rupture? My 14 year old lab had a ruptured spleen mass and was slowly bleeding. I put her to sleep instead of surgery to remove spleen/mass. They said it was 80% most likes malignant and hemangiosarcoma which is very aggressive….if she made it through the surgery she would most likely have 1-3 months assuming it was hemangiosarcoma. There was a 20% chance it was benign. Now after this ordeal and with a clearer mind and some investigation, I’ve read stories about older dogs who did have surgery/benign tumors and they came through ok and had more time with their owners. I just feel horrible that I wasn’t able to give her a chance. 🙁

    • I think you made the right decision for a 14 year old Labrador, and I would have done the same. Few Labs live much beyond 14 and if there was a 20% chance it was benign, there was an 80% chance she would have suffered had you kept her alive. Possibly quite horribly. So sorry for your loss, please don’t be hard on yourself.

  3. Thank you so much for this article.My beautiful boy Blue is 12 years old and has always been lean fit and healthy until this past year when he began to loose control of one of his back legs and is now deteriorating very rapidly. Tests have revealed nothing and anti inflammatories have not helped at all. He does not seem to be in pain though his appetite is reducing. i know the day is coming soon when I will have to make that decision. The comment on better a week early than day too late is helping so much.

  4. Dear Pippa.
    I just want thank you for helping me come to a decision of “knowing when to let go”. Your article of this subject help me so much although the pain and tears where still very much present. My much loved old lady Tasha (black lab) known as bear is now at peace. Over the months she started to slow down but the last month proved too much for my old lady. She lost the use of back legs, stopped eating and became incontinent. Now dignity or quality of life was there any longer. Still, she would still wag her tail and give a lick to show her love.
    Reading your article “knowing when to let go” said everything my heart and mind felt and said. I think Tasha and I would still be experiencing our own misery had it not been for you. Thank you.
    My heart and thoughts go to you all who have experienced or experiencing a loss, of not just a pet but truly family member. Miss her so much but it would of been selfish of me to keep her this way just so I don’t feel the sadness, she is in better place now but I also thank her for coming to me at a time of need and helping me though difficult times. She gave me great strength and companionship, one man and his dog. RIP TASHA x

  5. I have a 14 1/2 year old lab- amazing dog! For the past year, she has been having #2 accidents. It now happens every other day. We can’t seem to time it right to get her outside but I think it’s that she can’t control herself. I took her to the Vet and they put her on an arthritis medication. They said it would help her get in to the position to poop easier- Well she is still having accidents all the time. The vet looked at me and said, her heart is fine, she’s wagging her tail, she’s still eating…and this is the part that kills us because we are tired of cleaning up huge dog messes every other day. How do you know when it’s time? This is breaking our hearts, we can see she hangs her head when she has accidents because she knows it’s “wrong.” She is having trouble getting up the stairs and wills herself to do it. My problem with my vet is he is making me feel guilty about even discussing putting her to sleep. How will I know when it’s time? thanks for any input.

    • I am in the same situation Sara. My 12.5 year old lab, has been incontinent for over two years, it started off with only the odd accident, but now it is every day both weeing and pooing, and he wee’s in his sleep on his bed every night. His back legs are failing and he is on meds for that to the maximum level allowed for his weight. He now wee’s and poo’s as he walks and doesnt have any control over this, and when he does it indoors he knows its wrong and acts guilty, but he never gets told off for it. His legs have good days and bad days. He is still eating well, and otherwise in good condition other than his thyroid problem. Half of the time he looks happy and wags his tail, and the other half he looks sad and is just staring into space… I have heard that I will know when the time is right, but how do I ???? I do not want to end his life prematurely, but on the other hand I do not want him to suffer and be miserable. I feel guilty even typing this, but I have to do right by him

    • We had to say goodbye to our girl Maggie on Friday March the 10th..at 16 years old .I did not think it would be this hard I cry myself to sleep, as I lay here with tears.. she started to lose weight she got very skinny where you could see her bones, she could no longer walk very far, she would fall over, she did still eat and drink but not as much, she would wander off in strange places in the house,she couldn’t hold her bowels, we knew it was time to say our goodbyes as much as we didn’t want to.. one minute we said yes it’s time then say maybe not yet, but we had to think of her and her needs, it’s more harder for us then them.. it hurts more then ever knowing we will never see her sweet face again but brings me comfort knowing she’s at peace.. she lived a great life with all the love in the world. Love you our girl.

    • Sara I hope your guy is still with you.
      I have the exact same issue as you….I just pick it up and carry on. If he’s still happy and can enjoy a walk and can eat then it isn’t time at all…

    • It’s your decision, not that of your vet who does not know your dog the way you do. Better that a much loved friend goes out with some semblance of normalcy than wait until they can no longer function in a way they are comfortable with. Putting a dog through the shame of messing when they simply cannot control it, or simply going through the motions to try and please you is not doing the sweet baby any favours.
      I say this having euthanized a wonderful chocolate lab 2 days ago – yes, with pain medication (arthritis) he could still hobble around and manage a very short ramble 2 times a day, was loving and affectionate and still loved his food, but lying around all day without being able to engage seems a poor existence – I wouldn’t want it for myself and he deserved real quality of life, not mere existence. Didn’t quite make his 13th birthday, but the days he had were all good, and that’s the way it should be IMO.

      • We euthanized our beautiful Sam, a yellow lab, 3 days ago. He, too, was on pain medication (arthritis) and having massage and acupunture. He was going for a slow walk each day plus little walks to go to the toilet. We have six steps down to our back yard. Sam could no longer get back up the steps without help. Yes, he too, loved his food and was lying around all day without being able to engage. He was able to give us a ‘happy tail’ but our boy had lost his joy of life. His quality of life had deteriorated but we still wanted him to live. However, Tuesday was the day his decline rapidly increased. He, too didn’t make his 13th birthday – 3 months shy of 13. We are heartbroken. For me it is guilt for putting Sam to sleep and acceptance that it was the best choice for Sam AND that is all that matters. We let him go with dignity. He shall never be forgotten. Sam was a huge part of our lives. Sam was loved and had the most beautiful soul. Rest peacefully our beautiful boy. Thank you for your article. I needed to find it.

  6. our daisy was 17 in Jan. she has had so many issues through her lifetime, and recently, had added to that laryngeal paralysis. She has been declining most steadily it seems the past 6 months, and although we seem to have alleviated the most noticeable symptoms (for her, those were hacking constantly, often producing huge amounts of clear or mucous like liquid), her strength has dwindled. Her appetite also waned so I started cooking for her. chicken and rice with peas, liverworst, beans, scrambled eggs, whatever she would eat. But her dwindling strength and muscle mass, especially in her hind quarters, means now she has a harder time getting to her feet, and equally hard time laying back down. We now feed her on her bed. then drag her bed, with her on it, to the door–the kitchen floor is too slippery and too much of a challenge. Then we help her get up and she is able to go outside for a walk. When she comes back in, we reverse the process, beginning with helping her to lie down. I know the end is not far off, but it is so very difficult. I have lost so many of my animal companions these past three years, I feel exhausted and deflated. I look off to my left now and see her laying there, looking at me, and I can’t imagine that soon, she will not be there.

  7. Thank you for this very helpful article. My 13 year old, beloved chocolate lab, Rex, began having trouble walking last night after several years of gradual deterioration of movement. An ordinarily rational, objective person, I have been crying ever since he began struggling as he really is my best friend. I took him to the vet this morning. They are going to try anti-inflammatory drugs and therapy for a few days to see if they can get him moving again. Although we may be able to extend his quality of life for a short time longer, I soon will be faced with a difficult decision. My instincts and philosophies match yours, Pippa. I could see in my dog’s eyes the fear and stress at not knowing what was going on with his body. It is helpful to me to read all of these stories from people who have experienced similar situations with their dogs and to know that they feel what I feel.

    • I’m sorry to hear this Kathy, and hope that the anti-inflammatories are able to provide Rex with some extra happy months. Best wishes to you. Pippa

      • Pippa. Firstly…THANK YOU!!! Today is Saturday, and Monday morning I will phone the vet to put my Jessy to sleep. I am so glad I Googled and found your article, as this help Jessy, and us very much. I have read all of the stories, and the same with our beautiful, well balanced Lab, Jessy. 14 years old. We have her on Anti inflammatory tablets for 3 years,( we had x-rays taken and she had severe hip) and she still plays, runs and has ALWAYS welcomed any rescue that I have bought home. Friday morning when I took Jessy, and the other 5 doggies out she also just fell, 3 times she tried, and I then took a towel, got her to her mattress outside and dried her. The grass is wet in the winter here. My son was home that day, and could take care of her until I got home at 1:30. 2 o’clock we were at the vet. She has put Jessy on Morphine now, but I know now that is just for us to keep her for selfish reasons. I will give your article to my son to read tomorrow so that we can say our farewells , and understand that this is the best decision for all. I cannot watch this gracious, beautiful lady of us loosing total control. Watching her trying to run on our walks, and her legs just giving way under her is horrific, and so heartbreaking. I am just very grateful, that this happened on Friday, and we only have the weekend to say goodby. I could not do this to Jessy one day longer. Thank you Pippa!

  8. Our dog is almost 16. She sometimes struggles to get up but we are fortunate to always have someone with her. We use a long scarf around her ribs to give her extra support when she can’t get her legs to do what she wants. We also walk with her in this manner to give a little support. She eats heartily, and wags her tail almost all the time. She picks up toys to toss around and barks with glee and excitement after an evening sleep or any naps. Wags her whole body. She is partially deaf now too. The vets (2) mentioned 3 years ago that it was time to put her down. Her back hips and legs had just played out. We gave her anti inflammatory pills to give us a few days to say good bye, although nothing indicated stress with pain. This kept nagging me, could the nerves have severed? so she was not in pain? I used warm warm wet towels in a large ziplock bag then also wrapped in a pillow case and Ice packs and grabbed either a book or computer and stayed on the floor with her..slept on the sofa right next to her…Seemed to be some improvement???? overnighted a special wheel chair walker for her..very very expensive and next to impossible to use unless two people were around and she wanted none of it….hence the long long soft scarf…after 5 weeks of heat and ice packs. She was up. and had been up for 3 years. She does wear a sweater in the winter. All the other dogs rallied around her and she is the KING of the tribe. I think love does a lot in care for animals, I think their partners in crime give them something also, I think the animal sees you identify a problem they have and work at their pace. We are blessed. She was born on 9-11 and her name is Freedom. hoping to have another wonderful year with her.

    • That’s amazing, I would love to hear more of your story and how your dog is doing? 🤗

      Maybe the diet you’ve given her?

      Seems like she has a strong desire to live.

  9. We have a 16 year old lab. She is blind, deaf and has problems standing. We are going to put her down tomorrow but are we doing the right thing? So hard

  10. Hello Pippa, I adopted from the spca my sheeba when she was about 2 1/2 years old she is now around 7 years old and has been diagnosed with hip displacia , she has been on medication but nothing seems to help. just like overnight she was whining obviously from pain and couldn’t get up on her hind legs and still can’t get up it’s been now 4 weeks and I don’t know how I can help her anymore my husband and I pick her up and take her to the grass so that she can do her number 1 & 2, I am giving her the medication, massaging her using infrared treatment as suggested, giving her all the love and care but I see the pain in her eyes and I cry just seeing her lying there and I feel helpless. Please help guide me as to what else can I do for my beloved companion.

  11. Today we said goodbye to our 13 yo Ernie. He has always been an inside dog, a special member of our family and our first “child”. He has had trouble with his back legs over the past 6 months and unable to get to the grass in time to go to the toilet. This week hes been unable to get up from a sitting position because he’s lost any strength in his back legs. He barks to be helped to get up for food and water and can’t move to go to the toilet. Days are long for him and after reading your article I realised, I would only be prolonging his life for us, not for him. There’s no quality now and he’s frustrated with not being able to move. He sits up on front legs, then lies down again. That’s all the days consist of for him right now. The vet was really caring and advised he was only going to get worse, not better. We knew. We gave him lots of hugs rubs and kisses and he passed in our arms. Xo

  12. I think it is time to consider letting ours go, he has lost most of the ability in his back legs slowly over the past couple of weeks. I think we’re just managing pain now. He’s not eating or drinking fully, he has a low thyroid and is just sleeping or laying down dosed up all of the time. He’s dehydrating I think. As long as there’s really nothing that can be done, I would be happy for him to go and be at peace.

  13. I can’t stop crying. My 15 year old female lab is tough and stoic. She has had a few years of weakness in her hind end. She is getting the gold standard of medical care. Recently she is no longer able to stand or walk. She will do her business outside if she hasn’t already done it in her sleep on her bed. She even lets me carry her down stairs. I am so grief stuck that i can’t accept that it is time to say goodbye to the best friend i ever had. She sleeps all the time and cries to let me know she want help up. She has mild dementia. I have spared no expense in her care. Now the hardest decision to make i am not strong enough to do there. Anyone please say something

    • So sorry to hear that you are facing such a difficult decision. Do contact your veterinarian and ask for advice. Most vets are very supportive and will help you work through this tough time.

    • We had the exact same problem and we decided yesterday( after dealing with it it in so many ways for at least over a year) to stop our 16 y/o’s suffering yesterday. She went peacefully in our arms at home. We probably waited too long , it had been months since she wagged her tail and seemed to be in “stress mode” when she wasn’t sleeping most of the day. It was difficult but I feel we had a duty to end her suffering.

    • Dear KL,
      I have tears streaming down my face, and it is hard to type this. Our black lab turned 15 in November. The day after Christmas, our roommate called us upstairs and said he was down in the hall, crying softly. We ran down to find him unable to get up. We’ve been watching his back legs get weak this year, but this was the first time he could not get up on his own. We laid with him. He was very happy to have us there, and of course the big tail was thump-thump-thumping on the floor. He’s also been having trouble with his bowl movements, and has had a few accidents in the house that made him feel just awful. Since then, he’s been able to get up, and he can still get himself in and out of the house (which has three concrete stairs to go down and then back up). I have told my girlfriend that when he is unable to get up on his own, or when he totally can’t control his bowls – it will be time to let go. She has friends that carry their 15 year old chocolate in and out of the house to go to the bathroom. For us – for our dog – I just can’t go there. His greatest joy in life (other than eating) is running and playing. He is very nervous about his poop. I just couldn’t bare to put him through the indignities of being lame and incontinent. That’s where I am, and I’m not sure my girlfriend and I see this the same. I’ve never had a lab before, but have had many dogs. This is the most special, loving, and fun creature I’ve ever met in my lifetime, and I am so not ready to let go – but I’m even more not ready to think that he would suffer. God bless you and your friend – I hope you can find some peace and solace.

  14. Hi I read what you wrote about it when to let go. Almost immediately after writing you regarding my cream colored lab will be 17 in July. I’ve made two appointments with my vet and cancel them both. But after reading what you wrote it made me remember how shy Jewel always was whenever she went to the bathroom she always had to make sure she was out of everybody site. Like I explained she’s very timid dog for a lab and I’m realizing that I’m being selfish. So Christmas or not I think I will have to call the vet and make plans to make the decision. It’s apparent this is more about me than it is her. I know all too well how it feels to have the one person that supposed to care about you the most desert you at the time that you need them the most. It is happened more than I even like to admit to me. So I was feeling as if I would be betraying her and she so codependent when it comes to me.she has always showed the need to be near me, i’m sure a lot of that reason is because I didn’t adopt her until she was three years old. And prior to that she was kept on a 3 foot chain allowing her to wear down only a small circle and go into her doghouse. She wasn’t able to interact with the dog next to her who also is living that way. It was 12 months of the year. She’s never seen a chain or a kennel since. And when we walked she was right at my side. I’m sure the reason she’s the way she is is because of the initial neglect. And she’s become more that way because of her loss of sight and mobile independence. So I would like to thank you for putting it in such careful words I’m feeling better about the decision. It’s gonna be hard. There’s been several months over the last 14 years where it’s just she and I. Several situations I don’t think I would’ve survived without her emotionally and physically. I am now feeling that peacefully making the decision for her will be more of a thank you for all she’s done to me rather than a betrayal.
    Sincerely with a heavy heart,
    Melissa V

  15. We lost our beloved 12 yr old Natcho 2 months ago due to metastatic lung tumors related to two previous mammary tumors, which were both removed. She was quite healthy up until 3 weeks before, and any symptoms were attributed to glaucoma/meds up until 2 days before the end. She certainly didn’t exhibit any coughing, etc and her panting wasn’t unusual considering the hot weather. Tho I trusted my vet, my intuition told me something wasn’t right. She was spacey, confused and uncoordinated at times, and became more lethargic. In her final week, she began eating less and less. She even passed her physical the morning of diagnosis, but was kept for xrays. The vet said nothing seemed too serious until they called a few hours later with the xray results. We miss her dearly as she was a central figure in our lives.

  16. We have a young 11 1/2 year old chocolate lab who is my daily joy. A few months ago I noticed that he seemed to have a little trouble settling himself to a sitting/lying position. X-rays of hips, spine appeared negative. Otherwise, acting fine, running daily with me. Lab work indicated liver disease, abdominal ultra sound gave us the devastating news of a hepatocellular tumor in the middle of his liver. Oncologist, surgeon said that this type of tumor can usually be removed with a good prognosis. But, the risk of complications increases with the location of his tumor. Struggling with making the best decision. We are not comfortable with losing him during surgery or post-op or putting him through surgery to find the tumor can’t be removed. As of now, we have decided against surgery and have started homeopathic treatment. We know it wont necessarily add time to his life but praying for quality? Right now, you would hardly know he has cancer. Has anyone anyone’s lab had a similar diagnosis? Any thoughts?

  17. I lost my dog when he was 3. He was not put to sleep, but was killed as he ran across the road. A tradesperson had not closed the back gate properly. He was a Chihuahua cross. It has been 12 years and I have other dogs now, but I have not forgotten him. I did not cry or anything. I was matter of fact about his death. When I talk about him though, I know I miss him.

    In time to come though, I know I will most likely have to go through what you all are going through.
    .Just know that we have a GOD, Jesus and HE is good. The animals are not feeling pain anymore.

  18. Last night I put in a search to help me find the courage to do what I needed to do for my lab Crickett. And I found this site. This post and all the comments helped me so much. Crickett was 13 and lost her sight when she was 10. In the last couple of weeks, she has struggled with getting up and down steps. And then it got even harder and her legs began to splay on the hardwood floors and she couldn’t get up. Life was already a struggle for her even before this.

    We took her to the vet today with our minds already made up that she needed to be let go – she needed – not us. The vet was a new vet (we had moved from her vet a few months ago) and he and the staff could not have been more supportive and comforting. Our darling girl went peacefully and without pain and with the two people who loved her most. I still have to call the kids (our adult kids) but while I feel sadness that has not completely hit, I also feel such relief that she will struggle no more. She gave us her best and she deserves our courage and protection.

    I guess I am posting this as a thank you but also I want to say this… in her three years of blindness, I’ve tried to prevent the bumps that always happen unless you put her in a padded room. I’ve watched her struggle and not be able to play anymore the way that dogs do because turning around and around was too disorienting. I watched her life get smaller and smaller and I worried about whether what we were giving her (with 8 hour work days and a someone to walk her during the day) were enough. I’ve also heard others make comments that dismissed her struggles and what it was doing to her to not be able to see and not able to say what she needs or even understand what was happening to her. The comments frankly were rarely helpful. I think that they did not know what else to say.

    I agree with the author of the post that there is a view that misunderstands what our real jobs are as pet owners – not to push our pets’ limits with the view that we are somehow giving them the best when we keep them alive longer. We also believe that we have to be very careful about overstating our views about what someone’s choice should be. I’ve had a lot of that in three years through Crickett’s blindness.

    Farewell my beautiful brave girl!

    • Take heart it what you have compassionatly done the space that my Delaney has left in unbearable at times and the most little things will set the tears rolling but we have done the right thing by our dear friends and companions they gave us all their love and loyalty and that is what we have done for them they were not just dogs, pets they were members of our families who were given dignity at the end . I collected Delaneys ashes yesterday and now with the rest of the family he will be scattered under the rose bush where his brother is already . I take solice in the fact they are together again and causing chaos somewhere . Cry if you need to it is a time of mourning but remember you have done the kindness deed ever, memories can never fade much love to you and your family from a family who understands xxx

  19. Have just read your words above and realise that I am going to have to say goodbye to my boy Delaney he’s 12 and today his back end went completely he has been having accidents for about a year now, I knew it was coming but he’s lying there looking at me and I can see it in his eyes. I feel that after reading your article that the quality of life is much more important than quantity of life. He is peaceful at the moment so I will review in the morning and give my vet a ring. Thankyou x

    • Well I said goodbye to my darling Delaney this morning at 8.50am he was put to sleep while lying in my arms he went peacefully and quickly thankyou for writing your article as it helped me so much in making up my mind xx

      • I too said goodbye to my wonderful 15 year old lab Scooby the same day in the evening. On Monday afternoon he was still able to walk be it unbalanced and sometimes a foot rolled under. It had been progressing for the past 6 months so I knew the end was coming soon. He had very few accidents over the period of time. However, by Monday night he could not walk using his back legs at all and I could tell it caused him distress to help him outside. I called my vet Tuesday morning and he came to our house and put him at peace. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as I am sure it was for you but it was the final act of love I think we could both do for our much loved furry kids.

        • My heart goes out to you x the house is now very quiet and I still find myself doing things and then my heart sinks because he isn’t there, and yes there are tears but why not we are mourning the passing of one of our family, Delaney was more than just a dog he was my best friend and my companion.The adventures we’ve had will be precious memories.

      • I’m so sorry for your loss. I am sobbing whilst reading this as my golden lab has been having accidents the last few days and now his back legs are failing. Yesterday we had my Dads funeral and its all too much at once, its breaking my heart.

  20. Our soon to be 13 year old black lab Natalie has been having trouble with her back legs. She has fallen and needs help getting up. The bigger problem though is we believe she has laryngeal paralysis. The past 2-3 weeks she has shown very little interest in eating. She always got very excited about eating and would bounce up and down. Now she eats very little and shows little interest. She makes that weird gagging noise associated with “larpar”. In your opinion, is she suffering and should we soon have her put down? I cant afford surgery for her and I’m afraid trying to prolong her life with medications is delaying the inevitable.
    Thanks,
    Craig Zellmann

    • Craig Zellman, we just lost our 12 year old yellow lab to larpar. She was incorrectly diagnosed July 2015 with bronchitis and put on antibiotics and cough medicine, to no avail. It wasn’t until June 2016, that she was finally diagnosed with larpar, but was not given any medical treatment options until Friday, when she collapsed and could not breathe. We almost lost her. The vet gave us a shot of ACE to take home and give her if it happened again, and was instructed to rush her to an emergency vet facility. It happened again less than 24 hours. She collapsed, couldn’t breathe, we gave her the shot, but her in the car, called the vet to meet us, and she passed away 15 min later. We didn’t make it. I definitely feel we were ‘a day too late’, but didn’t realize the extent of her illness. Laryngeal Paralysis is a neurological disorder that affects more than just the larynx. It did in her case. She was our baby, and we deeply miss her! Good luck with your choice. It’s not easy. Please read this article add it is the only and most complete description of the disease. https://www.purinaproclub.com/resource-library/pro-club-updates/laryngeal-paralysis-is-first-sign-of-general-neurological-paralysis

    • Morning Craig
      Please read my story dated 11th March 2016 it is nearly 7 months since I lost Megan and there isn’t 1 day that goes by that I don’t think about her, but even to this day I know I did the right thing as one Lady wrote ‘It is a privilege to have know them and a responsibility to do the right thing’
      Belinda Tate

  21. I can’t thank you enough for this article. My 12 year old lab is scheduled to be put to sleep tomorrow morning. She had a stroke at 6 and lost use of one rear leg. The other is failing and her hips don’t always carry her. All she does is sleep all day- no interest in walks or playing fetch or even swimming. I know someday soon, she will fall like she does every day only this time she’ll break something and she’ll end her life suffering. Your “a week too soon is better than a day too late” has calmed my anxieties, doubts, and guilt. My baby will end her life in peace.. Thank you so much.

    • I am so sorry….the pain of loosing are buddy’s almost unbearable?
      Thinking of you, it’s almost my big guys time…

  22. My 5 year old lab has Cushings. I was so relieved to read this article. It’s my feelings exactly but it’s hard to find someone who agrees. I’ve been having the feelings of being judged by others if I put her down. I’ve had her since she was 2 months old and she is the most loyal friend I have ever had. She is in the beginning of the disease I believe, although thinking back we noticed small signs months ago and didn’t think too much of them. Her belly is distended. She drinks and pees excessively. Is restless and doesn’t want to go outside anymore unless I am with her. To someone who doesn’t know her she still looks and seems fine. She is becoming increasingly incontinent though and moves around the house often because she is wet. I want to let go of her while she is still happy and in no pain. I hope I can have a vet come to the house and euthanize her. I do want her to go in a peaceful, safe environment where she is happy.

    • Hi Nancy, I read your comments and just cried. I know exactly how you feel – we have a 13 1/2 year old lab who was diagnosed with Cushings 2 years ago. At that stage she had been practically drinking herself to death for the previous 6 months as the vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her. Extensive tests discovered the Cushings and the vet forewarned us that she probably had weeks to live, at best a few months. She was given a drug called Vetoryl which pretty much transformed her life, the drinking and the wetting stopped in a matter of days and the medication perked her up – she was a completely different dog. We rearranged our routine with her to make her more comfortable & give her some dignity, especially as overnight she was struggling to hold on for so long. We thought as she didn’t have much time left we would keep her happy and comfortable, so here commenced the midnight last-pee-of-the-day and the 5am starts!. Two years on, she’s still with us but now getting rickety on her back legs and her belly has started to distend more than normal so we are now having her rechecked with the vet, but I fear the time has come to have her put down and am completely heartbroken. She still is very content, always wagging, has an enormous appetite and runs round our garden like a maniac, so the decision to be made is a gut-wrenching one as from the outside she doesn’t appear to be in any discomfort. I am grateful that the medication gave us 2 more years with her, anyone else might have made the decision back then to have her put down. You do not mention if your dog is on medication, I would recommend you seek advice from your vet and if you can get treatment for her. A lot of these conditions nowadays can be controlled with meds. Yes it’s expensive but personally I wouldn’t change the last 2 years for anything and would happily pay the money on tablets, tests and vet visits all over again. I wish you all the best with your lab. Sx

      • Thank you for your reply, Sonia. She had not been on any medication. Her symptoms have really come on rapidly over the last couple of weeks. I took her back to the vet and it was determined she had a massive tumor in her abdomen. We had her put down yesterday morning. :'( !!! She ate like a queen the day before and in the am. 🙂 She thought she was in doggy heaven. 😀 My apt with the vet was at 9:30 am yesterday. Molly woke up earlier than usual and instead of going out to pee and coming right back in, she wanted to stay out. With me, of course. We sat on the porch together for 2 hours before she ever wanted to come back in the house. Just her and I loving on each other. That has never happened before and I know it was a gift from God. When the time came to take her she didn’t want to come out from under the bed so I called the vet and told them I’d be late. They were very understanding that I didn’t want to rush her or make it in any way distressful for her. I ended up giving her a Xanax to get her to come with me. She never was a fan of going anywhere. She was happiest at home. She left this world in my arms but not fearful. The vet was a new one since we are new to the area and he was so compassionate. That really helped us both. I put her picture as wallpaper on my phone and tonight my husband asked if I’d take it off cause it makes him to sad to see it. Anytime we go into a room we expect to see our sweet Molly. We both agree that our next dog will be another lab. They’re the best!

        • Oh Nancy I am so so sorry for your loss, bless you! I was so hopeful for you, given your dog’s young age that maybe, just maybe, something could be done. I know all dogs and dog owners are different. My lab has never been a fan of going anywhere either and as soon as we put her in the car, she automatically thinks we’re taking her to the vet (not always the case, of course!). I hope you can cherish the wonderful memories of your time together. This is what all my work colleagues are saying of my lab (she comes into the office with us so is hugely loved – and spoilt ! – by everyone) but although I’m trying to psyche myself up for the inevitable, I can’t think about it without breaking down. I know in the next couple of weeks we will have to make that heartbreaking decision but I know it will be for the best. Sx

          • I adopted my almost 12 yr old yellow lab, Bubba, a year ago from a friend whose health decline made it that she could not keep him anymore. He is such an amazing dog, happy, super friendly, so well-behaved! Besides dealing with arthritis in his right hip, probably from an injury as a pup (he was a Katrina rescue), and cysts, he was very energetic, always ready to go, play, car rides to anywhere, etc.

            A few months ago he got really sick, diarrhea, no strength, etc, but the vets were able to get that under control. He got sick again just a week ago, and I end up taking him to the emergency center. After staying over night, having tests and imaging, seeing an internal medicine specialist, and treatments, it was discovered that he has some tumors growing, plus an orange size mass. They feel it is fairly slow growing, so I have decided at this point not to put him through the surgery.

            I know I will be also facing end-of-life decisions in the not to distant future, and am not looking forward to it at all, but I am trying to remind myself that I have given him a good life for his senior times, and appreciate our time together. Thank you for your stories as they do give me strength.

  23. I have a old lab, she is 17 1/2 and the end is very near… She has cushings which she had medicine from vets which made her worse.. All melds have stopped but she has lost fat and muscle especially rear end.. She drinks and eats, due to cushings, her fur has been falling out.. No strength and now more frequently wets herself.. It’s time to go.. My faithful friend Kas xx

  24. I am sitting here missing my boy that I loved so much he was 12 he was diagnosed with heart and lung disease three years ago he’s been on meds for that. last October I was told he had kidney disease he had lost 70 percent vet said the medication dose affect the kidneys he always had a hacking cough it became part of our everyday life morning were great for him The medication enabled him to go for a walk as he did not cough for most of the morning but the last few months he could cough all night on/off I was use to getting up with him 2/3 times in the night that didn’t worry me but the alnight was very hard but he still had a wonderful quality of life he went out for walks eat well ever try to play with their cocker spaniel of course we had to intervene because he will become breathless and start coughing. I was told by vet we would take each day at a time on Friday we rush to the emergency Vet the The lungs and heart was filled with fluid they gave him water injection and sedative and that settled him down we came home on Saturday he was running around on Sunday night he’s breathing went down hill we rushed to vet who were wonderful they had been looking after my boy for years i new it was his time to see him so stressed unable to breath was awful vet said they could do tests put him on oxygen but there was no saying he would Bounce back so I made the choice to Put him to sleep he never stop looking at me I was in such a State I blame myself as I had given him his half of steroid for his lungs someone told the steroid had killed him how do you get over something like this.

    • Tina, it sounds as though you did everything you could and that you made a very brave and kind decision. It takes time to get over the pain of losing a much loved dog, but you will get there. Best wishes, Pippa

  25. Sadly just over a week ago I made the heartbreaking decision to let my beloved Labrador Meg go to sleep for the last time (previous post 18th May 2016). After stopping the steroids the side effects disappeared and we had some lovely time with her where she was her old self again but she started to struggle and I knew it was time to let her go. I’m heartbroken but also thankful for her unconditional love and wagging tail and I’m hoping she’s somewhere running around with no pain in her joints anymore. Sleep tight Meggy

  26. We had two wonderful Labs. Both received more kisses and hugs than there are stars in the sky. Morgan contracted diabetes. Despite monitoring, he went blind. Worse was diabetic neuropathy that caused him to loose control of his back legs. I recall the exact moment his legs collapsed and he gazed at me. His look instantly told me, “I’m old, I hurt and I’m struggling. I knew it was time. Piper contracted cancer. He lived happily for a few months under heavy medication. When he could barely walk he looked at me the same way as Morgan. I knew. What the author said and I consider very important is having the Vet come to our homes. If one refuses, there is another who will do it. In both cases, their passing was in their own home … surrounded by their favorite toys and covered by their favorite blankets. Soft music was playing. They both passed away peacefully. I still feel their loss many years later, but was always pleased that they passed on in their own home.

  27. This was so helpful to me. Our beautiful yellow lab Bailey is now 11.5. She has been losing her sight and seems to be experiencing dementia at times. Her back legs are also going and she has many fatty tumors. She always seemed so full of life still, at times still behaved puppy-like. However, a few days ago the little beggar was able to snatch a chicken thigh when it slipped of my plate as I was cutting the meat off for my son. She snatched it up quickly and my husband and I both immediately commanded her to “Drop it!” since we know dogs should never ingest chicken bones. Instead of dropping it, she swallowed it whole. We were advised to watch her for a few days for any distress and check her poop to be sure she passed it. Well, she hasn’t yet, and I am beginning to fear the worst. She still seems herself and is eating and drinking, but cannot move her bowels. A trip to the vet will happen if she does not poop today. If her bowel is obstructed, I don’t think we will be putting our old girl through costly surgery that would likely be incredibly stressful on her as she tends to be a nervous pup. She has had a great life thus far, and I would much rather her leave this life feeling happy and whole than suffer through the next few years that will surely be painful on her. However, I am sickened at the thought that my accident of dropping the bone may mean the end of her days with us.

    • I hope your old girl is OK, although dogs shouldn’t have cooked bones, most accidental ingestions don’t cause a problem, especially with meat wrapped around it. Chances are that something else, perhaps related to old age is the problem and not the bone at all. Good luck at the vets

  28. I have 2 dogs, both of which were rescues from different situations. Duke, a Collie/Retriever aged 9 yrs and who I’ve had for the last 2 yrs, and Shadow, a Black Lab who is 4yrs old but who I’ve had since he was 8 wks old.
    Shadow is, by far, the closest to me due to the time we’ve spent together – in 4 years, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been apart. He means everything to me. He isn’t just my dog, he’s my therapy dog too. And that’s what worries me as he’s started to show signs of losing his back legs.
    Ever since he was a pup, he had “trembling leg” syndrome. It never affected any of his abilities and the trembling would only occur if he was over-excited or exhausted from walks and play. But recently, over the last year or so, he’s started to carry his left hind leg after lying down for awhile, getting off the couch or bed, or getting into/out of the car followed sometimes by him losing control of his bladder, which he looks very stressed about. A vets’ checkup confirmed his hip joints are going (more so on his rear left) in addition to lower spine degradation and nerve damage. I’ve been gutted ever since.
    Duke, my other rescue dog, is significantly older, came from horrendous abuse and neglect but is healthy as can be with an energy of a dog half his age.
    My vet recommended a treatment of corticosteroids and pain relief for Shadow and I thought of water therapy, which involves us all going for a swim in my local lake three times a week during the warmer months ( which the three of us love ) and a heat pad and lamp for the rest of the year to ease Shadow’s joints. But my vet also told me it’s simply a matter of time before it gets worse and I have to make the choice no dog parent wants to think about. On one hand, the thought of Shadow ever starting to suffer in any way horrifies me. He’s given everything to me in his 4 years of life so far – love, loyalty, devotion, friendship, everything a dog can show to a human being – and never once gave me a cause for concern apart from the issue we both now face. He even saved my life once. Without a doubt, I owe him everything.
    Granted, the thought of euthanasia is inevitable one day, even if your dog lived a long and happy life. For me, the very thought that I may have to consider this for Shadow, even though it potentially means cutting short his life – with all the possibilities left unfulfilled – fills me with dread. As it is, we take every day as it comes and Shadow has days where he acts as if nothing is wrong. Thankfully those days are currently outnumbering the bad days but I know in the back of my mind that won’t be the case and the time will come when the decision will have to be made.

  29. We had our beloved black lab Jess put to sleep 8 days ago, she was 10 and a half. When she was only 18 months old she was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia and had surgery at a specialist centre where they told us that “sooner, rather than later her front end would go”. Her quality of life for a young labrador was not great. She had the walks that were recommended for her long-term by the centre (two short walks a day….for the rest of her life…..she was only young……but we took each day as it came and if she was having a good day we went a bit longer :)…..and she did have a lot of good days! ) We always struggled with her weight as she loved her food but couldn’t exercise as she would have liked. Then at 6 yrs old her left cruciate ligament completely ruptured. At the time, one of her front legs was also bad and she could hardly walk (only to toilet). We persuaded our vet to refer her to a (different) specialist centre, as she was only 6 and the rest of her was completely healthy….if only we could mend her legs! She had the cruciate repair and they told us to walk her as much as she could manage and basically “run it into the ground” and enjoy whatever time was left . Best thing we ever did! She had another good 4 years from that. She had been on daily anti-inflammatories from being 18 months (first Rimadyl, then last 4 years Metacam), she was on glucosamine and chondroitin (latterly we used a compound that also incorporated green-lipped mussel) and cod liver oil. For the last 16 months she was on Tramadol and when the vet put her on that she was on the maximum dose and there was no Plan B. She did really well considering all the potential side-effects from all that medication for all that time. I often wondered if it would be the medication side-effects that would get her in the end. We made the difficult decision to end her pain based on her quality of life. It was difficult to measure as she had never really had the quality of life we had hoped for her. She was loved so much. I’m still numb but I know we made the right decision. I was helped by the “better a week too early than a day too late”. I did read around and read “you will just know when it’s time” but I did not find this too helpful. On hindsight I think I know what it means……..

  30. Thank you for this read, I have had many dogs and the decision to let go is always the hardest one,and done out of love. My last older dog did as you said and lost all control of his back legs to watch him struggle and the look of confusion and stress in his eyes was heartbreaking,he was an Aussie and a very independent dog. I made the decision to let him go with out all the test and vet visits that might help,he was 13 and had a good life and I didn’t want to spend his last weeks with him unhappy! Again thank you for this read,it breaks my heart to watch some people prolong their dogs life beyond what’s good for their dog because THEY can’t let go!!

  31. Hello,

    So glad that I came across this article because I’m facing the awful situation of when is going to be the right time to let our nearly thirteen year old black lab, ‘Meg’ go.
    Ever since I can remember Meg has had arthritis and she has managed excellently with lots of walks, lots of loving attention and a very good vet. Sadly Meg’s spine is now starting to struggle which is leading to incontinence, not that bad but incontinence all the same. For the past few months she has been on Steroids but after reading this article and after a lot of soul searching on my part I asked our vet to stop them. Whilst they are doing what they are supposed to the side effects for Meg are just to much, excessive panting all day and night, eating out of rubbish bins and constant restlessness and anxiety all of which just aren’t fair on her. She took her last Steroid this morning and hopefully by the weekend the side effects should be starting to go. What life will be like afterwards who knows but I feel more confident that at least Meg will be herself for whatever time we have left with her and I feel a lot happier that I’ve made the decision to go for quality of life over quantity so thanks again ?.

  32. Thank you for this very informative article.

    My yellow lab, Elsie, is 5 years old and a few days back her left hind leg gave way. I found her struggling to get on a couch by scratching on it with her front paws to get a grip. Seemed like she could not move her hind legs as she looked helplessly at them. Heartrending moment to see her struggle like that for the first time. I had no clue of what these symptoms were indicative of. It terrified me. I later helped her onto the couch and kept talking to her and stroking and massaging her legs.

    She slowly stood up for a few seconds and then fell back. It took several minutes for her to gain control of all her four legs and stand up and move around. The poor thing had to poop and wouldn’t do it anywhere but in the toilet where she was trained to go. I cried at that point. I told her it was ok to poop anywhere. She looked at me, somehow wobbled to the toilet and with much difficulty did her job there. After that she seemed a little bit better and moved around without much difficulty. By this time, I had thought about various things in my head that could have caused this. The ceramic floor tiles first came to my mind. So I started putting mats and mattresses all over room and kept her there and didn’t let her move around. Of course, the vet came to see her gave her some antiinflammatories and pain killer. She was fine after that. She is slightly overweight, for which I have started her on a diet plan. I am giving her MSM, omega supplements. But I am worried this might happen again. Any advice? I will be grateful. Thank you.

  33. Sorry Pippa
    But it is beggars belief what I read after I lost Megan in February how people keep their beloved dogs going through incontinence, not being able to walk and enjoy their lives as they have done and being kept going on heeps of medication just for the owners selfish reasons !
    Believe me I miss Megan every day but she didn’t suffer anything like what I read and I have comfort in that xx

  34. Just put my second lab to sleep. He had many fatty tumors on his body that hardened on his back and shoulder that looked like a deflated football. He had all the symptoms of Cushings Disease. He was 12 years and 4 months. The last 4 days or waiting on the appointment to euthanize was horrible. I cried and felt a terrible void and he wasn’t gone yet. I had to help him in and out of bed and outside to potty. He panted a lot and had to stop several times to get out of house. My box spring an mattress had been on the floor for 6 months so I could get him in and out of bed safely. Wasn’t easy with a 100 lb dog. He was so sweet and loyal. He made the effort to get up and move because I encouraged him. It was time. His appetite was good (increased with Cushings) and He wanted t.o drink constantly. His back legs were weak. The other lab had died one and one half years before of a nasal cancer and Cushings. I had made the decision not to use a cancer treatment which was $6000 and would only increase his time for 5-7 months. I used a Chinese supplement to keep his nose from bleeding.he liver a year past the vet’s prediction of 3 months. He suddenly could not walk and layed on his side. It was time for him to go. Those 2 dogs were everything to me and I miss the company they gave me. At 65 I am not interested in the expense and time it takes for another dog. Old habits are hard to break and caring for the health problems of the 2 dogs was overwhelming but I did It faithfully because they depended on me and I loved them dearly. Would not trade the time I had with them for anything. The holes in my heart for these two dogs are like craters. I still want to leave tv on when I leave and feel like I have to hurry to return home to care for them. Home is where I feel close to them but the empty house is maddening. Time takes care of all wounds so it will be a while before I can have a day with no crying.

    • I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I recently lost my black lab. He was my baby boy. He was my light laughter and comfort. You are right, coming home to an empty house is maddening. I do have another dog I care for she is a sweetheart and is about 8 years old. She seems to be a little lost and confused as well. They both had two different personalities. But the caring for him at the end. The sleepless nights the worrying the am I doing the right thing. Still putting down two bowls of food by accident. It’s hard and you’re not alone. And if you are a believer as I am. I know when I’m called to go home my puppy will be waiting for me on the other side of Rainbow Bridge. Yours will be waiting for you.

  35. I am sitting in my home now reading all the comments to help me make the hardest decision.
    My 15 1/2 yr. old lab Bear, (female) has been by my side since the age of 9 months when I rescued her. She is my best friend and confidant. She has pretty much all use of her back left side and her right side isn’t good. She seems to have lost feeling in the rear as well because she lets me mover her around to clean her because she has become incontinent and has bowel movements and doesn’t know she has done it. She also has chf and is on heart meds, thyroid med and carprofen. It’s harder and harder to give her pills to her, she seems to know. At times she seems like she is starving and other times doesn’t care to eat. I have to pick up the rear end of her to get her out because she loses balance and falls. I know its time but she hasn’t looked at me in that way, I think she is holding on for me. I am being selfish because I lost my mother years ago and know the pain and don’t want it again. I lost my little peekapoo in December tragically and haven’t gotten over that. Please I need some help or reassurance or something. It took a long time for her to trust me and she has always been by my side. Help.

    • Hi Lynette, my heart goes out to you. I wrote in October 2015 about my boy Roo. My vet came to my home his words to me were ‘having a dog is a great privilege but with this comes great responsibility’. Not what you want to hear at the time, but its true. To do what’s right, they rely on us just as we have relied on them. Dogs live for the moment, I’ve learned this from mine (he was never grumpy when I was home late, he was just pleased to see me).They don’t want leave you but when there is no drive to enjoy life and all dignity is gone what is left for your faithful friend. Love them and respect them you know in your heart what you should do. Life is not fair, we must cherish and remember the best parts. Your not alone in your pain.
      Warmest Regards Ann

    • Hi Lynette, Same as Ann, I have written about the loss of my boy Whisky in October 2015. It has been the saddest day of my life. You are not alone. He has been my whole world. I think I have made the decision with the deepest and most unselfish love on earth. To pay him back for his unconditional love to me for all these 15 years, I stopped his suffering on earth, and I gave him back his dignity and serenity. It has been 6 months now, I still miss him so much and I still felt very sad. However, I started to understand that the pure love and the happy memories between he and me will stay eternally. And that life goes on and on in that cycle, every one , every dog, will find each other again, the pain will be healed, and the love keeps us strong. Lynette, my heart is with you. Remember that love is the only solution. Linda

  36. My yellow lab turned 13 in Feb, she has lost the use of both hind legs. She started about 2 years ago dragging her back feet a bit and for over the last year has no use of her hind legs. I purchased a doggie wheelchair which was not a good decision and it was too difficult to get her in and out and would still have to get her out of it to use the bathroom and she was very un co ordinated in it. We have doggie pads under her as she pees if we don’t get her out in time,so we have to clean her up each time this happens. I purchased two different back braces from Dr Fosters which she hated having on her . I have had her on various supplements to try and help such as Uvavet Gold,Myristin, Glucosamine and more. For over the last year my sister and I (we are not much bigger than my dog who weighs about 80lbs) have been carrying her outside on a blanket then getting her hind end up with a towel at which point she pees everywhere with the pressure on her belly(we wear rubber boots as it goes everywhere) and then we bring her back into the house wash her down and dry her off and bring her to her orthodog pillow where she stays till we do this again every 3 hrs. She is bright, alert and eats well. No signs of dementia. I have already made an appointment to have her put to sleep a few months ago which I cancelled as I felt so quilty and got negativity from a few people.. My sister and I are getting tired. We are 52 and 61 so its getting hard. The dogs quality of life has been gone for over a year and as we are the only two that take care of her ours is too., She is perfectly healthy besides her legs and this could go on for awhile

  37. Thank You for this ….my friends tried to make me feel guilty for putting my 14 1/2 yr. old peke-a-poo to sleep…..he was having trouble getting up and down and I came home from work 1 day and he had defecated and was laying there unable to get up….I called my vet right then and gave my Wags a good bath and brushing and my vet let me hold me and say goodbye as he administered the meds to send my old man across the Rainbow Bridge….I know in my heart I did the right thing.

  38. We had our beautiful Nell put to rest this past Thursday. She was my childhood dog but the hardest part was knowing that she was going to euthanized four days earlier. I cried the entire week and went to my parent’s apartment the next three nights to be with my little girl.

    Nell was in pretty good shape, she had some major setbacks over the years but always bounced back. She was having bowel issues and her back legs were giving out on her. She had several accidents in the house; usually on a daily occurrence. However, she still wagged her tail, eat her food, & stayed hydrated. She looked like a healthy dog but she had some dementia and couldn’t hear as well but she still looked happy.

    I was very against my parents putting her down, she was 14 and was turning 15 next month. I thought she had some fight in her and thought she had a couple of months to live/maybe even a year or so. This article has put my mind at ease knowing our little girl passed away without any pain; we didn’t wait for another setback. Our previous dog had a stroke and we had to put him down that morning, it was so sad seeing the discomfort that he was in.

    Nell was very afraid at the Vet that day. She had an IV put in her paw and once she returned to the our room, she peed all over the floor. She seemed very nervous and that made me sad. We gave Nell a sedative which made her unconscious pretty quickly. We said our last goodbyes and hugged/pet her when the euthanasia was injected.

    Nell died a very peaceful death but I miss her everyday and I am depressed. To me it still seemed like she wasn’t ready to go, she loved life so much. But I am also truly happy that she didn’t receive any pain down the road.

    What are your thoughts? Do you think Nell knew what was happening and tried to give us a sign?

    Thank You for any feedback.

  39. I had my beautiful best friend put to sleep on 22nd February 2016 after reading your site over and over again it was the bravest decision I have ever made Megan was 12.5 years old and still had her dignity, ate her meals but breathing for her became difficult she developed a renching sound and the last weekend of her life after a 15 minute walk was really struggling she has always been a very fit dog used to and enjoyed her long walks. The renching would also wake her up at night and there would be puffing and blowing I really felt for her as she slept in her big basket at the side of my bed, she also developed a lump at the back of her neck could this have been a tumour I didn’t want to put her through any operations. Also back in January she suffered what looked like a stroke when we got her to the vets they said it was an attack of vestibular syndrome which was so distressing to see and she ended up on medication which is not what I wanted and after that incident you really don’t know what it did to her brain !
    When I finally made my decision I had a lovely morning with her and the vet then came to my house her routine was the usual and the vet put her to sleep on the setee where she always slept it was so peaceful. Nearly three weeks on yes I miss her dearly but I know I did the right thing she went with all her dignity and that is how I will remember her believe me it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do . Megan to me was my world with not a bad bone in her body but one day I will meet her again at ‘The Rainbow Bridge’ her tail wagging.
    Belinda Tate

      • Thank you
        I would like to write further about my fantastic years with Megan Please if you have the time could you put me in touch with somebody who may would like to do an article for example I moved house a year ago and Megan didn’t settle as the old saying goes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and so fortunately I am employed part time by my son and so she came to work with me but that was one year of so many more happy times I had with her she never left my side and I never went out and left her I cut my cloth accordingly just to be with her ( I am not a blind person just someone who loved her dog )
        I am not wanting any financial gain from this but want to keep memories alive and any monies that maybe made would like to go the Labradors who at the end of the day are assistance dogs such a lovely and intelligent breed . You must get this asked all the time so fully understand if you don’t respond have a lovely weekend

    • Belinda did your vet ever say what was causing the retching? I have had our boy at the vets several times for this and have been told nothing is wrong. He often does this when excited or after drinking water.

      • Please check your boy for Laryngeal Paralysis. Our lab’s symptoms were exactly as Belinda described. The vet that treated her her whole life misdiagnosed her with CHF and put her on heart meds. She almost died before we took her to an emergency animal hospital and received the right diagnosis and surgery (laryngeal flap tie back). Our girl was 13 when she had the surgery and she has enjoyed another two years of joyful almost uneventful living. Unfortunately, at the same time, she was starting to drag her back feet, which has progressed to almost an inability to stand, falling down, bowel incontinence. I have been on this site since yesterday trying to reassure myself that calling the vet was the right thing to do and I will say goodbye to our beautiful 15 year old girl this afternoon…

        • My 13 y.o. lab, Dutch, who had always been an active dog…hiking, swimming, therapy dog work…got to the point where he could barely walk to the corner. I did some research online and guessed correctly that he had LP. The tie-back surgery gave him an extra two years, but with much panting and what I describe as “horking”. His hind end is very weak, and though he still can go for short walks, his rear legs sometimes give way or get tangled up. He has stopped wanting to eat his dog food and has lost 10 lbs in 4 months…down to 75 lbs…luckily since I started cooking for him his appetite has returned!. I realize that the kindest thing to do is to let him go, though I can’t bear the thought. We have a house in the mountains where for years he has hiked and swam in the lake. Next weekend we will take him there one last time and let him swim and enjoy a few short walks…the day after we return we will have the vet come to our home and put him to rest. My heart is broken.

  40. I just opened this site a few minutes ago. I have a black lab, Spirit, who will turn 9 March 15, 2016. I got him when he was 7 days old, mother died giving birth to 6 pups, nursed him on a bottle and made him part of my family. Only the best of everything for him.

    I am in law enforcement. I trained him to be a search and rescue. He was perfect. We became inseparable.

    Now, in the past few months I can see him going down. He is uncomfortable, pain in his hips, sleeping most of the time but still mentally alert.

    We took a short walk earlier today and tonight he is very slow to get up. Then the reality hit me-hard. I am loosing my partner and I am not ready to do that. Our job was to find and help people.
    I appreciate your article as it gives me a understanding as to what I will need to do. Painful as it is. Thank you for your article.

  41. Our lovely lab is 15 and a half, her back legs are weak and she developed last night a bad cough and brings up phlem. I fear the end is nigh and I was glad to read your article. The last 6 months have not been easy with her incontinence, we had the vet a month ago and she is on medication for that and anti inflammatory. This morning she can’t get up and i will call the vet. She has given us much joy I can’t tell you. I will read your article again, thank you.
    Frances

  42. I think that one has to proceed with caution with these things. Two and a half years ago our vet said that the dog had a very aggressive form of skins cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) and that he would need to be put to sleep within several months. He stopped eating and lost his bark. Roll forward a few years and he is still here and about to reach age 14! The vet insists that the tests were correct. Then a year ago, when my parents could no longer care for him my family wanted to put him to sleep saying that he had “no quality of life” left as he slept all day and then the supposed cancer. But I took him with me and now he is still going strong after a year. He is quite deaf and now sadly has cataracts, but he loves his food, pottering in the garden, snuggles, can bark …..and yes, sleeps for most of the day as little ole folk do. Sometimes, quality of life is a subjective idea, I think. His life isn’t perfect and probably a bit boring, but that’s old age for you….

  43. I made the decision to put down my lab Rocky, who was 19 years old. In hindsight, I realize the last 2 years of his life were not quality years. We feel so guilty thinking about ending their life, when really, it is a blessing for them. I still define that day I put him down as the hardest, saddest day of my life.

  44. I whole heartedly agree with you. My sentiments exactly. I just made the decision over my 14year old staffie, the hardest decision ever. I feared that I would make the decision to early. But my greater fear was that I would make it too late or worse that nature would step in, stroke, heart attack or debilitating fits. She was loyal and loving, my best friend for 14 years. I didn’t owe it to her, to let her suffer. She is at peace and so am I with my decision.

  45. Our 13.5 year old lab had had leg problems on and off for a few months and occasionally lost control of his bowels on the way outside due to his slowness in getting up and out. The turning point for us was when I came home to him having urinated and he was laying in it. He would never have done that had he been able to move. The decision was then made straight away, but we had added trauma by the vet not wanting to come out to put him to sleep. We didn’t want to put him through the stress of being taken to the vets in the car. Eventually the vet did agree, but it did make a difficult time even worse. We had been with the vets for 20 years, but changed vets after we lost George. Your article makes me wonder if we had left it too long. We waited until he was ‘worse’ and perhaps that was too long. I do agree though that vets will give you lots of life prolonging options and you can feel ‘bad’ by taking the euthanasia option and not trying everything else instead. I hope that when the time comes with the two beautiful girls we have now, that I remember your article and if the end is inevitiable that we take the right decision for our dogs, not for us, or to help the cash flow at the vets!

  46. Hi Pippa,

    I just want to say thank you. I am in a position right now with my lab where her back legs have been giving in for quite some time now. She has always been a house proud girl, however she has been messing inside now for quite a while, they sleep in our conservatory so it’s not too bad cleaning wise, but a few times in the last week or so she has messed in her own bed and just stayed in there with it. This morning she gave me a look which just said it all to me. It has been a stressful time and i have worried that what i have been thinking is wrong because i don’t know if i’m doing it for her or for my own sanity. But i think she’s unhappy now too which makes me more unhappy. It’s such a difficult thing and yes i feel like some may judge me which is really unfair. She’s 14 and we’ve had a wonderful 14 years together. I know my dog but still question myself. It is refreshing to hear someone say how i feel and know that others have been or are feeling the same.

      • I went through this last year…..I didn’t mind getting up all hours, helping my boy Bertie struggle outside with a towel cradled under his tummy so I could help him up (he was 38kg) I didn’t mind any of this at all….I would do anything for him – he was 14 and my very best friend and constant companion. I was putting my own feelings ahead of his state…. Then I had to go abroad for 2 days on business and the first day I was away he had a massive stroke and my Mum who was looking after him called the vet and had him put to sleep in his bed in his favourite spot in the garden in beautiful sunshine. I was both devastated but relieved that I didn’t make that decision – I felt a total coward that I didnt do something sooner… I think you will know when the right time comes ….. Wishing you all the very best of strength and much love xx

    • Laura it is a hard decision but when they give you that look you know what has to be done. We made the decision for our girl aged 15 years 7 weeks…..we knew the time had come and so did she. We had the vet Come to the house a couple of days later…They had been her vets since ag d 8 weeks when we got her from Giide Dogs to puppy raise. It gave our 3 children (then adults) time to say their goodbyes. It as not easy but the best for Miss Opal …she did not suffer just the normal that old age brings to us all…and she kept her dignity to the end….

      • I appreciate all you had to say, especially in light of getting your lab from Guide Dogs. My dog Reardon is almost 14 and also from Guide Dogs. I am considering the hard decision that must be made and I greatly appreciate the wisdom of “a week too early better than a day too late”! Thank you!

  47. Great article Pippa!

    We put our dog down last year and he was 11; lost control of his hind legs. We gave him corticosteroids for dogs and it seamed to work for about a week then had a major set back.

    Took him to the vet and he said it was one of two things: a tumour on the spine or some neurological trauma and would be months of rehab with surgery and no guarantees.

    We decided within hours after hearing that that the best decision for Oscar…and us as a family, was that we needed to let him go.

    We had those thoughts that maybe we were being in fact selfish in not trying hard enough to truly find out what was in fact the problem yet our vet didn’t think we were making a poor decision based on his current age.

    No matter what, it’s a tough decision, regardless of age. Yet like you said, better a week early then a day too late!

  48. My lab is 14 she’s been making a noise ,the only way I can describe it is if a human brings up flem. She does that noise a few times a day and she’s started to pant heavy for no reason, any ideas.

  49. Our lab just turned 5 yrs old last week started bumping in to everything she will eat out of my hand if I give her dog biscuits. She has always eaten her food herself (IAMS) now she isn’t eating. Any suggestions

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