Dog Euthanasia: Knowing When to Let Go of Your Labrador

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Dog euthanasia is something that inevitably impacts many pet parents. When our dogs become old, we face some heartbreaking decisions. And it is important that we have help and support in making them. Although we all hope that our pets will pass peacefully in their sleep, the reality is that often your dog’s quality of life is reduced so much that you need to consider euthanasia.

Chronic pain, long term illness, incontinence and extreme lethargy can all inevitably lead you to the decision you never wanted to make. 

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 humane euthanasia is not available to most humans,  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 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 in my youth, 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 medicine 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 heart breaking 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.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

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 once, and it stuck with me:

“Better a week too early than a day too late.”

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?

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website

458 COMMENTS

  1. I am very glad I found this site. We very much know how difficult it is to have to make the decision to put down our lovable Lab, a member of our family, especially at such a young age. Molly was diagnosed with canine lymphoma when she was 6 yrs old. We were advised that chemo could, perhaps prolong her life for maybe a year, but there was no cure, it was aggressive and she was terminally ill. We chose, what we believe in our case, was best for her, not for us. We took her home and took her to the beach every day where she swam until one day, she decided, it was time. She always greeted us at the door when we returned from running errands (we are retired). This day she did not come running to the door. Instead, she was lying in front of my husband’s recliner and told us, I am ready, it’s time, I am to tired now, please don’t cry, my life has been short but I have had a wonderful life with you both. Of course we cried for days and to this day we sometimes get teary eyed but we also laugh and smile about the times we had together. Here is a tribute to her that our daughter put together ad posted on youtube. It may help some of you going through a similar difficult time to remember to enjoy the happiness your Lab has brought you.
    A Tribute to Molly – YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GTuUzMI1Sg
    Jul 14, 2014 – A tribute to our girl, Miss Molly. You made us all so Very Happy. Christmas Eve, 2006 – July 12, 2014, Canine Lymphoma.

  2. Hi, have found these comments really helpful, but still struggling to know if the time is right for me to take my 13 1/2 golden lab beanie to the vets. He has been struggling with his back legs for sometime, and we have to help him get up as he can,t manage it on his own now, he wobbles when he walks and does collapse often and has occasionally pooed his bed. I have always said that I would never let him be in any pain,and as he is still eating and wags his tail, I keep telling myself it is too soon, how will I know when the time is right??

  3. Last October I discovered lumps under our gorgeous Gentleman Dexter’s chin/neck, he had turned 3 in the July. Our handsome Golden retriever was diagnosed with lymphoma……..how I wanted the vet to have made a mistake …..tests confirmed it. We took the route of chemo/predisone and it appeared to be working even though he would be so very tired. He enjoyed life and comforted us when our Cavaliers passed away at the beginning and middle of the year. Even though it was under sad circumstances the staff at the Vets loved seeing him and said it was an injustice as he is such star, they named him ‘Mr Dexter’. We took on a rescue 3 year old Clumber spaniel, Ellie, who gave him a purpose and he has fought it. She is he’s legacy, as without him she wouldn’t have come on the way she has. Dexter has declined so much this last week having more bad days than good. On Monday we are taking him to be put to rest. Even now he is wagging his tail but is so tired, he’s eyes are so very sad. This cruel disease has robbed him of at least another 4 years, our family of the best companion and Ellie of her friend.

  4. Yesterday I put my 2 beautiful labs to rest. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Fudge was my 14 year old chocolate and Sammi was my 15 ½ yellow. Fudge was an excellent hunting dog and great companion. We never lost a duck or pheasant. Sammi was more interested in digging for mice and exploring but enjoyed our trips none the less. In the end, Fudge’s hips failed her but she was mentally sharp until the last minute. Sammi was mostly blind and deaf and had “potty problems” but still got around ok, although she had a lost look on her face most of the time.

    When I knew the time was getting near and I was looking for advice, I found this great website. The article really helped me deal with the difficult decision and the comments left by other dog owners are helping me deal with the sorrow. “Better a week too soon than a day too late” really stuck with me as I made the decision. Selfishly I did not want to let them go, but I know I made the right call at the right time. They left with dignity and before the pain got too bad.

    I love my girls… I miss my girls…. I was truly blessed to have them in my life as long as I did.

  5. On Saturday we said goodbye to our beautiful fox red lab retriever, Fergal. He was the most gorgeous and loving dog you could have hoped for. We will miss him everyday, especially his smile (he used to scrunch up his nose in greeting and it really did resemble a smile) and his velvet soft ears. He never failed to make us laugh and comfort us when we were sad. He had a very happy 11 and a half years and his favourite things to do were finding tennis balls (he found them everywhere) to balance on his nose and swimming in the sea.
    His hips let him down in the end and he couldn’t walk or do any of the things that would give him quality of life. The decision to put him to sleep was the hardest my family has had to make, but he didn’t suffer. Fergal will live on in our hearts forever, he wasn’t just a dog he was part of the family and always will be.

  6. I live in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, and have a marvellous 15 1/2 lab. We are so poud she has made this far with general good health ( eats well ( too well!) ). But her back legs are wobbly, it’s hard for her to get up but then she can walk about 200 meters outside. It has been such a relief reading your advise and all the very sensitive and sincere posts on this site. I feel just like most people who have commented here: sad and guilty. The worst is to feel that if decide to put her to sleep it would be for my sake ( a lot of work, cleaning the everyday mess as going to her toillete is getting harder and harder for her, not being able to travell etc) as she does not seem to be suffering. I feel exactly like Mara Kurtz: Am I rushing the end of my wonderful dogs life because I am tired of tidying up, because I want to go on vacation and don’t know what to do with her? These conflicting feelings are really stressing me out. I wish I were 100% certain my decison was made entirely for her sake, not mine. But rationally , I believe the best decision for both of us is to let her go. And with her, I am sure, part of my heart will go with her. But the wonderful memories with Mel ( honey, in Portuguese) will stay with me forever.

  7. Thank you for this site with so many stories that helped us this morning as we prepared to say goodbye to our beloved Charlie. He died peacefully in my arms. He was a senior yellow lab and we rescued him 2 years ago. He recently became ill and we just found out last night after an ultrasound that he had liver and kidney cancer. I could tell this morning that he was really suffering. He was about 9 or 10 years old. He brought us two years of joy with his intelligence, his wonderful sense of humour and loving disposition.
    We know we did the right thing and he is out of pain.
    We will miss him forever.
    Thank you
    Ann and John

  8. My lab, Cassie, was euthanised yesterday. A few hours later, I felt that I had to write something. This is what came out:
    I had to let you go today, my friend.
    “It was just a dog” some will say. Yes, Cassie was “just a dog”, but she was also an individual with her own personality, traits and quirks. She made me laugh, made me cry, made me feel loved, and made me feel privileged in being part of her existence.
    Cassie was, indeed, “just a dog”, but what else could she be? She was a dog that shared 14 years of my life.
    You’d suffered from arthritis for the last few years, but in the last week it got progressively worse. It hit home last Tuesday just how bad it was for you when I let you and Sula out for the last roam of the night around the garden. You could barely walk back to the door and enter the house, so bad was your front leg. I held your head, rubbed your ears in that special way and broke down and cried there and then, realising just what the next steps would have to be.
    I took you back home this evening, and placed you in another room, ready to be returned to the Earth tomorrow. I have lit a candle for you. Sula knows something has changed, the way she whines and holds her tail tight between her legs when she is around you now.
    For a while tonight, I couldn’t cry. I just replayed the final moments at the vet’s clinic over and over, but I was adamant that they couldn’t be my over-riding memories of you. So I remembered back to a few hours earlier today, before we had to leave. I had opened the garden gate into the field beneath the mountain and you ran through – tail wagging, pain forgotten just for a few seconds – before you had to stop. Those few seconds of your joy are what I needed to remember, and when I did, the tears came.
    Yes, I had to let you go today, my friend, but with love. Rest easy, Cassie.

  9. I have lost my boy Whisky 4 weeks ago, he was a yellow lab from Tenessee and have travelled with us and lived in the 3 continents (America,Asia and Europe), he was at 14 years 9 months old when we have decided to put him to that long and never return sleep. I am heartbreaking and the pain and guilt hurt me that much. He was such a good and obedient and affectionate lab as all of your dogs but he had also all those old age problems which were getting worse and worse, since 7 months ago his back legs failed him, he dragged his weary body around ,he had difficulty in getting up on his own, his hind paws curled when he tried to walk , he was totally blind and 90% deaf, he lost his bowel control and poo when he slept since 7 months ago, so I used baby impermeable sheets to protect his bed, the carpet etc because he also constantly had diarrhea (organ weakened we guessed) which made things worse and the past months of broken nights with distress to both him and us have weakened our strong will to keep him. My husband and I were exhausted and we didn’t want him to lose that ‘dignity’ neither. It has been the hardest decision we have made in our life, he still had good appetite until the end and his other organs functioned well. I guess he wanted to hang on for us even he didn’t have any quality of life. Actually we had cancelled one euthanasia appointment in August and this time we just made the decision in the clinic during the yearly vaccination visit, ‘cos we didn’t have courage anymore to formally make another appointment. It hurts like hell , I know it’s going to hurt me for a very long time, I miss him so much! reading your site relieve my pain so I want to share my story to the other as well so they know that they are not alone. We are helping one another to get over this difficult period.

  10. I Lost my Chocolate Lab Solly at the beginning of September to Haemangiosarcoma 6 weeks before his 11th birthday. He collapsed in May and was rushed to the vet with a ruptured spleen because of a tumour. The vet operated as at this point we had no idea if the tumour was benign or malignant – his recovery from the op was amazing which made me think i had definately made the right decision for him (a year earlier i lost another dog to the same thing but had decided that due to other issues ie arthritus it would have been unfair). Sadly the biopsy came back as malignant which meant at some point the tumour would return. I had the most wonderful 4 months with Solly, he lost none of his verve for life and carried on running round the park like a crazy fool, sneaking off into the woods if i wasn’t looking. All through his life he was a very active dog doing agility and competitive a obedience. in August i took him to an Obedience competition and we had such a great day, he won a trophy, little did i know it would be his last competition, but when the time came in September he suffered very little and i knew despite the pain and heartache that those 4 months were so worth it. I think the loss would have been easier if he had been an old 11 but he had no other issues like arthritus which is what made the loss so hard.

  11. Thank you. My husband and I reluctantly made this decision this morning. Tonight the vet will come and we will be farewell to our four-legged firstborn, Lucy. We didn’t totally agree. He didn’t feel it was time yet, but I was looking at things from your perspective. Yes she’s eating and dragging her weary body around, but her tail hasn’t wagged in weeks. It’s time. She gave us her best, now its up to us to make sure she has the dignity and care she deserves. We don’t have children and as much as we hate to see her go, we know we gave her a good life and will cherish the 14 years we got to call her ours.

      • Am so glad I found this article as it has helped me realise I am making the right decision putting my 14 and half year old to sleep! Have put off phoning the vets for weeks thinking he would get better but finally had the courage and made an appointment for tomorrow! He’s now having more bad days than good and drags his back legs quite often and this week has become incontinent! He no longer wags his tail and is very lethargic but as he’s not showing signs of pain felt guilty for even thinking it! But after reading everyone else’s stories realise it’s the right thing to do! We put our other lab to sleep at age 12 as she had a mouth tumour that was inoperable and that was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do so the thought of going through it again is breaking my heart but these stories have given me the strength needed thank-you.

  12. Hi. I am sat with our 14 year old chocolate lab Truffle and I think we will have make this decision sooner rather than later. Truffle is getting very creaky and lumpy these days and after going deaf some time ago starts to randomly bark for about 10 mins and often can’t seem to settle. Recently she has started to go to the toilet in the house even standing beside the back door but not barking. I have been trying to prepare my partner for a while now but he is in complete denial and thinks I’m mean! I have found the comments on here comforting and also that some of you have made the decision at the same point that she is now – I will now re-evaluate our situation to make it right for her comfort. So sorry for all those who have had to say goodbye. X

  13. We decided it’s time for my dog last week and your article just covered everything we went through and thought of. I can see it comes from a place of love and I am grateful because it helped me so very much better come to terms with a decision that I have already made but am yet to enact.

    I am going to go through this for the first time day after tomorrow and you’ve helped me consciously accept my reasons and become more self-aware about my feelings – I am sure it will take a while to resolve them however. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on a delicate and difficult matter.

  14. Hi, my lab is 12.5 and is an ex breeding dog that I rescued. She has always been such a good dog, so loving and well natured. She is on treatment for her arthritis which did make a difference. We have noticed that she is now ‘cracking’ when she walks and gets out of bed. Over the past two weeks we have noticed a new thing, her back end just goes. I have only witnessed it once but my partner has seen it quite a few times. She still wags her tail and is eating well. I am not sure if this is going to get worse quickly. Both me and my partner have said that we would never let her suffer and as soon as she stops wagging that tail then it will be time. However, I don’t want to be persuaded by the vets to keep her going with more and more medicine. Any advice please. Thanks

  15. My vet is coming to our home tomorrow at 9am. I made a heartbreaking decision I will probably not recover from. My boy Roo is 12 years old he has had a rough few years operations on his foot, discovering he had kidney problems and required special diet and then a cancerous lump in his throat which resulted in radiotherapy. He came through all this (the later last year). During this year he has slowed down very quickly his back end like most of your stories is weak and has had a lot of poo accidents lately. He does not appear to be in pain and whilst sat down looks quite bright and attentive. He barks for us to get him up and help him move from room to room, his walks, well just a limp up and down the street in the hope he doesn’t fall. His quality of life is my concern as his tail spend most of its time between his legs now, instead of the lethal weapon it used to be. Roo has been my life and kept me going when I lost me son in 2009, so this is the hardest decision I have ever made. I hope it is the right one as I am choosing to give him dignity. My heart breaks for everyones pain who has written in but somehow it makes me feel not quite so alone.

  16. Our girl is a 5 1/2 yrs old black Labrador Retriever, that until recently has acted like she is still a puppy, jumping and running, playing all over the yard and in the house. Sept 1 we took her to the lake and noticed she was limping a little just before we left. Thinking she might have stepped on a rock while in the water I checked her foot and found nothing wrong. Later that night, her left haunch had a large bulge in it. We took her to the vet the next morning and he x-rayed her and told us she had some problems in her hip joints and showed us the pictures. It is now almost 6 weeks later and she now has a bulge in her right haunch and is having difficulty walking and she is holding up her right back leg. She is trying to walk on her left back leg, panting heavily. She has difficulty getting up and laying down, cries, and just doesn’t act like her normal self. Usually when we get up in the morning she is bouncing around, showing us her “squirrel” (toy) and barking for breakfast. Today, she didn’t even get up, but laid waiting for me. I am not sure what to do (more sad of what I know I might have to do), she is so young yet really, barely considered middle aged for a dog, but I’m afraid we will have to let her go. It hurts me so to see her in so much pain. I believe in quality of life for her, not quantity. This is not normal behavior for her. Our vet isn’t open on the weekends, no emergency number to call, and he is the ONLY vet in our area. We live in a very rural area. So Monday we will take her into town, (18 miles from home) and see what he has to say.

    Thank you for your site and what you had to say, sort of helps me with my feelings, but it is still very difficult to face.

  17. Thank you for this article. In June I lost my 12 year old lab, Bella. It happened so suddenly. She was getting older and had been slowing down for a few months, but was still active and happy. Then one day I came home and she didn’t greet me at the door. I knew something was wrong. She wouldn’t stand up, wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t drink. I drove her to the emergency vet where it was confirmed that she had cancer, and that a tumor had ruptured and was causing her to bleed internally. I made the decision that very to have her put to sleep. I always swore to myself that I would drag out a dog’s suffering. And Bella was my whole entire world for ten years. I always knew I would be sad when she died, but what I did not expect was the overwhelming sense of guilt that I felt from deciding to end her life. Articles like this are necessary so people know that they have made the right decision. I know longer feel the guilt, in my heart I know I did what was right for her. But of course the sadness still comes in waves. I’m about to celebrate my thirtieth birthday and I can’t even explain how much it hurts that she won’t be here with me for this milestone. She was there all through twenties; through breakups, new jobs, losing jobs, fighting with friends. I just feel like she was ripped away from me far too soon. And I had no way to prepare myself to handle this type of grief. Thanks for your wonderful article. I still need to know that others feel the same way that I do.

  18. In less than 9 hours I am goin to lose my boy, Woof. He is 11.5 years yellow lab suffering from arthritis and his hind legs have completey stopped being able to suuport his weight. I wish I had come across this article sooner as we tried putting him fown sooner but as we were just unable to do it we brought him back home. This time I think I am going to do the right thing and not let him suffer anymore. I am sad to confess that I made all those mistakes of thinking he has a good appetite and all his major organs are functioning and how can I end a life. But the phrase “better a week sooner than a day late” really reassures I am doing the right thing by thinking about him and I am ready to let him go to a better place. I will always love him and I am not sure if I will ever be ok and my broken heart will heal. Thanks everyone for sharing your loss and journies. It has certainly helped me make this tough call and stay strong for my boy. Love, Woofs Mama

  19. My black lab is 14 years old and we think it’s time to put her down. All her legs wobble while going to the bathroom and on our hard wood floor she sometimes falls and can’t get up do to her back legs. It’s sad because after lots of sleep she goes crazy and runs around the backyard and still is somewhat playful for a short period of time after coming inside. She has tumors all over her body and needs help up stairs now. I think it is time to let go even though she’s so happy after lots of sleep it’s inevitable she will fall down stairs in the near future.

  20. I am so sorry for all of your losses. I too had a lively 12 1/2 year old lab just a few days ago. His hearing was certainly getting bad and he was a little slower to get up. But, I had no idea he was going to suddenly be so weak this past Friday morning that he couldn’t even get up. I had to put him down 2 days ago and my heart is broken.

  21. Glad to find this site. I have a 6 month old black lab. He wasn’t gaining weight. Then vomited and had difficulty breathing. I took him to the ER last Sunday. He has pneumonia and an enlarged heart. I took him to our vet on Monday who ran another X-ray. He conferred with a cardiologist/radiologist. He’s on Lasix and 2 antibiotics. We go back to the vet in one week for another X-ray. He has basically stopped eating unless it’s out of my hand for s few nibbles. His tail wags and he loves to be loved. I read that this is not cureable. When is it too soon to make such a horrific decision with a precious puppy? My heart is broken.

    • So very sorry to hear that Julie, it’s very hard to have such a young dog so sick. Talk to your vet again, it may be that your dog will feel better and get his appetite back once the antibiotics have kicked in. Even if the heart condition can’t be cured, it might be manageable, and hopefully the pneumonia should be treatable. Best wishes, Pippa

  22. Found this article to give me comfort. I made the decision to put down my 14 year 3month old lab to rest. Taylor saw me through many tragedies and I will never forget her. I made this decision two days before my wedding day. My friend gave me a locket with me and my dogs picture inside and the message always by my side. It was such an emotional time. I am 40 and never had kids she was my kid. Once back from honeymoon and to an empty house it really hit me hard. She had arthritis and stopped doing things she loved to do. I slept on the living room loveseat for the past six months because she couldn’t make the stairs to my room, she started defecating in the house and panting heavily. But she still ate which made me think I did it too soon. I wanted my dog to die with the dignity that she deserved for all her years of unconditional love. Love you Taylor mommy misses you deeply.

  23. Thanks so much for writing this article! My husband and I are busy going through all the guilty feelings of when to do it. The quote that you finished off with “Rather a week early, than a day late” really resonated with me. Our 13yr old Lab is so frail, and its got to a stage that I worry that she maybe hurts herself while we are at work. It was great to read this article and the comments to know that the guilt feelings I am having are “normal”. Labs are just the best aren’t they?!

  24. Hi, First posted on site Feb 2013 when i lost my beloved 14yr old lab toby , his brother luke bless passed away on 3rd Sept 2015 after suffering multiple seizures. Luke reached the grand old age of 16 & 1/2 yrs. On the day he passed away he was on the beach as normal and we had a lovely day. Collecting ashes today and will lay to rest with Toby. It is so so sad and like most dog lovers you try to reflect on the good times and i am trully blessed to have them share my life

  25. My 12 year old black lab has just been diagnosed with a heart condition. He has medication for it and seems to be doing well on them. He has arthritis but we had stem cell treatment for that so that is under control. He can still get around well, goes swimming weekly and is happy in himself.

    I know the time is going to come to say good bye to him sooner than I had hoped. I don’t want him to suffer but neither do I want him to miss out on life either. I know it is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done but I just hope I am strong enough to make the right decision for him when he needs it most. It is breaking my heart thinking about it so I hope I have for a little while yet.

  26. I am so sorry for all your losses.
    I am in my office sitting next to my daughter’s 7 year old brown lab that has been diagnosed 3 days ago with lung cancer. This dog has been a blessing to our family “She’s my “hearf of gold”. I hear her shallow breathing whicle she seems to be resting right now. I’m dreading the inevitable. The only thing I have to offer her now are my tears. I’m in between a reock and a hard place. What to do?

  27. I lost my beautiful boy eleven weeks ago. He was eleven, we knew the time was coming due to his back end issues, arthritis and so on which was up to that day being managed with medication. People told me we’d know when it was time and I questioned how I would know. The day we lost him he had been out quite happily for a walk in the afternoon, met up with other dogs we knew. When it came time for the last walk of the day we got to the top of the path and he just stopped and looked up at me and I just knew. We had him put to sleep a few hours later, in the middle of the night, as soon as we were able to do it. We couldn’t bear for him to suffer. It was a very hard decision but he was a much loved, very dignified dog. Some people hold on too long, they think out of love for their dog but part of loving someone is doing the right thing at the right time, no matter how hard it is and how much it hurts. My thoughts are that when a dog can no longer ‘be a dog’ and do dog things then it is time.

  28. I appreciated your article except for two points. One, I think dogs do know what death is and can be very fearful of its onset. Two, I think our hearts are far more than simple pumps. I believe there is an extremely complex relationship between our minds and hearts. Many scientists agree our hearts transmit an incredible amount of information … and our dogs read it like an open book. Likewise, we are in tune with dogs we love. When our Lab’s grew old and started experiencing severe problems a point came when they made it clear they were struggling and didn’t want to be in pain anymore. It came in the form of a specific glance. I could read it in their eyes as clearly as the open book. Some Vets do not like to come to our homes. I insisted. Both Labs were on their favorite blankets surrounded by their toys and soft music. They were in their home and I could see peace on their faces. Even though one had painful cancer you can even see the peace on his face in a photo. I think he knew exactly what was happening and was a peace with it.

  29. This site is really helping me deal with my situation. My 10 nearly 11 year old lab Olivia has recently having weakness in back legs. Especially when getting up so have started arthritis shots and carprieve pain relief along with osteocare. The problem is she has had a being lump removed 4 weeks ago which is still bandaged due to the wound being open. This in turn has resulted in her being less active and becoming stiff. Arthritis has been probably creeping up over last few months and the winter doesn’t help. She has a very comfortable bed and is in heating.
    Because of the front leg wound I have to resort to the Elizabethan collar at night. Feel so bad for her. Hopefully the arthritis shots start to work but she’s only started the treatment. Have experienced arthritis before in my dalmatian who ended up on tramadol so I know I’m in for a bumpy ride. Actually lying in bed feeling quite anxious and sick about it. Reading these posts definitely help thou. I know I will not keep her going through pain, I just cannot handle that side of it and she doesn’t need to live the last part of her life like that.

  30. We had our lab put to sleep on the 6th and it was quick I wonder was we right. In the space of a few hours he went from a lively dog to being unable to walk and control his bladder. As soon as this happened we took him to the vet and they said nothing could be done for him, we are starting to ask was this right. I am struggling to accept that he has gone

  31. Wow. Thanks for this helpful article and to everyone who’s shared your journeys. It indeed helps to know that others have had the same feelings and experiences. Our yellow lab, Jackson, has lived an amazing 16 years and 8 months so far! It has just been over the past 4-5 months that his old age has begun to catch up with him. My husband, two sons (12 and 15) and I all know it is coming time to say good-by, but the hardest part is booking the appointment. He still eats and drinks and likes to wander around the house (we just recently stopped the walks). But sadly, he cannot be left home alone for very long as his legs give out so he collapses often and can’t get up on his own. He too is incontinent and poops in his sleep. I can tell by the way he flinches when I pet him in the morning that he hurts. 🙁 He still loves his ears rubbed though. His tail no longer wags due to the arthritis along his spine. Jackson continues to be such a trooper – he’s up and about all day and interested in food and such with no whining or whimpering, which is why it’s been hard for us to make the final decision. He’s been with my hubby and I since before we were married and before our teenager was born, so we’re trying to gather up that courage to put his freedom ahead of our attachment. Your article helps me realize that quality of life in his final phase is better than dragging painful days out. We have decided to have a vet come to our house so we can all be together with him as he crosses rainbow’s bridge. Thanks again, Delanne from Canada

  32. Thanks yes I think it is time he obviously has some auto immune problems but they are not sure what ! He was a rescue whose mum was found dead with her pups and he was the runt ! A complete survivor! Trouble is he has good days or should I say good hours and then bad hours. He just seems to have lost his love of running walking just sleeps and eats ! And then upset tummy. But I know I need to be strong! Good to know you are not alone.
    Jennifer

  33. glad I found this, almost a year ago our 7 year old staff lab was taken in for investigations for cough allergy around mouth and eye and occasionally bringing up un digested food. anyway long story short xrays showed heart pushed to one side covered in lumps ,were told to take him home and he would maybe have 3 months ! horrendous but decided we wanted just to keep him with us. Anyway he has been diagnosed now with cushings but vetryl made him sick and upset tummy scans showed growths on spleen aswell he still eats but does not walk as much . He was used to about two hours a day but 5 mins and he has had enough, have to sit while he pants and shakes with a blueish tongue. He also has episodes of heavy panting at night and shaking and trembling much worse although he can be happy but now also likes to be on his own which is not normal for him , likes to be involved. I know its our decision but how do I know its time how will I know if he has had enough he is the type of dog who would do anything to keep his family happy !! but I have spied on him and when nobody is around he looks so sad and tired.
    jennifer

  34. As sad as how I am to even search for this topic, I’m glad I found it and I want to thank you all for sharing your stories. My dearest love Melody the black lab passed away Saturday 7/12 morning. She was 11.5 years old. Two weeks ago she started showing sign of weakness on the rear legs as she would limp around and could not jump on the couch (it’s her bed) to sleep. A week after that, she had a light seizure (less than a minute) shes had this problem for the past 6-7 years and usually shortly after the seizure she would be back to normal and hungry for food but she couldn’t get up this time. We tried to pick her up to help her get on her feet but she would moan in pain. We took her to the vet (ER) and the doctor ran tests and everything came out normal and basically just gave us some sediatives to take home for her. It’s really sad to see her like this and we see her struggle to try to get up to go outside to poo and pee but can’t….and that lasted about 4-5 days before we had to make the hardest decision in life – to help her end the suffering by putting her down. Vet came to the house Saturday morning and Melody passed away in peace…we miss her so much! There will never be another friend like her and I hope she will be going to a better place in her next life.

  35. June 11,2015 @9pm
    My bestest friend passed away just 15 days of her 14th Birthday. Saddest most hardest decision I had to make but I know it was the right one for ‘Mummy’s Girl’. The day before she was put to sleep I told her ‘ she can go when she’s ready. don’t know if it was reassurance she needed from me or this was her way of saying I am ready to go but I am glad I had that moment with my girl.
    She was rescued from being put down at 6 months and spent 13 and half wonderful years with our family.
    She is at peace now. I love you Miss Molly RIP

  36. I am so pleased to have found this site. Our black Lab Mac is 13.5 and showing so many of the signs everyone else talks about. Panting at rest a lot, partially sighted and deaf, pooing at night intermittently then getting up and being confused about who soiled his bed!! He still eats happily but does spend a lot of time sleeping. He can manage a 20 min slow walk mand seems to enjoy it even breaking into a trot at times… but is drooping in the back end.
    Could he be suffering and we not realise ? Should we end on a high instead of a sudden painful low? Very difficult and just considering it makes we well up.

    Some people say that you will know when it is time and they will give you a look when it’s time. Maybe he has given me the look and I don’t want to see it.

    Thanks for reading x

  37. Also I read through some of your readers emails and it was also comforting. Obviously you have really reached a lot of people in a good way.

  38. I just found this article tonight at the perfect time as I am currently struggling with the tough decision of when to “let go” of our darling MoJo. 13 1/2 yr old Lab. I know she is still full of love for all of us, her family which only makes the decision more difficult. However the past year has been a struggle for her and us.
    It was a relief to read your article as it seemed to almost exactly what I have been feeling. That it’s time and why should she suffer long term before it’s”ok”. I have been worried about judgement but I feel stronger now and my husband and I had a very honest talk and have agreed on what to do.
    Thank you your words were a refreshing change from other sites.

  39. Thanks for this insightful website, My Yellow lab ,Cracker, named by my kids after “Uncle Cracker” (Unc Cracker is our girl , joke on us) she’s 14 & will no longer climb stairs, has a large tumor, acts Arthritic but puppy like at times. Even though our kids are 20,22 & I have loved & lost many puppies it’s still so heartbreaking to let go of our loved one. I thank you for such a great site, providing both information but also emotion .. I love our girl so much but I don’t want her to suffer. Our family will decide in short order what to do ….Amazing she has really hung on, rallied what ever you call it but now that our son is home from college she seems resolute like she’s ready but wanted the whole family together .. Love her forever May the memories heal the pain as you have had one of life’s amazing gain. For you loved a pet & they loved you Unconditionally .

  40. Yesterday we said good-bye to the sweetest dog who ever lived. He was a 16yr old lab suffering from arthritis for many years. Stairs have been out of the question for many months, but for a long time he continued to take long walks, though they were hobbly, bouncing on his front legs, sometimes falling down. He had lost so much weight, he was almost skeletal.
    He had begun to defecate at night unknowlingly, then trying to make it to the door after-the-fact.
    Recently, it became a hardship to even walk the few steps to the door and he never wanted to take a walk. Like many labs, he retained some appetite. He seemed disoriented much of the time, staring blankly ahead. I cannot remember the last time he wagged his tail.
    The guilt I am experiencing is that the morning before our evening appt. with the vet to put Blue to sleep, he rallied a bit.
    That morning, we took a long walk. It was hobbly, and he fell down, but he wanted to continue. This one thing haunts me about our timing.
    I think, should I have waited until he was having another bad day? Or is that just a way to say, ‘I’ll wait until his suffering is worse.”
    I do find comfort in the quote about a “week too early…” And I have also found comfort in the phrase, “If you don’t have any doubts, then you’ve waited too long.”

    This site has been a great relief to me. Not only the wonderful article, but in finding many struggles like mine helps with my own grief. Thank you all for loving and missing your dogs.

    • Jean,
      My Chloe was having very similar issues. I was taking her out every three hours, her back legs were very weak, there was panting, restlessness, dementia.
      And then one good day followed by a terrible day. Your question “should I have waited” haunts me. I am on vacation in England with my husband right now. I am trying my best to have a good time but every time I think of Chloe I just want to curl up and cry. And thinking of my cat, Timmy Willie, who is with an old friend in our house. He loved Chloe so much. Now she’s gone and we left for our trip and I can barely think about how sad and confused he must be. I feel haunted, with terrible guilt. Why didn’t I wait until after I came home so I could walk through the door and see that sweet darling little face again? There were good reasons I know, but not good enough to stop the guilt.

  41. Never a truer word spoken than the quote ‘ better a week too soon than a day too late’ We lost our Velcrolab on 26th April 2 days before I was due to speak with the Vet about ‘ when’ as I felt it was nearing time. We had given Robenacoxib 5 weeks and initially he seemed to bounce back but in the last 2 weeks his mobility was on the decline even though his general spirit was not. On that Sunday we all went out for a walk and took him his favourite one , all by chance , and I’ll be forever grateful for that . He wagged his tail , briefly splashed in the pond and sniffed the smells only a Labrador can find in the woodlands behind our home. We got back and he was more shaky than normal and just flopped down on his bed. The look in his eyes told me everything I needed to know in that moment. I gave him some extra pain relief and called out the Vet. There were to be no Questions as it was already on his file as a possibility and I insisted the Vet came to our home . He lived his last moments snuggled between us having been out doing what he loved not long before. He gained the name Velcrolab due to him being glued to me , going everywhere with me and never losing sight of me even in the house. It still hurts every day as every moment awake or asleep he would be by my side but the decision was in his best interest not mine and that’s how it should be. We can’t quite bear to put everything of his away just yet but in a couple of weeks there will be a puppy born and then in due time here to steal another chunk of my heart. I will always live by that quote though. ‘ Better a week too soon than a day too late’

  42. An article Pippa that speaks the Raw truth of what we have just been through and indeed the quote ‘ better a week too soon than a day too late ‘ was used between myself and my Vet. In the end our boy made the decision for me 2 days before I could. We enjoyed our daunder through the woods together , his tail wagged and sniffed those Labrador delightful woodland smells but on return home he flopped onto his bed and the look on his face said everything I needed to know in that moment. Popped him some pain relief and called out the Vet. We said our Goodbyes with him snuggled between us having lived his life right up to the end. The last month had seen enough of a decline in his mobility for me to have decided come two days from that moment that we would set a date before he couldn’t shadow me everywhere. He truly was my shadow and watcher never leaving my side. We have a duty to our Dogs to let them pass with Dignity for the love and unconditional devotion they show us and I will always stand but that quote for when it comes to then end as much as it hurts our hearts it’s about them not us.

  43. i take great comfort from your post, as Last year our Choc Lab Boy aged 2 years and 9 months,went off his food, and was reluctant to go out, the vet thought as first he was showing signs of pain in his hips so Xrayed him. And confirmed dysplaysia, he was put on meds, but declined so fast, had to carry him on a blanket and wouldn’t eat, back to the vets where he was placed on a drip to rehydrate him and bloods were then taken, the next day we got his results,…. He had Leukaemia! Everything had packed up, kidney, liver, it was in his bones, all in 10 days! Yes chemo was an option to prolong his life for maybe 3/4 months max…. What quality of life was that? Going away to have the treatment, then feeling poorly, and not understanding why…. And then the prognosis was not good for a recovery, I said goodbye, hugged him as they used his cannula to put him to sleep…. Still hurts like hell, crying as I write this…. But I know I had to think of George, and not myself x

  44. Very emotive but real issue that needs to be discussed. I had to make the decision with my old boy in Aug 2014. He was 5 days off his 14th birthday when we visited the vet. It was the bank holiday weekend when we made the decision so couldnt contact the vet until the Tuesday. That day we told the kids and turned the day into Jaspers Day. I took him to the vet in the afternoon and held him in my arms as he passed. He was my baby; I had him before my kids. We had a 2 year old yellow lab at home and a month later we got a new puppy. Not to replace him but just as our home didnt feel right without a black lab. For selfish reasons I wanted to keep going but his quality of life was not good so although I still miss him dreadfully, have not washed his bed 9 months later (it still smells of him) and I am crying whilst typing this, I know I made the right decision at the right time.

  45. Had my 14 year old yellow lab euthanized on May 4th, 2015. Her name was Pearl and I can honestly say I have never loved as much as I did her. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer 2 years ago and through medication rebounded extremely well. Last week she starting pooping blood and not acting like herself. Panting, waking me in the middle of the night and drinking lots of water. Her back legs starting giving out on Sunday and I called the vet on Monday morning. She died with her head in my hands that evening. I am a 57 year old man and I can say I have never cried as much and felt this kind of grief before. I am wracked with guilt and feel like I will never be happy again. I loved this dog so much over the last 14 years. I still walk the house in limbo, lost trying to think about something else. I am heartbroken.

    • So sorry Mitch. I really feel for you. Just the thought of my Chloe on that last day, May 13, my half birthday, makes me tear up instantly. I can’t even look at a dog in the street. And I dread going home at the end of my vacation.
      I hope you will feel better over time and remember how happy you made her when she was here.
      Mara

      • Poppa,
        Thank yo so much for these comments.
        They address exactly my situation before saying my final goodbye to Chloe. The diaper worn to walk through the lobby of our building was so humiliating.
        And though I still wish there were a few more weeks, I can see that I did what needed to be done, for her.
        Thank you.

        “Does dignity matter?

        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.

  46. I stumbled across this page and through the tears read a story from judy and her dog bob, I really feel for you but it has helped me in knowing I have made the right decision. My 9 and half yr old lab lizzy is still happy and doing her usual thing but has cancer in the roof of her mouth which had enough force to push her tooth out of the gum. I know she would probably last a while longer but I can see how rapidly it is changing. My fear is that she will suffer and I know she will. It is really hard she has grown up with my 4 children which makes it even harder. I love her and will miss her dearly but her condition will deteriorate rapidly when it does and I can’t take that risk. Lizzy will be put to sleep in our home tomorrow after lunch. In the morning she will have her favourite bacon and eggs for breakfast and I’ll take her on her last walk and swim in dam across the road. I’m glad I found this as I was worried I may have been ending her life to soon, but I know it’s for the best.

  47. Sorry, there’s more to my story… I have a former housekeeper coming up from NC to stay with Chloe and my cat. But she’s nearly 80 and I know Five plus walks is out of the question. So I’ve arranged for a dog walker 4 times a day starting at 7 am, no one will come to walk Chloe at 5:30 am. That means she will definitely have to do everything in the house. So humiliating for her and unfair to the lovely woman who is comin to stay. I am so miserable about leaving. My husband thinks we should put her down before we leave. What if she gets sicker while we’re away? How do we leave someone else with this problem? And when we return it will be going into hot weather, Chloe hates the heat. When we return we go back and forth to a cottage at the beach and have to take a ferry to get there. When we arrive it’s a long walk to the house, too far for her to walk – it’s an island with no cars, just wagons. She will never tolerate the wagon, so will we have to get a baby stroller?
    It all feels so complicated and overwhelming. What is right for Chloe? Am I going to always feel guilty, always feel that I rushed the end of my wonderful dogs life because I was going on vacation? I can’t stop crying. Wish I could cancel the trip, but I really can’t do that.
    I would be so grateful for any advice.
    Thank you.
    Mara

    • Have made all arrangements for Chloe’s care for two weeks while I’m gone. Pray that it all works out and I’ll come back to my sweet old girl who still has time left for more cookies and lots of walks.

      • As it turned out, although sweet Chloe and I had a lovely walk on Tuesday morning and she ate her favorite Chicken McNuggets with bar b que sauce at night, she was a different dog the next morning. She could barely stand and looked miserable, in pain. I guess it was a last hurrah. But I was hoping for a miracle. We took her to the vet who’d urged me to let her go for months. It was kind, painless, she looked at me with her trusting eyes and I was kissing her. The following day we left for our holiday in England and we are still here. I brought Chloe’s pictures and her two favorite toys that I sleep with. And her face is the screen picture on my iPad. But… I feel horrible. I can barely think about her without feeling the most horrible guilt, regret. Could I have waited longer? Might she have had a second wind? An extra few weeks? I don’t know. This is an unbearably sad time. She trusted me with her life. Could I have done more?

  48. My dog Chloe is 14 1/2. She has mild dementia, nerve issues that affect her back legs, now poops in her bed at night and on the floor as well. We live in an apartment in New York and I have to take her out and across the street to the park 5 times a day. She wakes me at 5:30 am now to go out, can’t go more than 4 hours without having to go out again. I adore her, she is the sweetest little yellow Labrador. We have her since age 10 weeks. Her back legs are wobbly, it’s hard for her to get up but then she can walk about a block outside. Some panting. Still loves to eat. My vet says it’s time, but I am tortured because I don’t see her in pain, actually suffering. She is essentially uncomfortable and old, reminding me of my mom in a nursing home. I would normally just wait and see, hoping for a day it felt right. But my husband and I have a trip to England planned, leaving in two weeks.

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