Euthanasia of an Elderly Dog

Consult your Veterinarian for Perspective

We have a Staffordshire bull terrier, 14, stiff and a little weak on his back legs, sleeps a lot, and now seems to be going deaf, barks a lot, and stares into space. He asks to go to toilet and eats and drinks normally. A year ago we lost our rottie to a brain tumor. She was at her worst for two weeks before I realized what I was supposed to do, carrying her to the toilet because she could not stand. I was selfish and I knew that I had to end her suffering, but I prolonged it in the hope she would recover. I hope I am forgiven. I just don’t want our last one to suffer the same fate.

Dr. Nichol:
I forgive you as I believe your well-loved girl dog would too. You gave her a great life. There is a flip side to loving a pet. As aging takes its natural course the good and bad days make for an emotional roller coaster. It’s natural to hope that the old timer will rally one last time.

Nobody wants a pet to suffer. Joint pain is likely to improve with medication. The other big criteria are eating, drinking, normal elimination functions and most important, sharing in the joy of life.

Your Staffordshire terrier’s pointless barking, increased sleeping, and staring at nothing suggest the dementia of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Rather than going deaf he may actually be losing his memory of your voice. For a complete list of CDS symptoms go to my website, and click the Pet Behavior tab, and then Older Dogs: Soiling, Barking, Confusion.

Like Alzheimer’s of humans, CDS is not curable but treatment often yields several months of improved mental function. When the spark is finally gone, you will find the strength to give your beautiful dog an easy exit.

Euthanasia is tough on human emotions but your veterinarian can make it easy for your dog. After a sedative is given an IV catheter can be placed so that an anesthetic and finally the euthanasia solution can be painlessly injected. You can hold your pet as he passes. Dying is inescapable but it doesn’t have to be miserable.