The minute a dog enters your life, you instantly fall in love. Maybe there are even times where you simply can’t imagine life without it. You imagine them standing or sitting obediently by your side, never to leave. It is man’s best friend after all and let’s face it, your best friend would never leave you, right?
Unfortunately, there may come a day when your dog for life begins to fall subject to a terminal and insidious condition that we humans know as cancer. The main symptom is pain, but if the pain is not obvious then cancer is not something an unassuming owner would suspect the dog to have. Aside from pain, the dog may show signs of nausea, loss of enthusiasm and human engagement, loss of appetite, loss of normal body functions, chronic fatigue, stress, boredom and low self-esteem.
The most important thing to do when you notice that your dog may be suffering from the aforementioned symptoms is to take it to the vet and get it properly diagnosed.
There is an agonising question, which no dog owner should ever have to ask themselves, but which one day might creep up on you. What if, one day, you find yourself saying ‘my dog has cancer, when do I put him down?‘
Ultimately it boils down to a personal choice for each pet owner. As an owner we know our dogs best and, since our dogs cannot speak up for themselves, we have a duty of love and care to do what is best for them.
It is said that one day you just get to a point where you know each day you keep your dog alive is simply giving them existence, not life enrichment. As dog owners, we are cursed with the fact that we hold their lives in our hands. We are also cursed because there’s a higher probability that we will outlive our pets. Unless they slip peacefully away in the night, we usually have to face this avalanche of emotions of what to do once our beloved best friend starts to go downhill.
Dogs and humans have similar organ systems. When they start to fail, it’s thought that they feel pain in the same way humans experience it. In this sense, it may make the decision process easier for us as humans because then we can figuratively put ourselves in our dog’s position and ask ourselves whether we would like to be kept alive in that state… Nonetheless, it’s a heartbreaking decision to make.
If you want to put yourself in your pup’s situation, some questions which you could ask yourselves are:
If you had a terminal disease and were in constant pain, would you want to continue that life?
Would you want to be alive if you no longer enjoyed doing most things?
Do good and happy days outnumber painful and sad days?
Does your dog still like to eat?
What type of life would you have if you couldn’t control your bowel movements or walk?
Would you want to go through painful surgeries and try to recover when your body is already about to give out?
If cancer that the dog suffers from is terminal, then it may be kinder to put them to sleep than to keep them alive for longer where their pain may become greater and their suffering only worsens.
There is also the issue of finances and whether you can afford to keep providing the medical treatment and care that the dog needs. This may seem like a covetous thought to have but medications and treatment for your dog can be very expensive, especially if given over a long period of time. Having pet insurance may help to alleviate the financial burden, but not all insurance covers all types of treatment.
Is it in your dog’s best interest to prolong his or her life, or are you prolonging his or her life for yourself? As mentioned earlier, many people say that you will know when it is time to put your dog to sleep. This is not always true, as our judgments may be clouded by our deep emotional pain. At this point, you really need to examine your own motives. The responsibility for your choice lies with you and you alone.
Having to make a decision of this magnitude is a huge responsibility, but you don’t have to go through the experience by yourself. Your vet will be there to advise you on the best treatment for your dog. Partner with them to get all the facts and to make the most informed decision.
When you have decided that it is in yours and your dog’s best interest to put him or her to sleep, you will first make an appointment with the vet for an euthanasia procedure. The best thing we can recommend is that you don’t make an appointment at a busy time so that your goodbyes will not be rushed. It’s a personal choice as to whether you want to be there with your dog when it sleeps away, or whether you don’t think you would be able to bear the pain of letting it go. Either way, each case is an individual one which, again, is down to you.
To begin this process, the vet must first gain access to a vein, usually in the dog’s leg. You will be invited to hold the dog calm. The injection is painless and normally takes less than a minute to work. This is because they are being injected with a highly potent and concentrated anaesthesia which overwhelms the brain and shuts it down.
When to put your dog down is unquestionably one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make but you have done the best by him or her all their life, and now is the time to still do the same. So having read this information, ask yourself ‘my dog has cancer. What should I do?’