When to Say Goodbye

Will there come a time when you need to help your dog with dementia leave this world?

Book: Remember Me: Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive DysfunctionI can help with that. My book has a whole chapter on the difficult question of whether and when to euthanize a dog with dementia. Because dogs with cognitive decline are sometimes still physically healthy otherwise, this question, which is always difficult, can be even harder.

I let my little Cricket go on May 31, 2013. Here is an article on how I made the decision. I tell the story in full in my book, and two other people generously shared their stories of how they made the decisions for their own dogs.

 

Other Resources on Euthanasia

Here are some resources on end-of-life care for your beloved friend and some articles that can help you assess your pet’s quality of life.

I highly recommend the following book. It was a real comfort to me as I assessed and reassessed little Cricket’s quality of life.

 

Facing Farewell: Making the Decision to Euthanize Your Pet, by Julie Reck, DVM

 

 

Facing Farewell is a comprehensive guide to making the hard decision, but in addition describes the euthanasia process in detail and helps you know ahead of time what to discuss with the veterinarian and what to expect.

Helpful Articles about Decision Making

Grief

Finally, here is a piece by a physician on grieving for a dog. I think he makes some very wise points.

Lessons from Zachary: What a Physician Learns from the Death of his Dog.

An old black and white rat terrier is lying on a bed with her head on a pillow. She is staring off into the distance

                               My last photo of Cricket

 

376 Comments

  1. Dina says:

    I just put my dog down after 3 years of slow progressive dementia that took a huge turn to the worse 6 months ago I regret not putting him down sooner it would have been the right thing to do I kept holding on till he got alot worse and he suffered and i suffered too 6 months my average sleep was 3 to 4 disruptive hours which took a toll on me and my job and i even snapped at him few times which I would have never ever done but lach of sleep and 24 hr care took its toll ..now I have tremendous guilt about it ..dementia is a cruel monster and the best thing to do is to put them to rest b4 it completely takes over and torments the pet and the owner ..I kept hoping he will get better he had a rough year teeth surgery ..got out and the ppl who found him kept him the yard in the sun in a 90 degree weather he got a 3rd degree sunburn. Then we moved and it was hard on him I just wanted him to have a few good last days i was selfish he didn’t have last good days he suffered..he was like my child and I should have done right by him..

    • Sommer C. says:

      Currently going through this to a T Dina! Tortured daily if I should let him go, but I hold onto hope. I’m so very sorry you both went through such suffering. I know what torture it is each and every day & night. I think I need to find the strength from deep within and let him go this week. Bless you both. 💔

      • Nancy M says:

        Hi Sommer C.
        I’m so sorry you and your fur baby are going through this. I just released my fur baby ‘Bruno’ of almost 15. (3 months shy). I wanted so much for him to make it to his 15th birthday, however his dementia started progressing. He began pacing more and wouldn’t settle. He was lost most of the time. I struggled with knowing when the right time was until I read something very interesting. I would like to share with you and everyone else that may be struggling.

        Someone once wrote;

        There’s a big difference between existing and living.
        Dogs can exist with dementia for a long time, but that existence is without joy, eventually is filled with fear, and can’t be called living in any true sense of the word.
        When your dog losses his or her sense of identity that’s serious business. Dogs function on an intuitive level most of the time and their sense of who they are as dogs is important to them. Their sense of identity gives purpose and joy to their lives and when they become confused about who they are, that sense of purpose and joy is compromised.

  2. Sandi Neuman says:

    I was so relieved to find your website Eileen, thank you for all you do. My 10 year old lab Tao has had anxiety in his later years but the last 6 months have been intense. He’s up most nights and is so fearful he scratches at the walls or bedside table until he tires himself out and lately has just wanted to get out of the house so badly.. he goes straight to the car, I think he feels safe in there. I’m at a loss of what to do as the last few days he seems to be spiraling fast. He’s not just anxious at night, now he’s also not wanting to be in the house during the day. It’s so sad when I go out there he looks so scared and really sad too. The vet said because of his repetative scratching at the bedside table ect, that it sounded like CCD, we’ve done exrays and blood work and everything else came out clean? If anyone has any suggestions or insight I would so appreciate. Have you ever heard of this extreme fear as a symptom of CCD? If this carries on I don’t think I can let him suffer in this way for long. He was on alprazolam and that stopped working so now he’s on trazadone and that doesn’t seem to be helping much either… sigh. My heart is breaking for him and I can’t watch him suffer..

  3. Rita says:

    Our elder Cubby will be Sweet 16 next month. He has always be an independent dude and just enjoyed his person (me) but he has always had one or two rescue siblings around. He has 1 3/4 cataracts, and can’t hear. He is in early stages of dementia, physically he is doing well. Acupuncture every 2 weeks to help lower back/hind quarter weakness. He does the stairs, takes walks just fine. Our biggest challenge is the incessant barking at times for hours. It is stressful to the humans in his life and heartbreaking at the same time. We had a family sedar Saturday night and he barked from the time everyone arrived until they left! I gave him some anti-anxiety med and rescue remedy to his water. It was not a good time for anyone. This is a first for us and we have lost many a beautiful furry child to old age, as life goes. But this is a tough situation for his people as I am sure it is for him at times. Any suggestions for a good calming treat for him. It is definately worse at night. Sundowner for sure. We feel his quality of life is still good although his needs are minimal now, food most important. He sleeps most of the time. He has had a rescue sister for a few years now, she is almost 4 and has gotten into his routine, she would like him to play with her, but when she isn’t sleeping she amuses herself, luckily she is a great fit, very chill.
    Thanks for the support.

  4. Eileen Anderson says:

    Dear Paula, William, Cristin, Marti, Becky, Dan, Melody, Lisa, Dina, Sandi, and Rita,
    I am so sorry that I have not been able to publish or respond to comments for the last few weeks.

    Some of you had already said goodbye to your dogs when you posted; some are probably still wrestling with the question.

    Your dogs are the lucky ones, to have owners like you who love them so much. Take care, and feel free to respond; I will be more active in responding again now.

    Eileen

  5. I don’t get much sleep now my dog is 17 at the end of the year and strating to wet her bed walk into doors looks strees most of the time and can’t sit still for a second it’s as if she has forgot she was out..I am at the stage when is the right time for her to rest.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Carol, I’m so sorry you are at this stage with your dog. A lot of us here know what you are going through. Hugs.

    • William says:

      There is never going to be a right time just a point when you have to decide are they happy ,are they only existing and is it ok to live like this.the answer will be different for everyone.you will always wish for more time so dont be too hasty,but also be sure they of course are not suffering.if they eat drink and are not in pain ,if you can still keep them entertained all be it in there own world hang on.if diapers and pads help hang on .if they seem scared and truly sad not just old and distant this is the time to question.i do feel i let my boy go too early and it pains me ,but you cant go back he was not in good shape and was mostly just existing,but i feel now i was able to make his life better by keeping him busy showing him new places and things .was it a bad time to let him go?no but i could have waited for me and for him it is a mixed bag i think most would agree,and for some it is better to let go than to hang on.every situation is obviously different.having gone through this i say if you can give yourself and your dog 2 weeks time to decide ,and think can they handle this then think can i handle this and then think can they handle this if i can handle this.its the most thoughtful and painful decision to make so go slow, dont think how hard it is on you but how hard is it for them and then think can i make it better for them,ask and answer all questions before you make your choice because when they are gone there is no going back ,but they will always love you no matter what you decide that is what they do.

  6. Valerie says:

    I have my Lil’Bit, he is 18 and was actually my fathers dog. We call him, “our inheritance “ . I love this boy, and want to do the best for him, i know my father would have wanted the same thing. He brought my father great comfort in his last weeks, and I only want to do the same for him.
    Obviously, by my being on here, reading this, I’m looking for answers to an impossible question….
    I will take the next two weeks, regard him seriously, and make a decision.

    Tonight I have had to give him drugs to get him to relax. This is something I have not had to do for a few weeks now. I don’t like doing it, but I know it’s better for him than pacing all night. Poor lil guy….

    Let’s see how tomorrow is, and I’ll look for the light in his eyes.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Yes, the impossible question. I’m so sorry you are facing it. I wish for you peace and a clear path, and for Lil’Bit some of what he loves the most.

  7. Anne Smith says:

    I am asking myself the question daily – am I allowing her to suffer, selfishly? But how can I, who am I to make that choice for her? My mom is 92 with similar symptoms, it would be the same for her, not?
    My Peke, Angel, is almost 16. She still looks beautiful, internally is fine and eats well but the Sundowners is very sad with her loosing eyesight and hearing She paces continually from about 5pm, very restless, her legs slide sideways when she stands still or eats, stares at the wall corners and forces thru under tables etc. rather than walk round. She is OCD about it. I have to steer her in another direction to help. She tries to push thru tiny areas, lands up getting stuck and yelps for help. I keep furniture either away for the wall or right against it, in the same place all the time, large water bowl always fresh, and every one watches out for her when she goes to toilet outside. She got out last night, I drove around looking for her in our complex and found her wondering lost under our Willow trees – all sticky, I think from tree sap, black dirty paws and leaves stuck all over her. Bathed her at 11:30pm, blowdried her, put a drop of lavender essential oil on her neck to ready her for bed. But night time is very restless, waking up pacing, getting stuck and tripping. Am going to try Alzam, a light dose, at night for rest. At least, I think, she doesnt have pain, she doesnt yelp or moan, but a slight silent grunt sometimes when I hold her at night.
    I see her bravely hop and bounce and run a little when I whistle for her to eat, walking down to passage to my room, which I close up for her to eat at her pace. She only hears a high-pitch whistle, and knows I am looking for her. And she if she realises I arrived home, she’ll walk in my direction and try find me with those clouded eyes but if Im not quick enough to pick her up, she looses interest and turns away.
    Thanks for listening. It has done me a lot of good reading your posts… thank you.

  8. Wendy Adams says:

    I ran across this wonderful page about 30 minutes ago. What a God send. My sweet furbaby, Lobo, was diagnosed with dementia just a few months ago. I was my parents fulltime caregiver for 8 years; both passed from complications of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Lobo had the sundowners look in his eyes; I saw my parents. It brought tears to my eyes immediately. I knew he had this horrible disease. He’s on 400 mg of trazodone daily; and beginning to have more bad days than good ones. Lobo’s 13 yrs old, golden/lab mix, I rescued him when he was 1.5 yrs and my protector. The sundowners has become worse. Praying for when to make the final decision for him. Thanks for your shoulders

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Wendy,
      My mother had Alzheimer’s and my dog had CCD, so I know a little of what you have been through. And I know the look you mean in the dog’s eyes. I hope you can make a peaceful decision and know that you were/are the best “mom” for Lobo ever. (I’m sorry for the delay in responding. I know a lot can happen in three weeks.)

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