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

 

380 Comments

  1. Pam says:

    Our mini doxie Buddy has been diagnosed with CCD. We rescued him when we was three years old from a horrible shelter. He had been abused and was scared of everything. We also rescued a 6 month old mini doxie, our beloved Dixie, at the same time. They were together night and day. We lost Dixie a few months back and Buddy has gone downhill so quickly it scares me. He walks in circles, gets lost in corners, doesn’t really recognize us anymore, and our vet says he is blind and mostly deaf. He is at the vet’s office now being checked out again but our vet doesn’t think there is much we can do. Fortunately, my husband is home all day and can take care of him, but I don’t know how much longer my poor little baby can hang on. We are heartbroken and don’t know what to do. It’s the saddest think I have ever seen. Letting him go will be hard but I can’t stand to see him this way. We will have to make a decision soon, and I hope we are strong enough to know when the time comes to let our baby go.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Pam,
      I’m so sorry you are going through this with Buddy. How especially hard it must be after losing Dixie. Thinking of you and your little guy.

      Eileen

  2. Tarah says:

    My 14 year old Minpin Max is at the end Stages of CCD. He doesnt really recognize anyone anymore. He is up all night pacing, Always confused, Lost all housetraining and has been in diapers for months now. He is now showing signs that he is suffering physiscally as well. He never stops licking his legs and is constatntly re-positioning as if he cant get comfortable. I am never goinbg to be ready to say goodbye, But I know I have to so he doesnt suffer. How do people get through this ? He is the best friend I have ever had !

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Tarah,
      It’s awfully hard to get through. Many of us here have done it; one just has to. I’m so sorry you are going through this with Max.

  3. Lindy says:

    Losing a pet is never easy unfortunately it’s one of the last kind things we can do. I’ve lost many over the years our Sophie Sox is losing her marbles but at 13 1/2 everyday is bonus day . She does make us laugh whereby in the past she would have gladly drunk your tea or sipped a drink now unless it’s milk she’s not interested so we have gained a cat in that respect where only milk will do . She’s happy in Sophie world until it changes dramatically again ,so are we sleep tight darling 4 legged friends . Mummy is always here till we meet again. Xxxxxhugs

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      “Every day is a bonus day.”

      I love this, Lindy. I love how you describe Sophie Sox. I hope you still have many happy bonus days.

      Eileen

  4. Jill says:

    I was so happy to find this site and book. I am going through this with my 14 year old chihuahua, Angel. I lost my 11 year old chihuahua, Precious 6 months ago. Since then Angel has started to have more and more difficulty. Over the past week, Angel has been in the hospital off and on for years because she stopped eating. Everything has pointed to age and dimentia. Right now, she will eat sometimes, other times she wont. She paces… loses me and goes looking for me even if I was right by her… I have checked off almost every symptom 9n the list. Since the last hospital stay, she wont sleep unless it is with me. She will just howl if I go to my room at night. So I have been sleeping with her on the couch. I know my time with her is growing short. I have had to make the decision to let go several times but it was due to disease. This is so much harder. 🙁

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Jill,
      I’m so sorry you are going through this with Angel. And I’m sorry for your loss of Precious (and Angel’s loss of Precious, too).

      It can be so hard when our dogs are otherwise healthy to see this happening and have to make “the decision” about it. I wish you peace with this. It’s very obvious that you give Angel the best of love and care.

      Eileen

    • Cheryl says:

      Jill, I am going through a similar situation. My beloved 12 year old chihuahua Angel passed away on 12/29/18, and her 14 year old brother Pancho has gone downhill since then. He had no issues before her death and now I Can also check off every symptom. It’s heartbreaking. I guess it’s comforting to know I am not alone.

  5. Karen Foster says:

    Hi there
    I took my beloved boy for a health check November last year.
    He has shown many signs of dog dementia including getting lost in corners, loved food to now not eating very much at all, doesn’t recognise my husband and family, very low in mood, whines all day, shown aggression towards husband and granddaughter. Sleeps a lot.
    He does enjoy a walk most of the time, refuses to walk with anyone but me. The only quality of life is the walks when he is up for, sometimes he can’t get his balance on shiny floor. Have to help him by picking him up. Doesn’t see very well, hearing okay but doesn’t follow instructions!
    I am struggling am I being selfish am I not making the right decision for my boy!
    Any advise would be appreciated!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Karen,
      I’m so sorry you are going through this with your boy. I’m hoping some others will chime in here because you’ve probably already read my story. Did you check out the Quality of Life scale on this page? It can be helpful.

      Canine cognitive dysfunction is a medical condition. We have to do our best to determine how much, if any, our dogs are suffering from it.

      Good luck and peace to you.

      Eileen

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Karen,
      I’m so sorry you are struggling with this, and I’m sorry I didn’t respond before. I thought I had. Is your dear boy still with you?
      –Eileen

  6. Todd says:

    Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. We put our sweet little Marsha to sleep and it hurts so much. You article was a great comfort tonight because I do feel guilt. She had some good days and was physically still able to still get around with some energy. However, she didn’t like to do any of the things she used to like and she was very confused. She stopped wanting to on walks and she stopped wanting to snuggle with us. She only wanted to eat and even that was sad because she would forget she had just eaten as soon as she was done. She had daily accidents in the house and we often found her pacing or staring at the wrong corner of the door when we did try to take her out. I miss her so much and hope I did not decide to end her life too soon.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Todd,
      I’m so sorry for your loss. Marsha was so lucky to have you looking out for her. It’s the hardest thing to do, to let them go, but sometimes it can be a gift. I hope you can say goodbye to the guilt. I think you did right by your dear dog.

      Eileen

    • Lisa Peet says:

      Hi Todd, I have been searching the internet for a story similar to mine and I think I’ve found it in yours. We had our beloved Jeanie put to sleep on the 1st April and I am suffering with the most tremendous guilt. We took her to the vets last August when we had started to worry about her dementia symptoms. The vet suggested euthanasia but we decided the time was not right. She was deaf, confused, had lost a lot of her zest for life, sometimes stared into mid air and occasionally at the wall, she was jumping into the patio window, standing at the wrong side of the door and missing kerbs on the pavement. She was absolutely obsessed with food, constantly begging and I think she’d forgotten when she had just eaten. She was suffering with anxiety when alone as we arrived home at times to find her pacing about howling and crying but she had also started to soil in the house which she had never done before. At first this was just frustrating and annoying, arriving home after work or an evening out this was not what you wanted to be confronted with especially if you had guests but it got worse, she had started treading in it and walking it everywhere. She and we found this very upsetting and hard to cope with. It was after one of these episodes on that fateful day that we made our decision and I now feel I acted selfishly and it was more of the right decision for us than Jeanie. I worried about when we are away for the day or on holiday and my 19 year old daughter would be left to cope with these situations. People are telling me we did the right thing for Jeanie as well as for ourselves but I miss her so much and hope we didn’t act in haste, she still had her good days, enjoyed a leisurely walk and was not in obvious physical pain although she sometimes yelped when we picked her up.
      I just hope we did the right thing for her and helped her along before things got worse.

  7. PAULA DEAN says:

    ..MY BOSTON TERRIER “BOO” HAS DOGGIE DEMENTIA AND WE ARE HAVING A ROUGH TIME. SHE PACES ALL THE TIME, GOING AROUND AND AROUND THE COUCH. GETTING STUCK IN CORNERS, FORGETTING HER WAY OUT OF A ROOM. SHE HAS EVEN FORGOTTEN HOW TO EAT. WE HAVE TO HAND FEED HER AND EVEN THEN SHE DOESN’T EAT MUCH .WE HAVE HAD HER 13 YEARS. SHE DOESN’T SLEEP AT NIGHT. AND SHE IS ON MEDICATION FROM THE VET. ANY ADVICE.. THANKS, PAULA

  8. William Hampton says:

    I put my boy ben down two weeks ago today,absolutly awful.ben was a big dog an estrela mointain dog my second he helped me heal after losing my first.ben was 15 looking back he was twelve and a half when his symptoms began i had no idea what he had until the last three monthes of his life thanks to this site.ben did have partial larengeal problems but did well,he had dysplasia in one hip and arthritis and two fused disc but walked very well thanks to metacam however his constant pacing over the last year ruined his ability to use his hind legs very well without help.the last year was the hardest things just got worse slowly but quickly at the same time ben always went to work with me so i could always help him and my business partner also would help.ben began barking while driving then started barking outside the truck and the only way he would stop would be to let him pace until he tired and sleep,this wore out his hips so me and my friend helped him pace with the help of his harness. nov began night barking no longer taking cammand the only way to stop him was to let him pace, he could still use his hind legs up to mid january then we began helping him walk .he would be up all night until in jan the vet gave trazodone.all along he was also going in circles somtimes big somtimes small at work i could get him to walk around yards .i know i am all over the place sorry.even though he no longer listened to me it took monthes before i realized he was truley in his own world.he would either bark or walk and he would not stop even if you tried to comfort him.this dog i had since he was 8 weeks in all the 15 years i was probably away from him a totsl of 10 hours.this has made losing him like tearing my soul in half.the last two monthes my freind who has a seep disorder helped me in night shiftes so ben could get help if he needed it since he could not get up on his own because even on trazodone he would still want to pace just not as long also he had to have his pee pad changed each time he wet so he would not be laying in it.i bathed him daily because he would still get pee on himself.he had an air mattres at home and in my truck that helped his hips.he no longer wanted attention except to get up.his walking or pacing was almost like a zombie.ben ate ok buy only ok and drank just fine he gave no more kisses and was just distant ,so painful to have a dog that was my life slowly pull away.driving to and between jobs were bad ben would just bark if it were an hour drive it would be an hour of barking with no way to stop him except to finaly stop and walk him thankfully most driving was 15 min to half an hour at home always he was up and down until pill time.i was happy to help him never wanted to stop but realized one day that ben was just existing not living .i thought because i was doing the right thing when i put him down that i would feel fine ,instead i have fallen apart with guilt,sadness and regret whishing i had held on and just helped longer,i have lost 20 lbs in just 2 weeks cant eat and sleep is awful.i miss him so much.ccd is the worst and i am upset that i never knew this happend to dogs everyone i talk to did not know.if it was not for this site i would never have known.i wish he were still here cant stand that i let him go but could not stand to see him get worse.also when he barked the last month and a half he would end up biting his lip over and over again tearing it repeatedly still he would not stop barking yes i did all i could to keep his lip away from his teeth but it was impossible only walking helped. At one point we were one in the end my life has been shatterd.

  9. William says:

    I am thankful for this site.hearing other stories so simmilar to mine it helps just enough to get through another day.i have lost many pets over the years but putting my dog down was the hardest its so hard not to just ignore there suffering so one does not have to face the reality of life.i know for months i promised my self and my dog i would no longer let him suffer only to cower away so i would not feel this pain,so unfair of me .having had pets die naturally i know there was guilt and anger and now putting my boy down i feel the same guilt anger and extreme unconsolable saddness.the sun does not shine as bright laughter does not exist the for now is hollow and dark i know one day this will change but it seems so far off.i know his life was no longer happy each day filled with horrible anxiety ,pain and discomfort.the anxiety deemed the most painful never finding peace unless he slept,so many times i prayed for him to get better then i began to pray for him to go in his sleep i even thought if i just have him sleep all the time on meds i did not do this but it was these thoughts that made me realize i had to let him go .he is gone now and i try to remind myself how bad his life was in the end ,thinking of the happy times just makes me feel guilty like i did the wrong thing.i know it was right for him but of now its pain for me.this site helps so much as i have said but time will be the most effective thank you all for your stories may god help comfort us all and make the days brighter

  10. Cristin says:

    I’m having a terrible time making this decision. Three years ago I lost my Pomeranian to congenital heart failure. He was in cardiac arrest when I brought him to vet so the decision to not let him suffer was made immediately. It was super hard but all signs to let him go were there. There were no grey areas like dementia. I now have a 14 year old Pomeranian who is in advanced stages of dementia. She circles non stop all day to the point that I worry she will walk herself to death while I am at work. She has lost weight from all the pacing during the day. She has lost her eye sight and can barely hear. She is eating and drinking normal but will not stop pacing until I put her to bed at night with me at which point she collapses with exhaustion. I take her out and she goes to the bathroom normally but has had accidents in the house since learning of her diagnosis. I realize I am closer to making this decision because of research but its incredibly more difficult actually doing it having a dog that eats, drinks and goes to the bathroom normally and only real sign of distress is pacing and getting lost. Grateful I found your website.

  11. Marti Nagy says:

    I acquired my Brothers Small Chocolate Lab in November 2015. She was 13 . She was approx 65 lbs. and a very sweet tempered dog. An evening in October 2016 she started shaking, falling, throwing up, peeing and her eyes went to the back of her head and scared me to death. We rushed her to an emergency vet a half hour away. On the ride she did calm down. She was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease and we were sent home with prescriptions and instructions. As time continued she got better everyday – Her head tilted pretty far to the left but after a few months she was almost normal. Life went on and we took our usual walks for 2 more years. Late 2017 she started having more and more trouble getting up, she was losing her muscle mass and weight. She started doing circles all day long around the living room coffee table until she would tire herself out and fall down and sleep. Evenings were the worse. She would not stop walking in circles and would often howl if she was down. Mid 2018 she was diagnosed with having Dementia. By this time she was losing her kidney functions but I did not care. I work from home so I was always there – she was never left alone. As the months went on – she never stopped trying to walk. I would pick her up and get her going for awhile…. all day long. Early in March 2019 she was really struggling with walking – but she still had a great appetite, Drank Water, Peed and Pooped like normal. I was not giving up until she told me it was time… Saturday evening March 23, 2019 she went into a full seizure…. I have seen seizures before but it is always scary…… my friend drove us to the emergency vet and even though she calmed down in the car quite a bit – she was still struggling to hold her head up and stop twitching….. The hardest decision in my life had to be made…. I stared into her eyes and told her I loved her and I thought she deserved a letter life than what was possibly to come if I kept her alive. Not really knowing what that life would be – I opted to have her euthanized. I’ve question myself every minute from that day – was it the right thing. She fought so hard every day to walk and she never showed any pain at all. I don’t think she ever wanted to give up being with me no matter how hard it was. I feel like I gave on her.

  12. Becky says:

    My sweet Tedi has dog dementia. When she’s not sleeping, she’s pacing, going in circles, stumbling, walks in between dresser and bed and stays there. She pants heavily, she’s blind and the only thing she seems to like is walks and treats. Her walks aren’t like they used to be but she seems to still like going on them. She can’t manage the stairs anymore. She barely eats but drinks lots of water. She goes to the bathroom anywhere she needs to. She was trained and used to always let me know when she had to go. This condition may have been coming on for a while but it became drastically noticeable when she went blind. The vet said my Tedi is ok with being put to sleep. I didn’t expect that. He suggested I take a few days to get ok with it. I’ve done a lot of praying and reading and trying to spoil her as much as she lets me. I got her from the pound when she was 4. She has been my happy place for the past 10 years. I’m gonna miss my baby.

  13. Dan says:

    Hi –

    I find your site to be very informative and helpful. I am struggling with my best friend Banjo, a 15 year old Beagle Basset hound mix. Although the vet has found all of his lab work and testing to be well within normal limits, he seems to suffer from many of the symptoms that you discuss here. He is often pacing, whining, licking, staring at walls, getting trapped in corners, under beds, etc. He is constantly underfoot and seems to only be responding to me, not my SO or her kids. He shows about 25% of his former participation, however is clingy or restless about 75% of the time he is awake. He sleeps much more (as one would expect) but is restless all night unless given anti-anxiety meds. He still walks with me and shows his normal obsession with food, but sometimes the walks are shorter than ever. sometimes I have to lift him out of bed to eat or go out because he just sleeps right through his normal feeding time.
    I struggle because I don’t know if the restless agitation can be fixed, if it is a sign of poor quality of life (the checklist on this site wasn’t working) or if I am just fearing the inevitable and feeling the family friction of new people coping with my dog (the kids and SO are new to living with him the last 2 months). He has been on this cognitive decline for over a year, but it has been very slow. Any advice would be helpful as I know it is up to me, but he can seems so vibrant at times and so uncomfortable at others.

  14. Melody says:

    We have a 16-1/2 yr old Rat Russell Terrier who we believe now has Dementia, she also walks in circles, looses control once in a while in the house, stands in corners and will bark at times at nothing. She does eat and drink a lot, which to me is encouraging, but I can’t bear the thought of one day having to put her down. She is my “angle from god” and I don’t want to loose her. She is my best friend. It is so hard, we don’t want her to suffer, but we also don’t want to let go. She does still recognize me and when I get home from work, seems to be more alert than during the day when she sleeps a lot.

  15. Lisa Peet says:

    We had our darling Jeanie put to sleep on Monday and my goodness am I struggling. She was like our third child at nearly 14 years old a beautiful Lancashire Heeler, she had gone deaf her eye sight was failing and she had signs of dementia. She would jump into the patio window or wait at the wrong side of the door, she was absolutely obsessed with food and would be begging for more after her meals, I think she had forgotten she had eaten. She had lost so much weight and would mostly sleep when she wasn’t looking for food. We would sometimes find her staring at the wall. We think she had started to fret when we weren’t around as we had entered the house on a few occasions to find her pacing and crying/howling. She had also started soiling in the house, the easy pick ups were annoying but I could deal with them but more recently she had started to walk in her excrement which was then trodden everywhere. After a hard day at work or an evening out this was difficult to come home to and this is why I’m really struggling with our decision to euthanise. It was after one of these episodes that we rang the vet and made our decision. We had taken Jeanie to see the vet last August when her symptoms had increased and were told then that the kindest thing for Jeanie and ourselves would be to let her go but we couldn’t do it at that time. She did have good days and still enjoyed a leisurely walk but she wasn’t the same. I am just absolutely wracked with guilt and regret that my motive was more of a selfish act after coming home to a kitchen and dining room laced with faeces laden footprints. I feel sick to my stomach, constantly bursting into uncontrollable tears and am just so so sad. I miss you Jeanie with all my heart and I hope you can forgive me my beautiful baby 💔

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