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Even though I've had dogs for about 20 years, I'm still a little inexperienced about many things because I've really just had the same dogs for a very long time.
At one point I had three. The two girls started fighting viciously (blood, going for the throat, the whole 9) so I had to re-home the youngest. The oldest (14) was put to sleep 3-4 years ago. Her mind started to go and one day when I came home from work she was down in the yard and wouldn't get up. That was a fairly easy decision to make.
That left little Hughbert all by himself. At 17, my doxie is not doing great and I don't know what to do. He doesn't have any terminal diseases, and aside from some meds for separation anxiety (started after all the other dogs were gone) he isn't being treated for anything. He isn't blind, his hearing might be OK but I think he just doesn't bother to listen any more. His house breaking has gone completely by the wayside, and just goes where ever and when ever he wants, showing no disregard for it. He'll sit in a puddle of his own pee, wet the bed at night and stay there, poop on the floor and walk through it, smearing it all over the place. Most of the time I have to put him in front of his food to get him to eat. By this point he has about 8 teeth left. He will walk into corners or tight spaces and start whimpering because he is "stuck." He will also hang out in dark hallways.
Because of his age he will get ear infections or UTIs, and the Vet always gives me the "well at his age..." preface before they discuss treatment. My wife and kids tell me that their friends feel bad for him when they see him, although they have never said anything to me. I am starting to wonder if I shouldn't let him go. He is past the upper range of his breed's life expectancy, but the oldest on record was 24. He could potentially go on like this for a few more years.
He isn't happy; I know that. I can't remember when the last time his tail wasn't between his legs was. But that doesn't mean he wants to die either. He can't tell me if he would prefer living a slowly decaying life or end it with some dignity. That's kind of a heavy philosophical question for an animal is the basic intellect of a 7 year old.
How do you know when it is time to put down a dog that is still technically functioning, but only in the most rudimentary way?
 

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I'm sorry you and your family are going through this. It's something every dog owner dreads.

Ultimately, only you can make this decision. I will add in a few things for you to think about as you make our decision.

First, I'll just say that I don't think anyone would look at you and say "you put him down? what???" if you were to make that decision. By that, I mean you are certainly in that gray area where while keeping him alive may not be cruel, neither would euthanasia. You said it yourself - "Functioning, but only in the most rudimentary way". I'd say you have the green light, if that's the route you want to go.

Next, I'll say something my vet has said to me during these times. Dogs live in the now. He isn't thinking about tomorrow or the next day or things he may miss if he isn't around for a few more years. He also isn't reminiscing about old days spent out in the yard sunning or playing with other dogs. All he knows is right now. So if his now isn't happy, that's something for you to consider. As humans we think about all of those things, but dogs live in the moment. Thinking anything else is anthromorphizing. Natural, but anthromorphizing.

Finally, it's my opinion that it's better a week too soon than a day too late. I'd rather put a dog down "too early" rather than "too late". We had a dog who was like yours for a long time. Alive and functioning, for the most part, but just....not really there, at least not most of the time. She was old and stiff, losing mental capacity, etc. She could walk, eat, and drink and every now and then we would see a glimmer of what our old girl used to be, but it wasn't all that often. One night, she went to sleep and never woke up. Now, that sounds nice and like a peaceful way to go. But at the same time, losing her like that and not knowing for sure that she didn't, say, have a tumor rupture and slowly bled out internally in her sleep which may have been painful/scary, is disconcerting. I was immediately resentful of my parents for letting it go that far and not putting her down earlier, before it got to that point.

For my current senior pup, among other physical things that would trigger me to have her put to sleep, I've always said that if I pick up her leash (which usually causes much excitement for a walk) and she is indifferent, then it's her time to go.
 

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So, at some point I realized that the very, very most fundamental question I could ask myself to answer this question was:

If I woke up tomorrow and found the animal had passed comfortably in their sleep, would I be relieved or shocked (I'd be sad and grieving either way)?

If the answer to that is that I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised but would be enormously relieved, then it is time.

I'm not saying that's how you should decide, but for me - that up there is the crux of it and the signal that I know the animal is suffering and what I need to/should do, but want to avoid the responsibility of having to make the decision.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm sorry you and your family are going through this. It's something every dog owner dreads.

Ultimately, only you can make this decision. I will add in a few things for you to think about as you make our decision.

First, I'll just say that I don't think anyone would look at you and say "you put him down? what???" if you were to make that decision. By that, I mean you are certainly in that gray area where while keeping him alive may not be cruel, neither would euthanasia. You said it yourself - "Functioning, but only in the most rudimentary way". I'd say you have the green light, if that's the route you want to go.

Next, I'll say something my vet has said to me during these times. Dogs live in the now. He isn't thinking about tomorrow or the next day or things he may miss if he isn't around for a few more years. He also isn't reminiscing about old days spent out in the yard sunning or playing with other dogs. All he knows is right now. So if his now isn't happy, that's something for you to consider. As humans we think about all of those things, but dogs live in the moment. Thinking anything else is anthromorphizing. Natural, but anthromorphizing.

Finally, it's my opinion that it's better a week too soon than a day too late. I'd rather put a dog down "too early" rather than "too late". We had a dog who was like yours for a long time. Alive and functioning, for the most part, but just....not really there, at least not most of the time. She was old and stiff, losing mental capacity, etc. She could walk, eat, and drink and every now and then we would see a glimmer of what our old girl used to be, but it wasn't all that often. One night, she went to sleep and never woke up. Now, that sounds nice and like a peaceful way to go. But at the same time, losing her like that and not knowing for sure that she didn't, say, have a tumor rupture and slowly bled out internally in her sleep which may have been painful/scary, is disconcerting. I was immediately resentful of my parents for letting it go that far and not putting her down earlier, before it got to that point.

For my current senior pup, among other physical things that would trigger me to have her put to sleep, I've always said that if I pick up her leash (which usually causes much excitement for a walk) and she is indifferent, then it's her time to go.
It is hard for me to use this as a guideline. He was never been enthusiastic about walking. It's outside, and outside is cold and full of big noisy things. Inside is where the food and his bed is, and he totally knows that.
His enthusiasm for eating has definitely faded. Since he lost a bunch of teeth he can't chew and can only eat wet food. He gets bored with it and sometimes walks away from a half eaten bowl.
 

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So, at some point I realized that the very, very most fundamental question I could ask myself to answer this question was:

If I woke up tomorrow and found the animal had passed comfortably in their sleep, would I be relieved or shocked (I'd be sad and grieving either way)?

If the answer to that is that I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised but would be enormously relieved, then it is time.

I'm not saying that's how you should decide, but for me - that up there is the crux of it and the signal that I know the animal is suffering and what I need to/should do, but want to avoid the responsibility of having to make the decision.
I wouldn't feel relieved for him. Like I said it is hard for me to understand how dogs think. I didn't grow up with them, and this is only the second senior I've ever dealt with.
I feel guilty because I'd be relieved for me. It is a good hour of every day just cleaning up after him, cleaning him, and feeding him. That's before walk time or anything else. I've had to re-arrange my kitchen room to set up a pen for him. Cleaning up accidents are a frequent event. The kitchen frequently smells like pee.
If this were a senior human being, that is just part of growing old. Someone else has to take care of you because things just don't work anymore. You don't say "Grandma is a pain in the backside, time to put her down." No, you ride it out. I'm not sure that is right, and if someone could ask to be euthanized in their old age, I think that is a discussion worth having. However, they can communicate that to me. A dog can't. Sure he isn't his happy younger self, but who is.
It is a moral conundrum I don't know how to work through.
With my other dog it was easy. She wasn't going to get back up. Even with my father, when drugs were the only thing keeping his blood pressure from crashing and he wasn't really aware of anything, my sister and I knew he wasn't getting back up. It feels like giving up to take my dog to a vet and say "meh, I'm over it, later bro."
 

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Some of this is philosophical, cultural, and even social. Ie: How people think.

Because watching my grandmother slowly go down hill physically and cognitively and emotionally - after my grandfather's death my family (her care givers) absolutely wished humane euthanasia were an option for humans. Of course we also knew well enough how she thought and what she wanted in the future to know she would have also preferred that.

If my dogs are suffering and there is no hope for them to have anything in the future but continued physical and mental decline, and there is little to no chance of them returning to being joyful in life, I put them to sleep. If they are a BURDEN to me, and we no longer have a relationship either one of us take joy in and there's no chance of that changing, I put them to sleep.

That's me. There is no right or wrong answer in your situation.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Some of this is philosophical, cultural, and even social. Ie: How people think.

Because watching my grandmother slowly go down hill physically and cognitively and emotionally - after my grandfather's death my family (her care givers) absolutely wished humane euthanasia were an option for humans. Of course we also knew well enough how she thought and what she wanted in the future to know she would have also preferred that.

If my dogs are suffering and there is no hope for them to have anything in the future but continued physical and mental decline, and there is little to no chance of them returning to being joyful in life, I put them to sleep. If they are a BURDEN to me, and we no longer have a relationship either one of us take joy in and there's no chance of that changing, I put them to sleep.

That's me. There is no right or wrong answer in your situation.
Understood.
How does someone broach that subject with the vet? Do you pick a date and schedule it? It feels weird to call them up to schedule that sort of thing.
 

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Understood.
How does someone broach that subject with the vet? Do you pick a date and schedule it? It feels weird to call them up to schedule that sort of thing.
I had a pretty good relationship with my vet so they were aware of the dog's state. Things like you mentioned 'given his age/.condition' meant that, yeah, I pretty much called and said 'it's time' and made an appointment for euthanasia. That and waiting on the appointment are definitely the most uncomfortable parts for me.
 

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I had a pretty good relationship with my vet so they were aware of the dog's state. Things like you mentioned 'given his age/.condition' meant that, yeah, I pretty much called and said 'it's time' and made an appointment for euthanasia. That and waiting on the appointment are definitely the most uncomfortable parts for me.
I hear that. In my mind I have been girding myself to do this fairly soon. It is something I've been wrestling with for months. Talking about it openly almost feels like a betrayal of the animals trust. I'm supposed to be the protector and provider, right?
Like I said, I wasn't raised with pets, I'm not the hunting type, and have little exposure to agricultural livestock. It is hard for me to walk the line between imprinting a human psyche on an animal that doesn't have it, and being a careless human that uses and disposes of animals as it is convenient only to me.
Thank you for your input.
 

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I'm sorry you're going through this. I don't envy the decision you have to make, though I know one day I will have to make it for my own dogs.

The advice that's been given already is good. I haven't had to go through this yet with my dogs but I guess what I would be thinking is "If this were me, would I be ready to go?". Maybe that's giving the dog human emotions, but I guess the point is to try to see things from the dog's perspective.

I always found it strange that it's totally okay to have a dog, who can't make decisions for himself, euthanized, while humans who can and want make the decision - that's wrong. I'm glad the laws have finally changed (in Canada anyway).
 

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I know this is an older post and the dog may be gone by now, but for anyone ELSE reading...

Both my mother and I have lost our dogs this past year (Teri in June 2018 and Dahlia in August of this year). We both knew it was probably time and the vet did too. In both cases, we brought the dog to the vet for one final evaluation, to ask THEIR opinion too. Both of us were told it was time. My mom spent a few extra days with her dog as she had dementia and her body wasn't yet failing. We let our girl go that day as she was doing very poorly, suddenly couldn't walk, and the end stage of kidney disease can be seizures and coma and we didn't want to let her go through that.

Both AWFUL decisions, but both the right decisions. But we made them after a vet consultation told us there was nothing more that could be done and the dogs were suffering.
 
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