When To Say Goodbye To Your Dog? A New Survey Sheds Some Light

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
Daz Stock/Shutterstock

Deciding when it's the time to say goodbye to a beloved canine companion is the toughest decision you’ll have to make. Even when the pooch in question is sick or old, it’s never easy to choose to euthanize a furry friend. The question for many dog owners remains - how do you know when it’s time to say goodbye?

Difficult questions like this one spurred the members of the Dog Aging Project to survey 2.570 dog owners about the details of their companion dog’s death. Researchers asked the owners to list the dog’s cause of death, whether euthanasia was involved, the reason why euthanasia may have been chosen, the dog’s age, the quality of life the dog had before death, and what medical symptoms they exhibited. 

The survey’s findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 

The Dog Aging Project is a collaborative, research-driven project that accepts dogs from various backgrounds to study the effects of aging. The idea behind this project is to get a better insight into what contributes to a long and healthy dog lifespan. 

Data showed that over 85% of owners whose dogs had died reported choosing euthanasia. Almost half of those owners stated they chose to euthanize their dog to relieve their pet’s suffering. More than half of all respondents listed disease or illness as the cause of their dog’s death.

What this survey shows is that all dog owners struggle with deciding when it’s time to say goodbye, and you’re not alone if you’re facing this decision,” said Dr. Kellyn McNulty, an internal medicine resident in the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, who worked on the study. 

“As veterinarians, we encourage people to consider not just the ‘lifespan’ of a companion animal, but also the ‘health span’  - the portion of your dog’s life when they’re in good health,” she added. “Advocating for your pet is about more than helping them live longer - it’s also about making sure that the time they have here on Earth is a good time.”

The interesting thing about this survey is that it has allowed researchers to learn that euthanasia isn’t something that mainly affects older dogs. Many diseases and conditions can affect younger dogs, lowering their quality of life and leading owners to wonder whether it might be time to say goodbye to their companions sooner rather than later. 

It’s not a decision that anyone wants to have to make, but the survey showed us that many pet owners face these questions regardless of how old is their dog,” said McNulty.

Age may become a more significant factor in determining the quality of a dog’s life as veterinary medicine continues to improve at treating and managing chronic conditions in dogs. One thing dog owners can do is be on the lookout for the signs of aging and talk with their vet to determine whether age or chronic illness is affecting their dog’s quality of life.

If your dog is well-trained and potty-trained and begins soiling the house that’s a possible sign. Others include restlessness at night, new onset anxiety and fears, and arthritic issues.”

One thing every dog owner needs to remember - you are not alone when it comes to deciding to say goodbye to your pooch. In addition to family and friends you can turn to, there are many dog owners out there facing the same tough decision. Additionally, your veterinarian can always provide expert advice based on your dog’s condition and answer all of your questions.

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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