How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye to your beautiful dog?

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Dog ears and taill illustration

July 23, 2021


Many dog owners face the decision of whether or not to euthanise their dog, or when to do it if the time is approaching. This is such a heartbreaking decision to be faced with, so if you’re in this position right now, please know I’m sending you all my love.

How do you know when the time is coming? How can you prepare your dog? What is the best way to handle and love your dog in the lead up, and the best way to manage the occasion itself?

When is it time?

Firstly - how do you know when it’s time? This is such a hard and deeply personal one. For me, it’s time when I feel like my dog is suffering deeply and no longer has good quality of life.

Consulting with your Vet closely here is important to help work out what your dog is experiencing so that you can make that call. Your Vet will outline what’s going on physically for your dog and make recommendations from that point of view. But it can be hard if you still see flashes of joy in your dog, even through their pain. It may be helpful for you to make a “quality of life checklist” to help you gauge some key markers that the time is coming close. What you put on this list may be unique to your dog and yourself e.g. does she still enjoy her food? Does she still wait at the front door when she wants to go outside? Does she still get up to greet you when you get home? If she gets too exhausted or unwell to do most of the things you’ve put on your list that she usually enjoys, you may know that the time is coming close. It’s usually not immediate, these things happen over time and when the bad days start to outnumber the good days to a large extent, that’s when you consider euthanasia.

How can you prepare your dog when the time comes?

So how can you prepare your dog once you’ve decided the time has come?  One of my lovely Facebook friends Lindy suggested she’d love to take her old dog on a tour, to make one more visit to the places and people he had loved. I think this is a beautiful idea, if your dog is well enough for it. I believe that this special time revisiting favourite spots and friends would be incredibly meaningful not just to your dog but to you. By this stage your dog is probably moving more slowly and peacefully, so just spending time together is the best thing you can do. Give that lovely creature lots of love, attention and favourite foods and work closely with your vet to make sure you’re managing any pain in the lead-up to the event.

How to handle the day when it comes

When the day comes, you’ll need to decide if you want to be there when the vet puts your dog to sleep. Most owners want to be holding and stroking their dog in these final moments, but that choice is completely up to you. It’s almost always very peaceful. Remember that your dog will feed off your energy, so try and stay as calm and relaxed as possible to help keep your dog that way, even though you will no doubt be feeling incredibly upset. Follow your breath in and out to keep you grounded. Talk to and stroke your dog throughout the process, that way your touch and your voice will be the last things they feel and see before they go. I found this cartoon online and it just really struck a chord with me…

I personally prepare a burial site for my dog or their ashes and have a wee ceremony for my loved one ideally with other family members and friends. I place flowers and light a candle and say a wee poem. One I love and one I said for many dogs and for my own mother in fact is below...


As a Buddhist I have a very strong reverence for life and always wish things to follow a natural progression and ideally a natural transition. However, the teaching not to kill is better translated as being non-violent and being compassionate. Animals don’t have to suffer and we have many pain killers and methods to manage them through the latter stages of dying. It helps me in this time to think of how clouds never died, they transform into rain and nurture our earth, then evaporate back up into clouds as part of our natural cycle of water. It’s nice for me to think of my dog going back to the earth and transforming into another part of nature - like the wave back to the ocean. And they all go on in our own heart.

If this is a decision you’re facing, I’m so sorry. It’s the loss of a much-loved family member and I know how incredibly heartbreaking it can be. Thinking of you.

Kia kaha.

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