When to Euthanize a Dog with Cancer

Dogs diagnosed with cancer will likely be euthanized at some point, but deciding when that is can be difficult and hard to imagine.

After diagnosis, some dogs show signs of pain and discomfort, and others seem fine. A veterinarian’s advice is a good indication of when euthanization should happen. However, the owner is with the dog every day and can tell when the dog is in too much pain and should be euthanized.

This is a hard topic to think about when you love your dog and they are most definitely a part of your family’s life. Read below for advice and tips.

When do Most People Euthanize their Dog?

The most common theme you will see with people who have to put their dog down is because the dog is in pain that cannot be subdued by medicine. When a dog has cancer, the euthanization process can happen quickly after, or take a while to occur. It depends on when your dog was diagnosed and how far along the cancer is. (Source)

Sometimes, cancer is found during a regular check-up, and the dog has a lot more time to live happily. Other times, you take your dog to the vet and the problem your dog has is cancer and they do not have as much time left.

Vets are good at looking for problems your dog could be facing physically, and there are multiple issues a dog could have based on one symptom. It is likely that your vet will tell you what they suspect, but they will need to do further testing to diagnose it as cancer.

Talk with your vet and see the advice they have for when you should euthanize your dog. They are experienced and have learned a lot about this, so they will let you know the signs you can look for in your dog to know when it is time.

How can you Tell Your Dog is in Pain?

So, what are the signs you should look for? Well, depending on the type of cancer there are specific things you can look out for, but there are general indications of pain as well. Anything that looks or seems out of the ordinary for your dog’s behavior will be a good indication for you that something is off or that they are not feeling well.

One sign you can look for in your dog is their breathing. Are they working harder to breathe? Does it seem like they are constantly gasping for air? Are they breathing deeper than normal? All of these are indications that something is wrong and they are in pain. The difference in breathing is noticeable when they are just sitting or lying down, not necessarily after they have gone on a walk. But, if they are having a hard time breathing normally after doing nothing physical, then they are experiencing pain.

Another sign is that they are walking differently. Are they walking slower? Are they limping? Are they avoiding walking at all? All of these actions are signs that they are in pain. They can also be experiencing a low appetite. If your dog is not eating, then it could be because they are in too much pain to try to eat.

If your dog is going to the bathroom on himself and if he is throwing up, then there are some obvious things going on in him that should be addressed. If your vet can help, then they will and they can teach you how to navigate your dog’s pain. If you reach the point where there is nothing else your vet can do, then it could be time to plan the euthanization.

Types of Cancer and the Pain They Cause

There are many cancers your dog can get and they have different ways of affecting their body. Some affect the head, throat, mouth, legs, stomach, and more. To learn about the types of cancers dogs experience, read below. (Source)

Dogs can have lymphoma, osteosarcoma, oral melanomas, hemangiosarcoma, transitional cell carcinoma, mast cell tumors, and more. Cancer and tumors can form for a variety of reasons and they can spread fast. If you notice a loss in appetite, lumps or bumps formed under the skin, or any other sign of pain as talked about above, then take your dog in to see the vet and get it checked out. The earlier the diagnosis the better the chances are of getting rid of the problem through medicine.

You can catch and get rid of something like that through medicine, chemotherapy, surgery, and more. If you want to avoid these issues with your dog, then once a month do your own check-up and look at your dog specifically for signs of cancer and tumors. The faster you catch it the better, so be aware of the signs so that you are prepared.

How to Help your Dog While They are in Pain

There is not much you can do to help your dog with the pain they are in. Really, you can only make them more comfortable and not force them to go on walks if that hurts them. You can help them eat and drink water by bringing those to him/her instead of keeping it in the usual spot. Overall, unless your vet has something you can do, you won’t be able to fix the problem or take away the pain, you will just be able to ease some burdens for them.

Some things you can try are making their bed more comfortable, getting them a blanket if they look cold, helping them eat and drink water, helping them use the bathroom without a mess, and helping them complete any other task without much of their energy being used.

It is hard and heartbreaking to watch your dog go through this, but try your best to help. And, try to not be selfish in keeping them alive longer than they need to be. It sounds cruel, but if they are going to die and until that day they are just in pain, then euthanizing them will be helping them. Keeping the dog around just because you don’t want to lose them is more of a selfish reason rather than a humane reason.

A humane reason would be you do not believe in euthanizing your dog, and when they die is up to God, Mother Nature, or the Universe depending on what you believe. But, try to see past your own personal reasons for not euthanizing and listen to the vet and observe your dog. Prolonging their euthanization can lead them to experience more pain than they need, and it can prevent you and your family from moving on.

Each day they are suffering you and your family are watching, and you will all feel sadder and sadder about what is happening. In order for you to mourn and start to move on, your dog’s pain needs to be taken away and you need to let go of your dog.

Ways to Euthanize Your Dog

There is one option to euthanize your dog through a vet, but two ways to take care of the dog after the fact. Firstly, the dog will be put down by a shot. The vet can come to your home to distribute the shot, or the vet can have you bring your dog to the office. After the shot, you can bury the dog or you can cremate the dog. (Source)

Burying can be done in your own backyard, but some city laws may not allow it. If not, then going to a cemetery and asking if they can bury your dog is an option you can explore. If you can bury the dog in your yard, then you can have a small ceremony with your family for the dog. This is a nice option because it can stay private, and it can give everyone the chance to have closure with the dog’s passing.

the other option is to cremate your dog. This would be better done through the vet, and you can have the euthanization take place at the vet’s office, then they can take the dog away to be cremated. Your vet will give you the timeframe for when you will get the ashes back, and you can decide what to do from there. You can take the ashes somewhere and sprinkle them about, or you can display the urn in your home somewhere.

Spreading the ashes somewhere should be double-checked in your city’s laws to see if they allow that. If so, then pick a good place where you hold sentimental value and where you think your dog would be honored. This is a hard process, but time heals all wounds and you will be able to move on and think back fondly to your dog. In the end, you know this was a better path than the chronic pain they felt every day, and you can hold onto the happy memories of your dog with you, your dog with your kids, and more.

The Date is Set, Now What?

If you have set the euthanization date then you are preparing your family to say goodbye. Maybe you have a spouse and kids, and this can be especially hard for the kids. This could be their first time exposed to the idea of death, and trying to understand that they won’t see their dog again can be difficult. Try to explain things in simple ways so that they understand what is going on.

In the time you all have left with the dog, enjoy it. Hang out with the dog, take your dog somewhere they like if possible. Make sure you all tell your dog how much you love them and how they have been a great part of your family. Let your kids tell the dog they love him/her and prepare for the ceremony.

You could be burying the dog, or you could cremate the dog. Whatever you choose, prepare for those to happen. If you are burying the dog, then prepare the intimate ceremony, dig a hole, and make a sign that labels the site. You can get a headstone, or you can get a wood sign that says your dog’s name and the birth and death date on it.

Getting all the arrangements in order will help you to get through the process. You can have your kids make notes on paper to bury with the dog, or something similar to that. There are plenty of ways to include kids and adults and make the burial meaningful.

If you are creating, then you can find a nice urn that you want the ashes to go into. It is likely that the cremation company will offer urns for you to buy, but you can also get one through another source. People on Etsy make pet urns that are customizable. So, you can pick the urn, the color, or the design, and you can include the dog’s name on it.

Remember that this is the end of a chapter, not the end of a book. You don’t have to get a new dog right away, and you don’t need a new dog at all. Some people say that getting a new dog helps you to not miss the old one so much, but that can feel like a betrayal to your dog. So, take your time and think of your dog fondly, not in sadness or sorrow.

Dogs can really feel like a crucial member of the family, and moving on can be hard for parents and kids. And, if you have other pets, moving on can be hard for them. Every day they interact with the dog and suddenly the dog is gone, so that is hard and confusing for other pets. But, you can all work through the loss and you can get to a point where the loss does not feel like a hole in your heart. Instead, it is a happy memory of the times you shared.

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

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