When Is It Time to Let Your Dog Go

when is it time to let your dog go

Sometimes the answer to that question is very clear cut. You’ve seen how your dog has been behaving, you’ve gotten the test results back and there’s nothing else to be done. The only kind thing to do is to let him go, and as devastating as it is, allowing our dogs to suffer is never an option.

But what about those times when the answer isn’t as obvious, when it comes down to quality of life. How do you decide then?

Decision times for me

With all my animals, except one, the decision was obvious. They weren’t doing well, test results came back and it would not have been fair to keep them with me just because I couldn’t bear to let them go. The one time that was strictly a quality of life issue was the toughest of them all.

Deciding when it was time to let Josephine was horrendous, and not a situation I would ever like to fwhen is it time to say goodbye to your dogind myself in again. Although she suffered from a potentially life threatening illness it was being managed, so that was not a reason to say goodbye. There wasn’t “one thing” but rather a combination of several issues that made it a quality of life decision. 

For a long time after I let her go I beat myself up about what I had done – should I have done it sooner, should I have waited. Intellectually I knew I did the right thing for her, but that didn’t stop me suffering from guilt for quite a long time afterwards. I rely on my vet a lot, and no less when it comes to a life or death decision, something I didn’t have with my vet at the time. He was certainly nice enough but I didn’t have the support, and without it I was less sure of my decision.  

It isn’t about you avoiding the pain

Do you know the time has come but are avoiding it because you don’t want to face the pain? Are you subjecting your pet to life extending, or even painful treatments because you don’t want to say goodbye? Are you in denial about the seriousness of your pet’s condition?

When it’s happening to someone else it’s easy to look at a scenario objectively, and know the animal is suffering. Unfortunately when it’s happening to us, we’re so close and love that animal so much we can’t or won’t see the truth.

Loving your pet means knowing when to end their suffering, even if it means beginning yours.


The reality is many of our decisions are based on money, and that’s just the way life is. Veterinary care is expensive, and not everyone has insurance or a plan that covers as much as needed. Is the financial burden of continued treatment a factor in your decision? 

Are you involving your vet in your decision making?

The people living with the animal are the best ones to judge the changes in them. That doesn’t mean your vet’s opinion shouldn’t factor in. Ultimately the decision will be yours, but some professional advice, particularly from involve your vet in senior dog caresomeone who knows your animal and who you trust, may prove invaluable.

Make an appointment to have a chat with him or her. Ask him what to expect, the treatment options, success rates etc… Ultimately it is your decision to make, and your vet cannot tell you what you should do, but having that talk may comfort you and help you make a decision you can live with. 

Your dog’s comfort level

Does she seem comfortable? Is it easy or becoming more difficult for her to get up? Is she still interested in playing? What other changes you’re noticing? Are there medications that can offer some relief?

Eating and drinking

How is her appetite? Still eating, “begging” and looking for treats, or losing interest?

Try and think ahead

This may be impossible to do, but it’s another tool that may help you decide. If you could “project” yourself into the future and look back, what would you like to have seen? How would you like to remember how you cared for your dog?

So, when is it time to let your dog go? 

When all is said and done, you want to do the best for your dog, and the best is ensuring she is not suffering. If you do decide letting go is the kindest thing, be comfortable knowing you considered your options and chose the one that honoured her and gave her peace. Our pets have been great companions, and shown us the true meaning of unconditional love and loyalty. At the end of their lives, they rely on us to comfort them, care for them, and do what is best for them.

So when is it time to let your dog go? When you think about their quality of life, and your responsibility to make sure they do not suffer, that’s when you’ll know.


I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.


  1. Vince Rodriguez

    I would say it’s time to let go if you absolutely know your dog is incapable of doing his/her normal functions eating,drinking,walking right etc. It is a very sad feeling knowing that you are putting your dog down, but you also don’t want to see your dog in pain and misery. I think I would put my dog down if it was his/her time I would be more sad to see my dog in pain.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Vince, I appreciate your comment. It is a heartbreaking decision to put your pet down, but you’re right, it’s much worse seeing your dog in pain. I’ve heard too many stories of people keeping their dog alive by any means possible, even if it means they’re suffering, all because they’re not able to say goodbye. It’s devastating, but letting them go is the kindest thing to do.

  2. Lynne

    Hi HIndy
    Never mind letting my dog go, I didn’t want to even read this post because of the title!
    Losing any pet is really hard, but when you have to go and do the deed yourself it is terrible.
    I don’t have any pets at the moment, the last pet I had put down was my old cat and it was terribly sad.
    We put 2 of our dogs down too late. The one labrador my mom got when I was born. My mom put him down when he was 15 years old. It was too late, he had been suffering for a while.
    It was just hard for my mom, she tried to talk to me and my sisters about it but we wouldn’t listen and gave her such a hard time. She picked us up from school one day and he was gone. She had taken him to the vet and had him put down.
    We didn’t take to her for about a week. My poor mom!
    Now that I have out animals down myself I feel terrible for my mom having to do that awful deed every time and also deal with us horrible children giving her guilt trips!

    This is a terribly sad topic, but I very much needed one so thank you for sharing.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Lynne, appreciate you taking the time to tell your story. I know what you mean – I hated writing it, it’s so depressing, especially with a sick senior dog (and there are a few more posts about this topic coming) but unfortunately it’s just part of what we go through. I’m hoping these articles will help someone going through it. It must have been devastating for you and your sisters to come home and find what your mother had done. I’m sure she understood the anger, but I guess it must have been hard for her as well, wanting to spare all of you the pain. The truth is, it sucks no matter what.

  3. douglas

    Hi Hindy,
    It is amazing how we all grow up to love our dogs only to have to let it go at a point in time. This is a very unpleasant situation to find ourselves considering how important our family dogs mean to us.

    But the fact always remain, the inevitable happens and we have to let them go, not because we are cruel, but the fact that we don’t want to see them suffer because we are unable to afford the cost of taking care of them.

    If someone else is capable of taking good care of your dog, why not. You could visit once in a while so that you don’t lose touch.

    Wonderful post.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Douglas, thank you for your comment. Yes we do love our dogs, and consider them part of the family. The inevitable does happen and it gets to a point where our dogs are suffering, and the kind and humane thing to do is to let them go. I know how expensive caring for a dog can be, and it’s unfathomable how people give their dogs away at the end of their lives, just when they need a loving home the most. My recommendation – open a separate bank account to cover the cost of veterinary care. If only vets would offer payment plans when the situation is desperate enough that someone has to give their dog away.

    2. Joanne

      Hi there we had our lovely dog put to sleep a few weeks ago I still cry every day of how dementia slowly took his life away I think we should have done it sooner but we couldn’t bring ourselves to let go in the end we realised we were keeping him alive for our own selfish reasons and that his life had already gone it was the hardest thing we had ever done and miss him so much he was a big part of the family I still beat my myself up every day about all the things I complained about and I wish so much he was here for me to compain about now I am lost without him

      1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

        I’m so sorry for your loss, and I know how impossible the decision to say goodbye is. I feel guilty at times, getting aggravated because my floors were totally covered in pee pads but we’re human and we do the best we can do. As long as you beat yourself up you will never be able to move forward. That doesn’t mean forgetting the love you shared, and the special place he had in your heart and home, but it does mean honouring that memory by living your life, and perhaps one day you’ll be ready to adopt a dog and welcome a new pup into your family.

  4. Emily

    hi Hindy
    such a tough decision…. I do not think there is any easy way to make the decision to let your pet go. Pets are such an important part of our family. But I think that when a dog is in pain in their day to day life, affecting their well-being and ability to move freely, then it is time to consider letting them go. But that’s not easy as it means you are making that decision for them, and that’s a lot of responsibility to carry.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Emily, thanks for your comment. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking decision to make, but sometimes there’s no choice, the decision is clear cut. Your dog is suffering, there is nothing medicine can do, so the only kind and humane thing is to say goodbye. The tougher decisions involve quality of life. They’re not in pain per se, their conditions are manageable, but how is the quality of their life? I’ve had to make a couple of those decisions, and those were, by far, the most horrific. For me, it still never takes away the joy of sharing my life with animals.

  5. Betty Jones

    Hi found your blog about your dog Red & was wondering how she was doing ?
    I am currently going through hell with my baby Debo who is a male 14 year old chihuahua who has multiple medical problems heartworms treated in 2007 heart murmur fatty liver severe flea dermatitis to the point of most hair scratched off body and now doggie dementia-started months ago with personality changes by barking aggressively at other pets in household thinking they were gonna take his food -& now has progressed to pacing not wanting to be held & dragging hind legs, stumbling & sleeping 20+ hours went from excessive thirst to having low specific urine gravity to barely drinking now -have to water down food in order for him to take in fluids -up & down pacing @ night with incontinence with urine & trying to drink urine & eating feces -I am so afraid I am gonna find him passed that I constantly wake him up & I am literally a basket case -he is like my son I love him so much & cannot bare the thought of my life without him -I am in poor health myself & had to give up my job & now this -I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

    Well thank you for this blog for me to explain to someone who understands.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I am so sorry to hear all this Betty. I know you joined my group so let’s talk in more detail there. The one thing you haven’t mentioned is what treatment plan your vet has recommended. Heart murmurs can be treated with medications such as Fortekor and Prilactone. Dementia drugs like Anipryl as well as cbd oil and melatonin have definitely helped with symptoms as has omega 3s and a calming supplement. Red has had issues with specific gravity and she’s on Desmopressin for that. Dehydration is extremely dangerous so your vet can administer fluids to rehydrate and a rehydration support from Royal Canin, for example can help at home. I hope some of this advice has helped, and I will post it in my Senior Dog Care Club group as well for others to see. Please let me know how Debo is doing.

  6. Paul

    Hello I have read your blog and found it very helpful just last night we had to put down our little brownie of 17 years, I am so devastated by this. Our little brownie would have seizures, she was throwing up not able to hold any food down and she was most likely blind in both eyes and her hearing was also going but it seems like the only thing we could do because the last week she was not eating or drinking she was walking around pacing and was dragging her hind legs. I kept trying to fool myself and say she will get better, she will get better because she always seemed to bounce back from any illness she had over her life. But this past week was different! I feel it was the best thing for her because she had been suffering but it still hurts like crazy! This was probably one of the toughest decisions my family and I had to make! Brownie was he cherished family member and she will never be forgotten!

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m so sorry to read about Brownie, I can tell by your words how hard this has hit. What’s important is not to beat yourself up about letting her go, but instead realise how lucky you all were to have loved someone so much you were able to say goodbye when it was time. They rely on us to take the best care of them that we can, and that includes never allowing them to suffer. In time you will be able to remember your special bond and smile, even if that seems impossible right now. A grief support group, whether local or online can be therapeutic, since you will be surrounded by others who “get it.”

      There are so many ways to honour her memory and help with your healing. A few I can mention off the top of my head include – putting together an album of your favourite pictures, creating a memory box of pictures, collar or tag and even a favourite toy, make a donation to a local shelter, plant a tree, volunteer to walk dogs… I hope you find something that will bring you peace.


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