Too soon to euthanize? Dealing with guilt and anguish

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Too soon to euthanize? Dealing with guilt and anguish

This is a discussion on Too soon to euthanize? Dealing with guilt and anguish within the Dog Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hello everyone, Yesterday, I brought my 15 year old lab mix in to be euthanized. It was the first one I'd been a part of, ...

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Old 10-13-2015, 12:24 PM
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Too soon to euthanize? Dealing with guilt and anguish

Hello everyone,

Yesterday, I brought my 15 year old lab mix in to be euthanized. It was the first one I'd been a part of, and I've been paralyzed by guilt and anguish since.

He had a host of health issues. The main issue was he limited ability to stand and walk without assistance. He could walk, barely. His hearing and vision were nearly gone, and his body was covered in lipomas and benign tumors tumors, several that would flare up and bleed. He was increasingly incontinent, with at least once incident per day. He was refusing his regular food. And a few days ago, it became clear the tumor on his foot had become infected. At that point, we decided it was time.

Yet, his enthusiasm for "people food" was undimmed an he would show flashes of his former enthusiastic self, picking up a toy and briefly playing.

Here's the thing - he didn't have a terminal illness (that we knew of), and we hadn't exhausted all treatments, and drained our bank account to help him.

He was simply an old, ailing dog with lots of problems that seemed to be getting worse each day.

So I brought him in and let someone inject him with a drug that stopped his heart. And I feel that I betrayed him completely and the 15 years of love that passed between us. I was supposed to protect him and care for him, and when he was most needful of my care, I just gave up on him. And now I just want him back, and keep thinking how sorry I am.

As I took him in, there was this still, small voice saying, "Stop. No". I just thought it was the grief, and that I had to be strong and push through it. But now I think perhaps it was the voice of reason saying, "This isn't right. It's not the time."

I was asking myself the days before, "Who am I to decide when his last day will be? When his last breath will be drawn? What gives me this right?"

I'm in utter anguish now. I should have held on and treated. We could have purchased a harness to help him stand, gotten those benign tumors removed, taken him to a pool to rest his aching joints. How much longer would we have gotten? I don't know. He was in decline, so maybe six months maybe even a year. But I took that away from him.

I don't even know why I'm posting this. Not for reassurance or condemnation. I suppose that I want to know how others have dealt with this type of situation, and if they feel like they made mistakes too, and how to deal with the guilt.

Forgive me, Darwin. I loved you so much!

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Old 10-13-2015, 12:31 PM
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I'm sorry to hear that.
finding the right time to say goodbye is always a difficult decision.
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Old 10-13-2015, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by BradinPDX View Post
Forgive me, Darwin. I loved you so much!

No need to ask forgiveness. You did the right thing. It takes a strong friend to make the toughest decisions and when it came to the wire you didn't let him down. Darwin wouldn't thank you for increasing pain and stress but he for sure is thanking you for all the love and good times. Rejoice in what you had together. It's tough but you did the right thing
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Old 10-13-2015, 04:45 PM
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I'm so sorry you're in so much pain over the decision. I don't know why we humans beat ourselves up so much.

We never want to give up on a pet too soon, but we never want to wait too long and make them suffer unnecessarily, either. It's a fine line to walk, and unfortunately we will almost never get the timing exactly right. Remember that your dog experienced a lifetime of love and care from you and that you did not take this decision lightly but made it thoughtfully and from a place of love. Your dog's experience of his life with you was wonderful, and making the decision a few weeks or months sooner than you COULD have cannot take that away from you or him.

Your dog had a lot of health problems while, none of which were individually terminal illnesses, added up to cause a significant impact on his quality of life. Try to be easy on yourself. I hope you come to find some peace with your decision.
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Old 10-13-2015, 05:34 PM
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It's never easy to make the decision to euthanize, or to decide to wait. It's also rarely clear cut, people tell you that you'll just know when the time is right, or that the dog will let you know when they are ready, I've found both of those to be nearly always false.

I should have made the decision to put Shadow, my 17 year old dog, to sleep a month or two before he passed away on his own. He'd had a stroke almost 2 years before that had left him completely blind, he had doggy alzheimers, he had severe arthritis, his teeth were getting bad but he wasn't in good enough health to risk cleaning them, he had accidents on the floor due to the alzheimers, and he was slowly stopping eating. Nothing that he had would have killed him alone, except the waning appetite. I jumped through hoops trying to get him to eat, I started by mixing in toppers with his kibble and did that till he stopped eating it, I next tried cooking for him and using a supplement for the vitamins he slowly stopped eating that, a week before he passed I was letting him have anything that he would eat. On a Wednesday, 3 days before he passed away, I had him at the vet thinking I'd have him put to sleep, but the vet gave me some medicine to try and see if it would help, it didn't. I called them on Friday to let them know and ask if it'd be alright to let him pass away at home naturally, or to take him in to be put to sleep, they said his passing should be painless so I kept him at home and he passed away on Sunday morning. If I had to do it all over again I would have either put him to sleep when he first started to not want to eat, but at minimum I'd have had him put to sleep on Wednesday and never tried the medicine.

You spared your beloved dog a lot of suffering and pain. You could have probably given him more time, but at what cost to him? It sounds as if he was in pain, and there's only so much you can do for an elderly dog before it becomes unfair to them. What Shadow taught me was that there is such a thing as waiting to long to put an elderly dog to sleep, but that it's rare to put one to sleep to soon when you notice the good days are gone and all you see are good moments, the bad days have taken over. He taught me that elderly dogs cannot bounce back from illness like they did when they were young, that each thing takes a toll and they do not fully recover from it and it adds up. I waited to long, and I deeply regret it but I have forgiven myself since I didn't know better.
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Old 10-13-2015, 09:40 PM
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You did the right thing. Short and simple. Who knows if he would've lived longer then he could've hurt himself worse trying to stand. We don't what would've happened if you hung on but personally i think what you did was the right thing. He's now in peace and watching over you

Sorry for your loss!
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:28 PM
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I just put my cat Kayla to sleep about an hour ago.

She was in great shape for an old cat...probably 18 years old. But she got bone cancer, it showed up in her left front leg. She was uncomfortable, but not in pain.

For me, the decision wasn't too hard... I let my cat pass from this world after living a great life with me...and I let her go, free from major pain. I hated to do it but don't regret it.

I could have probably let her live for another month or so...give her pain killers...etc...but there was no fixing the problem and the only point in keeping her around would have been for selfish reasons...just to have her with me.

She on the other hand, would be the one feeling more and more ill with each day, dealing with the affects and side affects of pain killers. She would have just gone from being uncomfortable to feeling pain in spite of the meds, but pets are good at hiding pain and by the time a human sees it...the animal probably has been hurting more than they let on.

With your dog, I think you knew that too...that things were not going to get better, and I hope you feel no guilt in allowing your pet to pass from this world before he was reduced to a point of only being able to get around due to the fact that was doped up on painkillers, or unable to function normally...unable to get up to go relieve itself properly...etc... .

Even if there were treatments...there is a no treatment for just getting old and all the stuff that goes alone with it.

Without the care and love and attention you gave your dog, he would have never made it to that age he did....too many pets in this world have owners who don't give their pets proper care, and thus shorten their lifespan by a good many years.

I know it's common to say Rest In Peace...but for pet owners who have to make that ultimate decision, we need to grant our selves permission to Live In Peace... in granting our beloved pets a dignified death when we know things are bad and only going to get worse with their aches and pains.

My condolences on the loss of your dog, Darwin.


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Old 10-14-2015, 02:18 AM
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I really can't express how much your post meant to me. It's giving me comfort to hear from another pet owner that maybe I did right by my little guy, Darwin.

I'll tell you what's hurting so bad. It's when I think about his head resting on my lap, his eyes tired but alert. The vet with three syringes. One milky white for the propofol. One a jewel-like blue with the phenobarbital. One clear with saline. She asks, "Are you ready?" I nod, unable to speak - the grief descending. She makes the injections. Maybe 30 seconds pass, and she checks his heart with a stethoscope. "He's gone. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.", she said. I look down at my little boy, just to see if his body is moving. When he was sleeping over the years, I used to always think jokingly, "Did you go and die on me?". This time, no movement. Just stillness. I gently lifted up his head, and moved to the floor where I could look at his face. His eyes were still open, so I tried to close them. I kissed his nose. That exact moment in time was the most painful. Just the site of him there, but gone. Then I really lost it, and realized I needed to calm myself because of the noise I was making.

I'm so sorry for going into such detail. Talking about it seems to help. When I think back on that moment and the image in my mind, it's like I'm being stabbed.

The vet was a young intern, and she seemed genuinely distraught as I wept and was unable to speak. She repeated, "I'm so sorry." several times. I don't know. I feel really grateful to her for that. For her genuine empathy. Euthanasia must be hard on the vets too. I wrote her a letter thanking her along with pictures of Darwin when he was young and healthy. Hopefully she doesn't think I'm odd for doing so. I just felt this strange connection with her in that moment when he slipped away so very quietly, between breaths. No more pain for my dog.

Thank you again.

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Old 10-14-2015, 02:20 AM
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Stormy - I'm truly sorry for the loss of your cat, Kayla. Thank you for your kind, reassuring words.
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Old 10-14-2015, 10:10 AM
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It is never easy, but I think you did a selfless thing for Darwin.

Here is an article you might find helpful that another member here shared not long ago.

The Biggest Mistake Pet Owners Make at the End¬*|¬*Jessica Vogelsang
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