Why Do Vets Recommend Euthanasia for Dogs: Compassion or Convenience?

Why Do Vets Recommend Euthanasia for Dogs
Why Do Vets Recommend Euthanasia for Dogs

Pet owners regard their pets as loyal friends and family. Their daily interactions result in strong bonds, and euthanasia can be hard to contemplate. Regardless, vets do recommend you put your pet down.

The decision-making process involves discussions with the pet owner, considering their wishes and the animal’s best interests. Hence, vets recommend euthanasia out of compassion and convenience to end a pet’s suffering.

Herein, we dive deeper into “Why do vets recommend euthanasia for dogs” and offer insights into their challenges.

Why Do Vets Recommend Euthanasia?

Veterinarians may recommend euthanasia to end the pain of a suffering pet. Euthanasia is centered around the well-being and welfare of your dog pet. Common factors that may lead a vet to suggest you end a pet’s life include the following:

  • Irreversible and severe pain: If your pet is experiencing pain, discomfort, or suffering due to an untreatable or incurable condition, euthanasia may be recommended to alleviate their distress.
  • Poor quality of life: Vets assess a pet’s quality of life by considering various factors like pain levels, mobility, eating ability, and overall happiness. If your dog’s quality of life has significantly deteriorated with no hope for improvement, vets may suggest euthanasia.
  • Terminal illness: If a vet diagnoses a pet with a terminal illness like advanced cancer, and the prognosis is poor with no realistic chance of recovery, the vet may recommend euthanasia.
  • Incurable injuries: If a pet sustains severe injuries that don’t respond to treatment, euthanasia may be recommended to prevent prolonged pain and discomfort.
  • Aggressive behavior: When a pet displays unmanageable aggression and poses a serious risk to themselves or others, a vet will recommend euthanasia.

Vets decide to euthanize a pet after carefully considering the above factors and other factors affecting an animal’s quality of life.

The Science Behind Euthanasia

Veterinarians use a single or a combination of several medications to put a pet to rest. 

Typically, veterinary euthanasia involves administering an anesthetic, followed by an overdose of a sedative agent, which acts as the euthanizing solution. 

The overdose impairs key body organs like the liver, kidney, and central nervous system, resulting in a painless death. For instance, vets can recommend you Euthanize a dog at home with Benadryl because the drug is fast-acting and will end your pet’s life painlessly.

Which Administration Techniques Do Vets Use In Euthanasia?

  • Intracardiac injections
  • Intravenous (IV)
  • Intramuscular (IM)

Among these methods of administering euthanizing solutions, the Intravenous IV injection is the most reliable and widely used technique.

Vets recommend an end-of-life method depending on your pet’s condition, available resources, budget, and the veterinarian’s experience.

How to Evaluate the Quality of Life of a Pet

You can tell a dog’s quality of life by balancing subjective and objective well-being indicators. The intersection of these indicators helps dog owners and vets assess a pet’s overall health and make an informed decision.

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Clinical Indicators

Clinical indicators are the observable and measurable signs vets use to assess a pet’s quality of life.

Quality of life clinical indicators includes body temperature, heart rate, and behavior change.

Mobility Assessments and Daily Lifestyle

Lifestyle assessments give vets a broader picture of a pet’s overall life. Vets can assess mobility and lifestyle indicators by monitoring if your pet can play, sleep, eat, drink, or perform natural functions like pooping.

Pain Assessment

Signs that your pet is in pain include:

  • Abnormal posture
  • Groaning
  • Hiding
  • Vocalizations
  • Droopy ears
  • Tail tacking
  • Teary eyes

All these signs indicate your dog is in discomfort and the quality of their life is questionable.

Pet owners will help notice a pet’s behavior and provide insights to vets during veterinary examinations.

Quality of Life Scales

You can tell a dog’s quality of life using questionnaires and systematic scales. Industry experts develop these tools to help get answers regarding a dog’s emotional, medical, and physical well-being.

 One of the quality-of-life assessment tools vets and dog owners commonly use is the HHHHHMM scale, developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos.

Whether you opt for hospice or palliative care for your dog or believe in euthanasia, the seven factors on the HHHHHMM scale below  will help you evaluate your dog’s quality of life:

1. Hurt

The physical state of your dog worsens with old age. Signs of old age include lameness, limping, and difficulty in rising, walking, or lying down. A dog in pain will not be excited by its favorite meal or evening walks.

2. Hunger

Pets’ appetite also decreases as they age or become sick. Also, some health complications, like kidney failure, make dogs nauseous. Fortunately, you can hand-feed your dog or switch between dog food brands. In some cases, dogs have advanced nutritional needs and can be fed through tubes. 

You will have to decide about your dog’s declining quality of life once your pet dog has no interest in food and can’t take enough nutrients to maintain bodily processes.

3. Hydration

If your dog doesn’t eat enough food, it also may not be drinking enough water. Some health conditions like increased urination, diarrhea, and vomiting dehydrate your pet, making it hard to take enough fluids to cover the loss.

Some dogs can tolerate taking fluids subcutaneously to stay hydrated. If you cannot administer fluids to your dog to keep it hydrated, their quality of life will decline.

4. Hygiene

Dogs with minimal mobility and waste elimination hardly stay clean. A huge dog’s incontinence is hard to manage. The dog can also suffer from urinary tract infections and chronic skin disease if they can’t stay clean.

Your dog can also develop pressure sores if they cannot move with ease unless you keep turning them around.

5. Happiness

Dogs are happy pets, and you know yours better. When assessing your dog’s quality of life in terms of happiness, answer the following questions:

  • Does your dog show interest and express joy in the environment that surrounds them?
  • Does the dog want to be around your family and respond to social interactions?
  •  Is your dog bored, depressed, afraid, or anxious? 
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Dogs with limited mobility or incontinence challenges may feel lonely if the dog room is isolated. Place your dog’s bed where they can see and feel your presence.

6. Mobility

Senior dogs are characterized by decreasing mobility. However, there are several options to help your dog move around. 

But if your dog pet is large, helping them eliminate and walk properly can be challenging. Pet owners may use a dog harness, cart, or sling to help pets with mobility issues.

If none of the above options is feasible, you may not manage to keep your pet clean, and they will be unhappy.

7. More Good Days Than Bad

When evaluating your dog’s health, consider its overall happiness. When the bad days are more than the good ones, your pet suffers, and their quality of life might be at its worst.

How Do Vets Ensure There Is No Pain or Distress During Euthanasia?

Vets will recommend drugs that ensure your pet won’t stay for a long while on euthanasia solutions. Also, the drug should not cause more pain or distress to the already suffering pet.

For instance, vets do not recommend Tylenol PM to euthanize a dog because it takes time to put a pet down.

What Are The Societal Impacts of Euthanasia

Euthanizing a pet has far-reaching consequences beyond the owner and the veterinarian. Society grapples with the moral, ethical, and emotional consequences of dog euthanasia. 

Ethical and Moral Dilemmas

Several people question the act of ending a pet’s life, regardless of the reasons. These perspectives are deeply rooted in personal ethics, cultural norms, or religious beliefs.

Emotional Well-being

Losing a pet through Euthanasia may result in grief and regrets. The afterthoughts and absence of your pet will affect your productivity, interpersonal relationships, and mental health.

Animal Rights Activism

Ending a healthy dog’s life, especially in shelters because of overpopulation, can fuel animal rights activists, who question the act’s morality. These activists advocate for more friendly and humane ways of managing pets than Euthanasia.

Veterinary Profession Impacts

Some vets may experience emotional burnout because of planning and overseeing several end-of-life processes. They also suffer an emotional toll from the social critique, resulting in poor mental health among vets.

Euthanasia Vs. Natural Death

Below is a comparative look between Euthanasia and natural death that provides clarity:

Euthanasia Natural Death
Suffering and PainEnsures a peaceful and painless passingIt may involve prolonged suffering, especially in critically ill pet dogs.
TimeframeHas defined timelines and a definite endpoint.Can be unpredictable.
SurroundingsIt can occur in a clinical setting and prepared environment; hence impersonal.allows your pet to die in an environment they are used to.
AftercareThe dog owner must decide whether to bury or cremate their pet immediatelymight provide more flexibility in the afterlife.
Emotional ConsiderationsSome pet owners find solace in alleviating their dog’s suffering through euthanasiaOthers find peace in letting nature take its course,

Regardless of how your dog does, pet loss is painful. The emotional repercussions will also differ based on one’s experiences and beliefs.

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How Do Vets Decide When to Euthanize?

Or “how does a vet decide to put a dog down?” Deciding to end a dog’s life involves the veterinarian and the pet owner weighing on the dog’s quality of life and the disease your pet suffers from. Your vet will recommend putting the dog down if treatment cannot end the pet’s suffering. 

How Do Vets Feel About Euthanizing Animals?

How Do Vets Feel About Euthanizing Animals?

Vets often feel guilty about whether they euthanize pets too late or too soon. Vets can be guilted into waiving euthanasia costs or paying for it themselves. In most cases, they set aside their emotions and feelings for the benefit of the pet and its owner. 

To avoid feeling guilty for euthanizing a pet, express your feelings to someone close to you.

Do Vets Cry During Euthanasia?

Yes, sometimes vets cry when putting a pet down. Sometimes, emotions override professional responsibilities. However, vets do not have to apologize to pet owners for crying; pet owners should not apologize because the veterinarian cried. We all love pets, and grieving is a way of expressing love.

How Do Vets Cope With Euthanasia?

Vets cope with euthanasia by talking about their feelings and grieving responsibly. Some vet clinics also offer counseling services to their in-house veterinary technicians. The guidance and counseling services guide vets on avoiding self-destructive ways of dealing with euthanasia, like resolving for drugs and alcohol.

Is Vet Euthanasia Painful?

No, vet euthanasia is the most peaceful and widely recommended practice. The vet will first inject a sedating drug and then the euthanizing solution. The pet loses consciousness, and your pet will not feel anything. However, putting a pet down without a sedative is barbaric and extremely painful.

Why Do Vets Sedate Dogs Before Euthanasia?

A sedative acts as a bridge for transitioning from a conscious pet to a calm one that is unconscious. Sedation before euthanasia makes the process peaceful, smooth, and full of love. For your dog, it means no one will have to restrain it for veins to be accessed, and for vets, it means a calm and quick process.

What Sedative Do They Give Dogs Before Euthanasia?

The vet clinic will give you a pre-visit sedation kit when you make arrangements with them. The sedative kit is for pets likely to be anxious or feel pain while being put down. 

A standard sedative prescription comprises trazodone, gabapentin, and clonidine for dogs. These medications have sedative and anti-anxiety effects. Gabapentin also has pain-relieving effects.

Verdict on Why Do Vets Recommend Euthanasia for Dogs

We cannot ignore the emotional weight. However, with the help of your vet with family support, you can say goodbye to your pet before Euthanasia and give them their last respect with love.

Euthanasia offers a means to end a pet’s pain. The decision is difficult for the vet and the pet owner, but it could be the only kind thing to do for your suffering pet. 

Photo of author


Enock Baraka


Enock Baraka is an award-winning freelance writer and pet enthusiast with 5+ years of experience in copywriting and website content creation. Before he started writing, Enock got a diploma in journalism and a degree in Education Science with IT. After that, he enrolled in a Digital Marketing Course at Coursera just to get what it takes to be an SEO. He then did a handful of courses that have seen him work with several content mills, businesses, and website owners. He now writes full-time. Enock contributes to multi-niche blogs that cover pets, cannabis, vapes, and any topic you would think of in multi-media. He has a dog named Jayden and is an uncle to every dog in the neighbourhood. In his free time, he loves creating fresh content for his audience. You can also Hire me.

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