Your dog is a beloved member of the family. Unfortunately, sometimes illness, injury, or old age can impair their ability to thrive. If your dog suffers from a poor quality of life, with no hope for recovery, euthanizing them is the loving and humane action to take.
Many methods exist for ending your dog’s life. However, you never want to euthanize a dog at home with sleeping pills.
Here’s a closer look at why you should avoid this unsafe practice and what humane alternatives exist that you should consider instead.
Common Canine Health Problems
With proper care, appropriate nutrition, and regular checkups at the vet’s office, your dog can live a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, as your dog ages, he faces an increased risk of developing a serious illness or injury.
Fatal Canine Diseases
Aside from universal threats such as cancer and heart disease, dogs are also susceptible to several canine-specific illnesses. Canine diseases that are commonly fatal include:
- Rabies – Transmitted by bite, rabies can quickly lead to seizures, paralysis, and even death without fast medical care.
- Distemper – This respiratory illness is the deadliest disease in dogs. With no cure, vaccination is critical to a dog’s well-being.
- Hepatitis – This virus causes fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. While some treatment is possible, vaccinations are the best practice.
- Leptospirosis – Infected water causes this condition, which results in kidney and liver problems. It’s difficult to detect at first, but severe infections can be fatal.
Not all potential problems are visible. For example, arthritis, dementia, and other issues can impair a dog’s ability to live a comfortable life, but the symptoms are often difficult to detect at first.
When Is It Time To Euthanize Your Dog?
Deciding when to euthanize your dog is rarely a clear-cut decision. Depending on your dog’s condition, he might have good days and bad days.
Generally, you want to watch for consistent behaviors that indicate your dog is not comfortable.
Mobility issues are a major indication of trouble. If your dog struggles to walk or even rest comfortably, his quality of life is suffering greatly.
The inability to properly use the bathroom is another serious sign that your dog is likely beyond recovery.
While physical signs can be obvious, don’t overlook mental indicators. Pain, anxiety, dementia, and other issues can cause changes in behavior.
Your pet might become more aggressive, lethargic, develop insomnia, or seem frequently confused.
Ultimately, the decision of when to let a beloved pet go has no easy answer. You’ll want to consult with your vet.
Above all, always consider the dog’s overall quality of life.
Euthanizing Your Dog with Sleeping Pills: Are There Benefits?
Putting your dog to sleep at home by using sleeping pills is strongly discouraged. However, some people do believe that the procedure has benefits.
Here are the main reasons people cite for euthanizing their pets at home.
Home euthanasia costs significantly less than a visit to the vet. Although specific prices vary, you’ll typically pay at least several hundred dollars for professional euthanasia.
When performing the procedure yourself, you only need to buy sleeping pills.
Many people don’t necessarily want to euthanize their pets, but they feel they have no other option financially. Fortunately, low-cost alternatives are available, which we’ll discuss below.
Prefer the Dog to Stay at Home
Some people consider euthanizing their dog with sleeping pills because they think it’s a peaceful way for the dog to die at home. This line of thinking does have some validity.
Ideally, you want your dog’s last moments to occur somewhere where he’s comfortable, such as at home, surrounded by loved ones.
It’s the method, not the location, that’s the problem here. Instead of using sleeping pills, you’ll want to hire an in-home veterinary service, also called a house call veterinarian.
Fortunately, you can usually find affordable options. If you absolutely can’t find anything in your price range, opt for an in-office vet visit.
Overall, your pet will have a more comfortable and humane experience.
Finally, some people believe the sleeping pill method is more convenient. While the argument is a bit callous, it’s also not correct from a technical standpoint.
Using sleeping pills is not a quick, simple process. A professional procedure takes far less time.
The Dangers of Using Sleeping Pills to Euthanize Your Dog
It’s easy to understand why some people might think this type of euthanasia has benefits. Unfortunately, the “positives” are terribly misguided.
You should never euthanize a dog at home with sleeping pills. It causes the following significant issues:
It’s Painful and Inhumane
Many people have the image that overdosing on sleeping pills is a fairly pleasant experience, where the dog drifts off to sleep and simply never wakes up. Unfortunately, that’s simply not what happens.
Sleeping pills are oral medication. They can take upwards of 30 minutes to start working.
You won’t have to give your dog just one pill. Instead, you’ll have to give him multiple pills over a fairly long time period.
This brings up another major problem: dosage.
Determining the correct dosage is nearly impossible because it’s not what the pills were designed to do. No licensed medical professional will help you determine the dosage, and you’ll find no reliable source of info online.
Even if you eventually deliver a fatal dose, your dog will likely undergo a prolonged period of suffering as the pills take effect. A non-fatal dose will still cause a host of problems, including potentially permanent injury.
Correct Drugs are Difficult to Obtain
Over-the-counter drugs are unlikely to effectively stop your dog’s heart. Although it’s not recommended, the best drugs from a technical standpoint are phenobarbitals, a class of barbiturates that slow nervous system activity.
Any drug, including barbiturates and opioids, strong enough to quickly kill an animal will only be available by prescription. No reputable doctor will write someone a prescription for euthanizing an animal at home, so you’d have to use the medication off-label.
Along those same lines, you’ll also need anesthesia, which is basically impossible to obtain unless you’re a medical professional. The most common type is Propofol, which is injected first before the fatal barbiturate.
Anesthesia is a necessary component of the euthanasia process to ensure the dog’s comfort.
Although state laws vary, every state requires that a person euthanizing an animal is either a licensed veterinarian, shelter employee, or animal service or law enforcement official.
If you’re caught euthanizing your own animal, even if you have the best intentions, you can face fines and even potentially jail time.
Additionally, as mentioned above, you’ll need to use sleeping pills or other medications in a manner inconsistent with how it was prescribed.
Misusing prescription drugs can also result in fines, jail time, and other legal penalties.
Humane, Effective Alternatives for Euthanizing Your Dog
When it’s time for your dog’s life to end, administering sleeping pills at home is absolutely the wrong choice.
Fortunately, you have a variety of humane, effective, and affordable alternatives.
In-Office Vet Visit
The most popular choice is visiting your veterinarian so they can perform the procedure in their clinic.
Ideally, you’ll have been in regular contact with your vet up until this point, so together, you’ve decided now is the time to proceed with euthanization.
You’ll typically schedule an appointment ahead of time. Many people prefer to spend one final evening with their pet, giving them treats and attention before visiting the vet in the morning.
Try to arrive close to your scheduled time so your pet doesn’t have to sit in the waiting room or office, where they can become nervous.
Stay with your dog during the procedure. Otherwise, they’ll spend their final moments wondering where you are.
Although it’s not an experience you want, staying with your dog during their final moments helps them feel safe and comfortable.
Your vet will give your dog two injections. First, they’ll give your dog anesthetic (typically Propofol).
Your dog will fall into a deep, relaxed state. Not only is this more comfortable for your pet emotionally, but sedation helps keep your pet still, so the doctor has an easier time inserting the euthanasia solution.
Many vets prefer to use an intravenous catheter, which reduces the number of times your pet has to be poked with a needle.
The solution will start to take effect quickly, usually within 15 seconds. Your dog will likely take a deep breath and then increasingly shallow ones.
After the In-Office Visit
Your veterinarian can handle the remains, whether you’d like them prepared for burial or cremation. Most veterinarians work with a cremation service, which is usually worth consideration, as you (presumably) trust your vet.
Before cremation or burial, many owners prefer to clip a lock of hair from their pet as a keepsake.
Many veterinary services offer home visits. Your dog will feel far more comfortable in his own home. The veterinarian will perform the same process as in the office.
They’ll usually arrive early enough so the dog can grow accustomed to their presence.
Although home services are typically more expensive than office visits, many people prefer the calmer nature of the process.
For low-cost options, contact your local Humane Society. Many offer euthanasia services at significantly reduced rates for low-income individuals.
Affordable cremation services might also be available.
Is A Natural Death A Good Idea For Your Dog?
A natural death is when your pet passes away without euthanasia. Some people feel that it’s the superior option because you don’t have to decide when to end your dog’s life.
Unfortunately, waiting for your dog to pass away naturally often results in needless pain and suffering.
Dogs have an innate, evolutionary desire to hide their pain. He might not necessarily appear in distress.
Instead, you’ll have to watch carefully for changes in activity and behavior.
Physically, your dog might display:
- Increased panting
- Frequent trembling
- Muscle twitching
- Arched back
Additionally, your dog might undergo some behavioral changes.
Chronic pain can lead to increased:
- Vocalization (barking, whining)
Determining your dog’s pain level is difficult, even for veterinarians. Waiting for him to die naturally can result in months or more of suffering because he might feel much worse than he seems.
Instead, monitor his symptoms along with the science behind his condition. Regular vet exams, including bloodwork, can help determine the true extent of any condition.
Don’t judge a dog’s health purely on the severity of symptoms he outwardly displays.
Although choosing euthanasia is a difficult decision to make, it’s almost always more humane than letting your dog die naturally.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Euthanasia
Although it’s not a pleasant topic, it’s important to understand what choice is best for you and your pup.
Here are the answers to common questions to help you make informed decisions.
Can You Use Sleeping Pills to Euthanize Your Dog?
Absolutely not. It’s ineffective and will likely leave your dog alive but in worse shape than before.
Only give your dog medications specifically prescribed to him, and only give them exactly as instructed.
Can I Give My Dog Sleeping Pills in General?
Never give your dog human medication. However, take note if your dog experiences frequent bouts of insomnia.
Chronic sleeping problems can indicate a health issue, so consult with your vet.
Can I Euthanize My Dog at Home?
No, you shouldn’t perform any type of euthanasia procedure yourself. Humanely and painlessly putting an animal down requires medical know-how, special equipment, and restricted medications.
What are the Best Options for Euthanasia?
You can either take your dog to the vet’s office or use a vet who makes house calls.
Many people feel that their pet is more comfortable when they’re allowed to pass in their own home, although in-office visits are usually cheaper.
Losing a pet is a terrible event, but the greatest gift you can give them is freedom from severe pain and illness. However, despite your best intentions, you should never euthanize a dog at home with sleeping pills.
It’s inhumane, ineffective, and illegal.
Instead, consult with your veterinarian or local Humane Society for professional euthanasia options.
Both an in-office appointment or at-home vet visit can create a comfortable, professional, and loving final environment for your dog.
image: Deposit Photos