Put down a dog while they are still happy OR wait til moment of crisis?


We adopted Mowgli from a shelter on September 3rd, 2010.
We guess that he’s 7 years old although he could very well be older.

To get you up to speed:  on September 3rd, 2015, an x-ray at the vet’s office revealed that Mowgli has two tumours. One on his prostate and a large one at the spleen. While we can’t know for sure that these are cancerous without a biopsy (which we’ve declined to do because of cost, risk, and it not changing treatment outcome), I find the fact that there’s not one but two tumours highly suspicious for cancer. Our vet told us that even if the two tumours aren’t cancerous, they are still very serious and “ticking time bombs”. Since that day, I’ve been living with a dark cloud re: watching for signs of Mowgli’s decline and waiting for that dreaded day. Reality is, he’s likely to die in one of the following two ways:

  1. if it is cancer, we could experience the typical signs that he’s going down-hill (lack of appetite, decreased energy and interest in the things he once enjoyed, etc). In my opinion, this would be the easiest way for him to go. I would get advance warning before we’d get to the suffering stage. I’d be able to make an appointment with our vet instead of going to the after hour emergency clinic that’s 45 minutes away (and lots of money).
  2. one of his tumours will rupture and he’ll start bleeding out. this is more likely than for him to succumb to cancer. with two tumours, the odds of one of the tumours rupturing is great. this would be a sudden emergency situation. he can be fine one minute and losing consciousness or non-responsive the next. He can start bleeding out in any and all ways – urine, stool, out his mouth, nose and ears. or he may all of a sudden be a very sick dog with no external blood (but he’s bleeding internally). I’ve read that it shouldn’t be a painful way for him to go (but how do we know for sure?). He may be anxious in those last moments knowing something’s not right.  I dread this happening at a time where we’d have to go to the after-hours clinic that’s 45 minutes away. Our vet has helped us tremendously over the last year and I’d really prefer for her to be with us in that final moment.

So far, Mowgli appears to be fine. I think his anxiety (OCD) is worse lately but it’s hard to know if that’s from him being uncomfortable with allergies or if he’s experiencing some pain or discomfort due to the tumours or cancer. His appetite and water consumption is good but that could be due to the prednisone that he’s on that increases appetite and thirst. His fur and skin looks unhealthy – again, could be due to allergies.

When deciding “when is time”, do you wait for a “ticking time bomb” tumor to rupture? Or do you act before the bomb goes off? Frankly, I’m scared of what that experience may be like. I’ve heard that it gives the owner a lot of peace when their dog can walk into the vet’s office with dignity. Things I’m considering:

  1. above all, I don’t want Mowgli to suffer.
  2. I’d really like for him to put down at our vet’s office rather than the after-hours clinic in a moment of crisis.
  3. I also want to have peace that it was “time” so not to have regret later.

A lady that used to work at a vet clinic told me that she’s never had someone tell her that they thought they put their pet down too soon. Instead, she’s had several tell her that they waited too long and wish that they did it sooner.

Mowgli could very well be in pain but just not show it. Dogs (and cats) tend to hide their pain. His excessive licking could be a sign of trying to sooth himself. His breathing is different – more laboured and irregular at times (when at rest). But otherwise he seems normal. He loves to go for his walks and hasn’t slowed down.

Do we put him down before a tumor bursts or wait for the bomb to go off and then act? Gosh, this is so hard. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Put down a dog while they are still happy OR wait til moment of crisis?”

  1. Its such a hard decision knowing what is the right thing to do.
    We waited almost 2 months and spent a good amount of money before we decided to put Bella down. It was sad and hard but we knew it was time and financially for us and physically for her it was the best time.
    Good luck with your decision

  2. I have no real advice to offer, I cannot even imagine the emotions wrapped up in this decision. That said, I feel like you’ll know when the time is right. I’m not sure how you’ll know, but I think you just will. Sending lots of love.

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