In a perfect world, beloved pets would stay healthy forever and we’d never have to consider euthanizing a dog with sleeping pills. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of dogs is much shorter than humans, so this tough decision is one we may have to face more than once during our lifetime.
For most people, the first time is the most difficult. After we’ve been through the process with one pet, we see clearly in hindsight that we made the most loving decision when we decided to end their suffering. Although it is never easy, it is often less agonizing after the first time because we know it is the right choice for our dog.
When is the right time to allow your dog to die?
In most cases, there is a period of time when there is a balance between your dog’s suffering and letting go. You want to let go before the suffering outweighs the good days, so your companion doesn’t suffer unnecessarily.
Suffering can be mental or physical or both. Physical pain is something we want to avoid but what if the dog is anxious because of the pain they’re experiencing? Your dog may not understand the source of the pain which can create anxiety. Blindness and poor vision are common problems in older dogs as well as hearing loss. If they remain in the same environment, pets with limited vision and hearing loss can usually do well enough. But when they begin experiencing pain and they can’t hear your voice soothing them because they’re deaf, they can become more anxious and feel threatened by the pain.
Ask yourself questions about your dog’s health to help you see the situation clearly.
Does your dog have an illness from which they can’t recover that will lead to a painful death?
Is there hope your dog will get better?
Can your dog eat?
Is your dog able to control their bowel and urination or are they having frequent accidents?
Are they in pain when they move?
Can your dog walk?
Do they still interact with family members or other pets?
Can you get your dog interested in his favorite toys?
Does she frequently fall down?
Is your dog’s breathing difficult or does he have frequent coughing or hacking spells?
Are they anxious because of the pain they’re experiencing?
Are they able to relax and sleep or are they in too much pain?
Do they show enthusiasm or happiness when you come home?
Has your dog become irritable?
Has your dog become aggressive?
Is your dog refusing to get up?
When a pet’s quality of life begins to decline, they will generally experience several of these problems.
Anxiety can be distressing to the dog and the owner. Dogs who are anxious may pace, walk in circles, move to higher ground (top of a sofa or go upstairs even if it means they are away from people they usually stay close to), whine, sleep poorly, be hyper vigilant, pant, or even hyperventilate. If the pain cannot be completely controlled, anti-anxiety medicine may help keep your dog comfortable enough to extend the amount of time they can live comfortably.
Some dogs become aggressive when they’re in pain – just like some people. This can make continuing to care for your pet challenging or even dangerous.
If you’re having a mix of good and bad days and the bad days aren’t completely miserable for your dog, it may not be time yet. When the bad days begin outnumbering the good ones, it is a sign that you should begin thinking about your dog’s quality of life and how much you’re willing to allow them to suffer before you’re willing to say goodbye.
There is another danger. Sleep deprivation makes driving and operating machinery more dangerous by increasing the risk of accidents. If your dog’s pain is not controllable and repeatedly prevents you from sleeping as much as you need to maintain your health, it is probably time to let them go. If you can’t work or safely drive because your dog’s distress keeps you awake every night, your pet is suffering, too. An occasional bad night is one thing – when it becomes so common that you’re persistently sleep deprived, the suffering is too great.
Where to euthanize your dog
Making the decision to lovingly let your pet go is a difficult decision. Saying good bye is distressing, even when you know it is the right decision. Saying your goodbyes in the cold, clinical surroundings of a veterinarian’s office can make your goodbye even more emotionally painful for you and cause anxiety for your dog.
Veterinarians have been recognizing that pets and their owners are more comfortable in the comfort of their own home and for pets who have veterinarian induced anxiety, home is the only place where the goodbye can be calm. In home euthanasia can cost between $250 – 450 and can be over $800 if you want your pets’ cremated ashes returned, which is considerably more than it would cost in the office.
One consideration is how well you’ll handle the memory of where your pet died. If you’ll think about their final moments instead of all the good times every time you look at the spot where you last held them, it might be better to do it at the veterinarian’s office. If you tend to look at the brighter side and will focus more on the good times, the memory of your pet calmly passing on in your home may be something you won’t have a problem dealing with.
Is Euthanizing Your Dog with Sleeping Pills Legal?
The American Veterinarian Medical Association prepared a summary of euthanasia laws in the United States. Most states specify authorized persons who can perform euthanasia on domesticated animals. None of the states list pet owners as persons authorized to euthanize animals unless it is an emergency situation, such as a pet that has been involved in an accident where it would be inhumane to wait and transport them to a veterinarian. In those cases, a single gunshot is prescribed by someone who is trained in the use of guns such that death is instantaneous. Very few states even allow owners to act in these situations, although it is unlikely that an owner would be charged with animal cruelty for ending an animal’s suffering in such a situation.
A few states allow non-veterinarians to euthanize pets under the supervision of a veterinarian who does not have to be present while other states will allow a Certified Euthanasia Technician to perform euthanasia’s after they have received a certain number of hours training in the process, usually a minimum of four hours.
Texas is the only state that allows a veterinarian to instruct the owner in how to euthanize a pet and that is only allowed “in an emergency situation where prompt treatment is essential for the prevention of death or alleviation of extreme suffering.”
The other legal aspect of euthanizing your dog at home relates to the ability to legally possess the barbiturates (Pentobarbital) used to humanely euthanize dogs.
In the United States, drugs are divided into classifications and illegal possession is prosecuted partially based on the classification. Pentobarbital is a Schedule II drug because there is a high potential for abuse. First time offenders in illegal possession of Schedule II drugs can be punished by a year in prison.
Euthanize your dog with Sleeping Pills: What can go wrong?
Is a veterinarian necessary? Can you safely euthanize your dog yourself using sleeping pills? Your goal is for your pet to have a peaceful end of life experience. When a veterinarian euthanizes a pet, they generally administer a sedative before the final dose that stops their heart by depressing their Central Nervous System.
Veterinarians go to veterinarian school for four years after completing their undergraduate degree in order to become a vet. This allows them to properly estimate the drug required to peacefully end your dog’s life.
At home, you won’t have legal access to the proper drugs for euthanasia. Even if you can gain access to the drugs, Propophol, the sedative that is used to sedate dogs before administering the fatal dose of Pentobarbital, is a Schedule IV controlled substance. Both drugs are difficult to obtain and unless you’re allowed to euthanize domesticated animals under your state’s laws, using them for that purpose can be illegal and add additional charges onto the possession charges if you’re caught.
In addition to the year in prison for possession of pentobarbital, possession of propophol can add a year in jail, a fine up to $5,000, and loss of your driver’s license for six months.
Both convictions would result in a life-limiting criminal record that can make you ineligible for some jobs, affect custody decisions, and make you ineligible for federally subsidized student loans. In many states, euthanizing a dog with sleeping pills also violates animal cruelty laws.
If you choose to use over-the-counter sleeping pills like Benadryl, Aleve PM, Unisom, or ZZZ Nyquil to euthanize your dog, or administer a shot that is not intravenous, the risk that your dog will suffer instead of experiencing a peaceful death is significant. The wrong dosage can cause brain damage instead of death, put your dog into respiratory distress where they are awake but panicked because they can’t breathe well enough to get the air they need, or leave your dog choking and gagging while clearly in distress that leaves you with few options.
When an at home attempt goes wrong, you’ll have to resort to other methods or rush them to the veterinarian for euthanasia. If you give your dog sleeping pills and they vomit some of them back up and refuse to swallow more, you can easily find yourself in a bad situation.
Once your dog is in respiratory distress, the at-home solutions are all bad. You will have to act quickly to end your dog’s intense suffering using a bullet, breaking their neck, using a plastic bag to suffocate them which will seem to take forever, or cutting their throat which will sear an imagine in your mind that you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life. It is difficult for most people to not be consumed with guilt when an at-home euthanasia attempt goes wrong.
Dr. Patty Khuly of PetMD argues against at-home euthanasia with sleeping pills and strong narcotics, such as leftover pain pills from a human’s surgery, even when the dog’s owner is a medical doctor. Euthanasia’s original translation from its Greek origins is “good death.” When an attempt to euthanize a dog with sleeping pills at-home goes wrong, it is not a good death.
The goal of euthanasia, a good death that prevents suffering, is often not attained when an owner opts to attempt to euthanize their dog with sleeping pills.
There is no good reason to take the risks involved with attempting to euthanize your dog with sleeping pills.
One SPCA in Pennsylvania provides euthanasia with cremation for only $60 for small animals and offers private cremation with euthanasia and an urn for $145. The price goes go up as the size of the animal increases because more of the drug is required to work effectively. Some animal shelters will do humane euthanasia for a small fee or at no charge. Money should never be the reason for attempting a do-it-yourself euthanasia.
There are many animal lovers in the world. If you can’t afford a modest fee or don’t have transportation to a local shelter that will euthanize a dog at no charge, reach out and ask for help. Even some people who won’t lift a finger to help homeless people will help a dog that is living in pain. Dysthanasia is the opposite of euthanasia, it means “bad death.” Attempting to euthanize a dog with sleeping pills risks dysthanasia. A bad death is not what you desire for your beloved and loyal companion.