How do you know when it is time to put the old dog down?

She is 15 years old and getting shaky. She has accidents but they are random and somewhat infrequent. She still eats lustily and cleans up all food and offerings. My niece thinks I should go ahead and have her PTS. I don’t think it is time yet. I have had blood work done on her several times in the last few years and everything looks ok. She was a 60 lb dog and has lost 15 lbs in the last 6 months or so.

It is a very hard decision and can only be made by the person who knows her best.

We just euthanized my dog. He was 14 and like yours, still eating heartily. He had a lot of mobility problems and we were carrying him up and down the stairs. He seemed to have dementia. We were managing all that… but the “final straw” so to speak was when he had 3 serious seizures in a period of 5 days. The vet said “something neurological” was probably going on, but diagnostics (blood tests, possible MRI) would be needed to tell exactly what. We decided that given his constellation of symptoms, we couldn’t see subjecting him to all kinds of stressful diagnostics. So we let him go. I feel we made the right decision, even though the vet was certainly willing to do more tests.

With dogs, I do keep in mind that their enjoyment of life is mostly physical. They’re not like humans, who have an intellectual life so that even a bedridden person can enjoy talking to friends on the phone or being on the internet. With dogs, you have to try to figure out if they are getting more joy than pain with physical activities.


Many times if you are questioning it, then it’s time.
I would always rather a day to soon than a moment too late.


You have to look at the total quality of life.

Is she still getting around easily? In pain? How are her cognitive abilities? Does she know you and everyone else? Does she know where she is?

You never want to wait too long, but if her quality of life is overall good, I would continue to give her a good life for now. You know her best, and you will know when it’s time.


I feel this so much, my boy is a couple of months short of his 16th birthday, and is declining, a long slow decline.

He is still eating well, but has lost weight, can get around, but needs a helping hand to jump in the car. I believe he has ‘elderly’ moments, where he looks like he has forgotten where he was going, that’s hard to see. He is kind of deaf, doesn’t see as well as he did, but his nose is as keen as it ever was.

I kind of hope he goes on his own terms, but if I need to make the call I will. I believe there comes a time when they are no longer interested in staying, seen it with horses and dogs and acted in it. I did ignore one, and that’s the biggest guilt I carry, I was selfish, I couldn’t make the call and I should have done.


Such a hard question! For us, DH and me, incontinence is the limit. We just PTS dear old Herb, a cat, for that reason. Did the usual vet work, but nothing was seen. Herb just could not get to the litter box. The last few days, I carried him, but then decided it was too difficult for both of us. However, my neighbor kept her incontinent dog in her house wearing diapers for 5 or 6 years. So each must decide this difficult question. I agree with the better a day early than late.

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this is just about where I am. She gets around ok, still seems happy, but I do have to help her get into the car. Fortunately, when she does poop in the house, it is a big turd and not diarrhea. I just can’t see putting her down yet.
Alex_and_Bodie_s_Mom, she definitely still knows me
Foxglove, she is infrequently peeing, but when she does, it is a lake. And she lays in it. I just took 4 dog beds to the laundry mat yesterday. cost $13.25 to have them washed-a bargain!
I agree to the one day too soon, but I do think we aren’t quite there yet.
But thank you all for your answers.


I think you just know. I’m sorry that’s not very helpful but there will come a time when you look at her and just know. As long as she is eating well, wagging her tail and able to get herself up and down, it’s a question of what level of care you can manage. When it starts to look like she is struggling more often than not, it’s time. I agree with the statement that it’s better to do it a bit too early rather than a bit too late.

To have lived this long, she must be a very loved dog.


For me, that is a big indicator that the quality of life is declining.

I will tell you that I look at my 16 year old lab every day and ask myself the quality of life questions. He is arthritic, and mostly blind and deaf. But he still happily goes on his morning run/walk, plays with the other dog, sucks up for treats, interacts with us and follows us around the farm while we do chores.

He has only occasionally been incontinent and that was related to thunderstorm anxiety. Thankfully, that has seemed to wane as he’s gotten deafer, so I would view sudden incontinence as a big red flag.

Ultimately, you are the one who knows your dog and the only one who can truly make the quality of life decision.

There is a wonderful COTHism about this decision: make sure their last day isn’t their worst day.


This is infrequent but has been going on for over a year. If it were as often as once or twice a week, the decision would be that much easier.

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This thread is timely - my mother is struggling with this decision for her older dog. He was a stray so not sure exactly how old but at least 15. He has good days, he loves her, but he’s going to the bathroom a lot, keeping her up. He’s had accidents in the house, and gets bad coughs at times. The coughing isn’t congestive heart failure - vet is saying reverse sneezing? He’s always had behavior issues but he will bite if he doesn’t like what’s happening, and of course, if he needs medication/attention, he’ll be a problem. We have a lot of great things happening in the family and my mom needs to be able to travel. The dog has gotten sick boarding the last few times, so I think it’s kinder to PTS and not board him. She feels guilty and tormented over it - I have told her it’s NEVER easy, but a day early is far better than a day late. Just sucks, no matter the circumstances. But I think if you have the choice, making the moment as kind and caring as you can is the best gift we can give our beloved pets.


I cannot offer advice as I am living in the same place with my second oldie in a year just commented to commiserate and say it is hard to let our little loves go any sooner than we absolutely have too. I mostly know that it was my boys time last year and I am still destroyed over not trying the one more thing I could have done to buy us more time. My old lady has been a slow failure that has slowly crept up on us and with a sudden pop up of lupus that has compounded some of the issues.

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[quote=“LilyandBaron, post:11, topic:770903, full:true”]. We have a lot of great things happening in the family and my mom needs to be able to travel. The dog has gotten sick boarding the last few times, so I think it’s kinder to PTS and not board him. She feels guilty and tormented over it -

Oh I so feel this, my son has my senior while we are away, but of course with Covid we haven’t been anywhere for a while. Went back to the UK for Christmas and the poor old guy didn’t settle at their place, he was walking the house crying at night. I tore my heart in two, and quite expected that he wouldn’t be there when we got home. Now it’s stay home until he goes, or if he lasts long enough, making a horrible decision for the ‘worst’ of reasons.


I have put down my last 2 old girls for 2 different reasons.

  1. One suddenly could no longer get up and walk on her own.
    She had been managing shakily for a while and eating just fine/ holding weight well but suddenly one day she could’t get herself up.

I really wish I had done it before we got to that point but she was so special to me I was hesitant. I took her in immediately and was so glad I had a vet who would accommodate me.

  1. Dog #2 stopped eating and was losing weight rapidly. After 2 days of her refusing everything I tried ( dog food and people food) I knew it was time.

It is always so hard. In my case I am just hoping they would magically turn around, even though I could see they won’t. Like with our horses we need to look at their quality of life over our feelings.


I am so sorry to hear that. Toffee is having a bit of trouble getting up[ and I do not have carpets. Recently, I put down a throw rug for her to sleep on during the day, so she is next to me. The cat just jumped/fell(?) off the small table over the dog, and I think he landed on the dog. She got up, walked over to the cat, and snapped at him. SO NOT ALLOWED. It is dementia and doesn’t bode well for her long-term QOL.

This thread is timely for me as well. My 10yo GSD with DM is nearing his end time, I think. He falls often, spends a lot of time laying down. But he doesn’t seem depressed, just confused/worried when he does fall. I don’t want to wait until he literally can’t get himself up, but I also don’t want to let him go too soon because he is otherwise happy, eating and playing as best he can (I wish he would be more cognizant of his limitations, he still tries to race around the yard).

Knowing where the middle is, between not too late and not too soon, is the hard part.


Are you positive it’s DM?
Only asking because there are other spinal disorders/diseases that mimic the same symptoms of DM, but many are manageable/treatable.
DM can only be 100% diagnosed by necropsy, but your vet can rule out other possibilities by doing MRI, ct scan, quality spinal X-rays & myelogram.
One “positive” of DM is that it’s not painful for the dog.
Best of luck with your guy.

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Laps of love is a good website to check out for quality of life indicators. There is also the Argus Institute run by Colorado State Vet Teaching Hospital.

For all you struggling with dog mobility issues, carpeted runners, Dr Buzby Toe Grips, paw friction pads, trimming hair on paws, and keeping nails short help.

I struggled a lot with the decision to my own dog with DM down last year (and I’m a vet), it’s never easy but ultimately they’re more focused on the here and now than the tomorrow.


Here’s a tip to try…Badger had some bad days, enough that I took the vet to one side at heard health day, and went through my options with her.

The next day it was like the years have rolled back, he is bright, with it, moving better…

I am sorry, I do not understand this post