Hi Sarah,

Our dog is old. We know the time is coming when we will have to say “goodbye” to her. How do we know when it’s time?

Mary H

Hi Mary,

This is SUCH a difficult question. When is the right time to say “goodbye” to a much loved member of the family?

Last April when we were faced with the same decision regarding our 16½ year old Pug, Tyson, I sought similar advice from our vet. Tyson had gone completely deaf, was pretty much blind, and had a fused spine (thanks to weekly Bowen Therapy sessions, he was still able to walk). He had started to become incontinent and had developed the early stages of Dementia. But he was still eating his food with gusto and wasn’t in any pain (that we were aware of). He still enjoyed his (very slow) walks along the beach, and engaged in the occasional play session with the younger dogs in the house.

At the time, my vet asked me to list all the things that he still enjoyed in his life. His list consisted of: walks on the beach, sniffing and peeing on stuff (both in the garden and on a walk), eating, and spending time snuggling with me. It wasn’t a huge list, but those things still brought him immense joy. We decided that while we knew the time was close, he wasn’t quite ready to go just yet.

But things began to change. He became more and more disorientated. The incontinence got worse. He stopped eating. Walking on the beach made him lame for days and we often had to carry him most of the way. The list of things that he enjoyed was getting smaller and smaller, and the day that I saw him staring into space and walking around and around in circles (we think he’d had a stroke during the night), was the day we finally said “goodbye”.

Knowing exactly when it is “the right time” is such a hard thing. So my advice to you is, do what my vet suggested to me – make a list of all the things your dog still enjoys. Does your dog still have quality of life? And if so, how much? When those things on that list begin to diminish and you’re left with only one or two items, perhaps it’s time to reassess.

Sending lots of love to you and your beautiful old girl.