When it comes to taking care of a dog, you’ve got some important decisions to make.
Some decisions are more low-key. They might include decisions like what kind of dog food should you feed them. Or what kind of chew toy or flavor rawhide will they enjoy the most.
But then there are also some more serious decisions that can seriously affect your emotions. These might include things like whether to spay or neuter your dog. And, when it’s time to say goodbye.
The decision to euthanize your dog is never an easy one. After all, your dog has become an important part of your family and lifestyle. They’re part of your life and bring you joy on a regular basis. Even if your dog is suffering from serious health concerns, such as kidney failure, it’s never a quick and easy choice to put them down.
It’s not a fun topic to talk about. But knowing the signs of when it’s time to say goodby can help you make that important decision that’s best for both you and your dog. While it may not be a decision you ever really want to make, it’s a necessary one as a dog owner.
To help you in this difficult process, here we share some signs that indicate it may be time to put your dog down. Especially when your dog is suffering from a condition like a kidney failure, knowing when it’s not worth it to go on is important. Noticing these troubling signs can prevent you from prolonging their pain and doing what’s best for all involved.
Before scrolling down this list, you might like: When to Euthanize a Dog With Hemangiosarcoma? Vet Advice!
What is Kidney Failure in Dogs?
Your dog’s kidneys are vital organs that help them operate healthily and efficiently. They work to remove waste from the blood and do other things like produce urine. They are essential for blood flow in the body and keep your dog’s health stable and thriving. Kidneys also can prove to have dangerous effects when those kidneys don’t work.
Kidney failure often stems from the development of kidney disease, which is the deterioration of these vital organs. As these organs lose their potential to fulfill their function, they have more issues in waste in their bloodstream and other concerns. These can lead to severe sickness later on. As kidneys are an internal organ and their failure doesn’t produce particularly obvious side effects, it can be difficult to tell your dog is experiencing kidney failure. Their actual diagnosis of kidney disease or a failure may be much later than when they first have kidney deterioration.
The symptoms of kidney failure in dogs can be quite extreme and severe. When kidneys are not able to perform their function, they allow toxins to build up in their bloodstream. Harmful things like ammonia or nitrogen can stay in their body, causing some serious health effects. While dogs with kidney failure may still be able to urinate, the amount they urinate may change. They may urinate less than they normally do, or they may increase the amount they urinate, which can quickly lead to them having accidents around the house.
Other symptoms include things like extreme tiredness and a decreased appetite. They may become nauseous and vomit due to this change in appetite. They could also have unusual bad breath due to the increased toxins in their body. These are important symptoms to be on the lookout for and address as soon as possible if you notice something out of the ordinary.
Kidney disease or kidney failure diagnosis can be a very scary thing to hear for your dog. You may even be surprised because you don’t notice any lingering side effects or concerns related to their health. They may still be eating and have an appetite. While they may come off as more tired, they still may find general interest in their life. Recovery is possible when detected early. Kidney disease and kidney failure can be treated when given ample time for recovery and the disease is caught early. Some dogs can even manage their kidney disease for years before even noticing severe symptoms.
Acute vs Chronic Kidney Failure
In determining how intense a dog’s experience of kidney failure is, it’s important to understand whether they have acute or chronic kidney failure. When it comes to their survival, the difference matters. While both forms can be treated, early detection is vital in ensuring they can make it through.
Chronic kidney failure is the slow deterioration of kidneys over a long period of time. This typically occurs in older dogs as the tissue in the kidneys wears out. It’s also a much more common form of kidney failure. As this is a slow process, it may not be detected right away. However, as your dog ages, your vet may check for signs of kidney disease or other wear and tear on these vital organs. If the deterioration is caught early enough, your veterinarian may be able to identify helpful treatment options to prolong your dog’s life. Thorough and intense treatment options may be more effective with a dog with chronic kidney failure that is detected early.
Acute kidney failure, however, is much more severe and sudden. It can also be much more lethal as the deterioration happens rapidly. Typically, dogs have only a few days to live with this type of intense kidney failure, especially if they can’t get access to intense and effective treatment. While it’s possible for dogs to make a full recovery, even with acute kidney failure, it’s not very common.
When It’s Time to Say Goodbye
Whether a dog experiences either acute or chronic kidney failure, there may come a time when you need to ask yourself, your family, and your veterinarian when it’s time to say goodbye. The decision to euthanize a dog is rarely an easy one. You may be afraid of putting the wrong timeline on your dog’s life or believe that they could still make a recovery. However, you could also prolong their pain and suffering when it may be better for you all to move on.
Yet when a dog is in the final stage of kidney failure, there may not be much that can be done to heal them. Signs that their health is in extreme decline include amplified symptoms of kidney disease and failure. These may include things like severe weakness, gastrointestinal issues, pale gums, and a general disinterest in the activities, toys, and foods they had once loved.
Symptoms like these may indicate that your dog is in pain and is suffering from the side effects of their kidney failure. Especially in cases of severe and rapid acute kidney failure, dogs may not even have much time to get access to treatment, let alone have the medication and treatments work.
It may be time to let your dog go if you’ve tried every other treatment and solution if you’ve been given the opportunity and time to do so. Obviously, euthanasia is the last resort after all other considerations have been taken. When your dog is in constant pain and discomfort, making them hold on doesn’t really do anyone good. When they are no longer interested in eating anything, that can be a clear indicator that they are in severe discomfort and distress. Without them being able to eat, they can’t gain the vitamins and nutrients they need to stay well, let alone recover from kidney failure. If this is the case for your dog, your veterinarian may recommend the next steps.
The process of euthanasia at a veterinarian is a very calming, gentle process that simply lets your dog drift off to sleep in just minutes. They are in no pain during the process and you can find peace and closure in the midst of this difficult process. You can also complete this process at home if you believe your dog will be more comfortable in that environment.
Support Your Dog’s Health, Until the Very End
As a dog owner, you have a responsibility to care for your dog’s health in every situation. Whether that’s starting them out on a healthy puppy food to help them get the vitamins and nutrients they need or limited the number of table scraps you share, your actions affect their health.
When it comes to kidney failure, some dogs may be able to live for years after being diagnosed. They may be able to take advantage of effective medication and treatment options to get you more time with them. However, that may not be the case for all dogs. Especially those with acute kidney failure may be living on borrowed time.
And your dog depends on you to make the right decision for them when it’s time to move on. While it’s never an easy decision to put down your dog due to kidney failure, knowing when it’s the right time can prevent your dog from continuing to suffer unnecessarily and help you find peace and assurance in moving on.
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Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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