It’s alarming to have a healthy dog put down just because it lost one leg in an accident, but cancer is a whole different ball game.

Should a dog with terminal cancer be put down?

My mother recently had her dog, who had cancer, put down. Long before her pet became sick, my mother, from time to time, had commented, “I can never put a dog down.”

These comments were prompted by things she might have seen on TV, or hearing about a friend who had a dog put to sleep.

Never in her craziest dreams did she ever imagine that she’d have to make this decision about her own German shepherd.

The dog had brain cancer and the day of diagnosis, my father said the animal should be put down.

At this early stage of the game, I was completely against this idea; we should try treatments first to see how much quality life we can get the German shepherd. My mother agreed.

However, I also knew that there might come a time that the cancer would start winning the fight, and that putting the dog down would be the best decision. It would take a mountain to convince my mother of this.

So early on in the dog’s cancer treatment, I began priming my mother for this decision making process.

Convincing someone to put a dog with cancer to sleep begins with bringing up the topic early on in the treatment.

#1: Early on in cancer treatment, begin talking about euthanasia —  not in terms of that it should be done, but in terms of that one day, you may have to consider it.

#2: Point out that two conditions must be met before deciding to put a dog with cancer down:

A) All treatment options have been tried, given time to work, and exhausted, and B) The animal is no longer improving, not even stabilized, but is clearly deteriorating. Emphasize that these two conditions must be met first.

#3: From time to time, bring up the topic of euthanasia. You may feel there’s never a right time.

I did this periodically with my mother, even though each time, she was resistant, though I could tell that a tiny part of her deep inside, agreed with the idea of those two conditions being met.

I was staying with my parents while their dog was getting treated for the cancer, because my parents were not able to administer the 12 medicinal injections a day (six in the morning; six at night).

Furthermore, the menagerie of pills to give the GS was overwhelming to her.

Furthermore, I wanted complete control of the dog’s diet. Though my parents owned the German shepherd, he was very dear to me.

#4: Point out that when the dog starts going downhill, a point of no return, it’s time to put him down.

Otherwise, here is the alternative: Waking up to see a dead dog. I said, “Do you really want to come downstairs and be met by a stiff dog, he’s lying on his back, all fours sticking straight up, tongue hanging out, and you smell the beginnings of decomposition?”

Add: “Do you want your last memory of him to be that of death? Furthermore, if you don’t have him put down after those two conditions are met,

Dad and I will get charged with the task of picking up a dead dog and loading him into the car trunk.

I can’t go through that a second time.” (My parents’ first dog died of old age and my father and I performed that ugly task.)

Add: “Just think what would happen if you allow nature to run its course: Every night when you go to bed, you will be in a state of anxiety, wondering if next morning will be THE morning. You will not be able to sleep.

“You will toss and turn. Then come morning, your heart will be pounding as you make your way downstairs, wondering what you will see.”

Add: “If you put the dog down before the cancer takes him, you will spare yourself of a far worse possibility:

The animal starts convulsing in the middle of the night, spitting up its guts, thrashing around, then dies. It’s 3 a.m. What are you going to do?”

When my parents’ dog began deteriorating, I picked up on it before they did.

But eventually, my mother was talked into agreeing to have the dog put to sleep.

It broke her heart, but I convinced her that the alternative (the pet convulsing in middle of night, howling in pain, dying on the kitchen floor), was far uglier.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens