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Euthanasia and dogs

Note: This is a guest post by Radha Deep. Radha manages the blog Dog Care Reviews and also contributes articles regularly to the site Good Dog Food.

Did you know that 9.6 million animals are euthanized in the United States every year? According to the American Humane Association, this is the number of animals killed because of various reasons ranging from terminal illnesses to behavioral problems. An animal may be euthanized by a vet in his or her clinic or the pet’s home, or it may be induced by a qualified person working in an animal shelter.

A recent survey about animal shelters revealed that 56% of dogs are euthanized, while about 40% are reunited with their owners or adopted by new owners.

Some of these shelters are run by voluntary animal welfare organizations while others are run with government support. There are many no-kill shelters that euthanize only for medical reasons. However, some of these shelters send the unclaimed, unadopted animals to other shelters where they may or may not be killed.

Choosing euthanasia as the only workable option for a pet is very stressful for his owner. It creates a host of emotions ranging from anger, frustration and distress to helplessness. There are voluntary organizations like CARE (Companion Animal Related Emotion) that offer emotional support and a much-needed helpline to pet owners.

CARE is staffed with veterinary students who function as emotional counselors after undergoing orientation and training. They are in turn supervised by a licensed psychologist.

Euthanasia in Greek actually means “good death.” It is a term denoting that a humane death has been induced for a suffering or unwanted animal.

But why are animals euthanized? Here are the chief reasons for euthanizing dogs:

– Severe symptoms and loss of basic functions due to old age.

– Lack of residing area for the animal. Yes, unfortunately this is a significant reason why dogs get euthanized. Pets are abandoned with nobody to claim them and no space to hold them.

– Temperamental abnormality, as in a severe case of aggression where an animal bites or attacks indiscriminately and can’t or isn’t trained to get rid of the behavior.

– The most important and prevalent reason for putting an animal to sleep is based on medical grounds:

  • If the dog is afflicted with an illness that has no chance of recovery, such as an advanced stage of cancer.
  • Symptoms so severe and debilitating that it seems humane to put the dog to sleep rather than see him suffer.
  • Broken legs or other bones that do not allow the animal to function normally and he suffers from constant and severe pain.

So how does one decide the point when euthanasia is an option on medical grounds for the pet? The quality of his life will always be a subjective judgment, but these indicators may help you decide:

– Is the dog able to perform his daily functions of eating, drinking and sleeping without external help?

– Are there any treatment options still available that can improve the dog’s health/behavior?

– Can he see and hear well enough for his safety?

– Does he have a consistent level of recognition of the house and its members?

– Has the extra care and support you give him in his present condition affected the quality of your life? This is especially important if the dog shows signs of aggression.

– Does the control of urinary or bowel functions seem a problem for him?

– Does he appear short of breath after completing simple actions?

– Does he refuse food and water for days?

The commonest method of euthanasia for dogs is by injecting a strong dose of an anesthetic such as pentobarbital either directly into the heart or intravenously so the pet dies within 30 seconds.

Pet owners opt for burial or cremation of their loved animal and can seek the services of pet funeral homes for the same.

What people are doing about it

Pet lovers are doing their bit to bring down the numbers killed. They:

– Practice responsible pet ownership.

– Spay/neuter the dogs if they are not being bred.

– Avoid buying dogs from pet shops.

– Provide a balanced, healthy and fortifying diet for the dog to keep him strong and immune to most illnesses.

– Keep him clean and safe.

– Train him right from the beginning (either by themselves or with professional help) to follow commands without punishing or hurting him. They are firm, gentle and affectionate in order to help him maintain a pleasant temperament.

– Adopt an animal from a shelter and/or offer their services to animal shelters to work at a grassroots level and create awareness about the problem of abandoned pets.

Animal shelters help reduce the prevalence of the problem by:

– Spaying/neutering animals prior to adoption.

– Working towards more adoption of animals in shelters by promoting their cause.

– Providing a clean environment, nutritious diet and easy access to veterinary care for the animals.

– Providing apt medical facilities for animals.

– Having special and well-equipped care centers for unwell animals and for those animals in trauma.

– Conducting periodic training and behavioral sessions for the animals.

Radha Deep manages the blog Dog Care Reviews and also contributes articles regularly to the site Good Dog Food. If you would like to write a guest post, send me an email at

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