How to explain putting dog down?

Katrina - posted on 01/09/2011 ( 13 moms have responded )

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Hi folks,

Our dog has a horrific skin condition that is not getting better despite the best veterinary care. They've done every test imaginable and we may still never know what this is. We haven't reached the point yet where we think we'll HAVE to have her put down, thank goodness, but it is bad and we are scared that we may have to make that decision within a short time-- maybe even a month or two. We did have to have the cat put down a couple of years ago, but she was very ill (fibrosarcoma) and we had already explained to Walter (4 at the time, now 6) that she was going to die, and we explained that the vet would help her so that when she died it wouldn't hurt. We don't know what to say now though-- if we do have to have the dog put down we can't say she would be dying anyway, just more slowly, because that's not true. We would only decide in that direction if we're certain her quality of life will never be good again, though. What kind of wording have any of you used in the past? Please no talk about heaven and God; we're not religious. We don't want Walter to have unnecessary worries or concerns, and we want to minimize the blow if it should have to happen.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Kat - posted on 01/11/2011

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We lost two dogs last year. One died in her sleep and the other we had to put down because of cancer tumors. My heart goes out to you. I know you are literally tring everthing you can to make her well. Tell your child now that the dog is sick and you are trying to make her feel better and get well. Then when the time comes for her to pass over, tell your child that the dog was just too sick and is dying then give your child a chance to say goodbye. I had a dog put down while my kids were at school -- bad decision; they grieved her loss and blamed me for not letting them say goodbye to her for years.

Megan - posted on 01/09/2011

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Tell him that the dog is sick and its the best opition for the dog. We had to explain to our 3yr and 5yr old about our neighbors not having their 4yr old little girl. The best way I took to flowers from the grave and said that she left these for them and she will be watching over them. I know its hard but that was the hardest thing I had to explain to them. My 3yr old was really close to our neighbors child but they can't live in a bubble all the time. Good Luck

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Katrina - posted on 01/18/2011

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I'm afraid we have had to have our poor dog put down. She suddenly started aging really fast last week, and her balance problems were getting a lot worse. She could no longer enjoy her life. The vet thinks it was probably all due to a tumor that didn't show up on the usual tests. Walter is handling it pretty well; we did let him know ahead of time.

Katrina - posted on 01/12/2011

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Yes, I will make it clear that humans are not put down; here of course it is possible for someone terminal and suffering a terrible quality of life to request assisted suicide but there's no way Walter's ready to understand the ins and outs of that one, so of course I will say that we don't put humans down, especially because that's really not how it is here anyway: the people has to request it themselves, it is strictly not allowed to request it for someone else no matter how badly off they may be, and then there is of course a massive process involving many doctors and lawyers before such a request is granted. Not to mention the think-it-over periods and the need to formally request it three times. Not to worry, I won´t let him labor under any misconceptions, they only cause distress later.

Candy - posted on 01/12/2011

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As far as the dog goes be honest. Age honest. Kids arent dumb they can see what is happening but you will need to stress we dont put down humans. Trust me,they will woder at some point in time if not when you tell them "Will I have to be put down?" As far as the horse,make her a place to go on the farm,where the horse loved to play. So she can honor the horse and talk to the horse there if she needs to.

Katrina - posted on 01/11/2011

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That's a good tip and one we were already planning on. We have already made sure Walter knows she's ill, and he also nows she's edging into elderly for her breed. Thanks for your post.

Katrina - posted on 01/10/2011

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Responding to both posts:

Thanks!

Why would we give up on her before trying everything? She's been tested for all kinds of parasites (negative), all her internal organ functions have been tested (great), she's been checked for autoimmune, she's had two complete blood allergy panels, several scrapings, and four skin biopsies. We've tried three antibiotics and three shampoos, and she's on an elimination diet. We've been fighting minor outbreaks her whole life but this one's been going strong and resisting everything the vet and team throw at it since spring. We're nearing the end of what veterinary science can do for her; we HAVE to hope the food elimination trial and the targeted antibiotic they'll be able to prescribe after the culture results come in will do the trick, or we're out of options.

Prednisone isn't a good option because itching isn't such a big deal and her response to a trial with it was also pretty nonexistent. It's also a nasty drug and we all hope to avoid it in general. But we did do a trial. We were back at the vet yesterday and they say don't give up hope yet, they're doing some more targeted cultures to find the right antibiotic to get the opportunistic infection under control so we can spend more time looking for the root cause. She also just started the hypoallergenic food but that's probably far from the whole picture even if it does help.

Yikes indeed about what to do about where the poor horse is buried! I wish I had any good ideas for you on that one. With the cat we said that the vet sent her body to a place where they put it into fire so that she became smoke and became part of the sky. Maybe you can say you found out that's what happened with the horse (I also told Walter that's what many people also want to happen to their own bodies)? That way you could tell her that putting flowers where the horse liked to be would be the best way to honor him.

Julie - posted on 01/10/2011

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my brother ahd a jack russell dog and we had a german shepherd they were the best of friends. anyway there was some tall grass around our way that the dogs loved running through. my brothers dog developed a rash mine didnt. he took it to the vet and he did all kinds of tests and scrapings. it turned out that it had some skin condition that i cant remember but in laymans terms it was as if his skin had heyfever. he had special barrier creams and all sorts of potions and lotions the poor dog but once under control he was happy enough and we just had to find other places for the dogs to play together and not the tall grass. dont depress yourself by thinking the worst just get the vets to try all kinds of things before you give up on the dog. if it does come to it then i am sure you will find a way to tell your kids so they understand but nothing will stop the hurt and for that they will need lots of hugs. mine were older when our dog went and so they understould but it didnt make it any easier.

Christina - posted on 01/10/2011

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We just had to have our kids' horse put down last week. We were in kind of the same situation as you - he wasn't in imminent danger of death, but he was very old and kept losing more and more weight. We were afraid he wouldn't be able to make it through the winter (it's very cold here) and that even if he did, he would be suffering. We were honest with the girls (they're 5 and 7) and told them that he was getting very old and sick and that he was suffering. I think I would say the same thing about the dog. The worst thing for us was that we had no way to bury a horse. I had to call a rendering truck to pick up his body. I couldn't tell the kids that their horse was being turned into glue, so I told them the truck picks up the body and takes it somewhere to be buried. Now my oldest has been begging me to call the company and find out where her horse is buried so she can put flowers on his grave! My husband says we need to find a place where the ground has been dug up and tell her that's where the horse is - yikes!

Has your dog been tested for demodectic mange or sarcoptic mange? Demodectic can be hard to diagnose. What about prednizone?

Katrina - posted on 01/09/2011

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Well, as I mentioned, we're not religious and don't "do" heaven. But yes, if we do have to take this step of course I'll be making it clear that it is to prevent suffering; he can see that she has these sores and that they hurt so he already knows she's ill, even if it doesn't stop her playing and cavorting. He also knows she's getting old; for a Great Dane, 7 is getting up there and we knew that we'd face this within a few years, it just seems wildly unfair that it's about this stupid skin issue now instead of something age related. We'll see if the vet has any new ideas today, but we're nearing the end of what there is left to try.

Barb - posted on 01/09/2011

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When I had to put my pets down (a dog and a cat this year) I explained to my daughter that the vet had to give them medicine to make them feel better but it would end up sending them to heaven. Im sorry that you will be going through it, its never an easy thing. Once my daughter understood that they wouldnt be hurting anymore but still be watching over us she was a little more comforted.

Katrina - posted on 01/09/2011

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Thanks, Megan. Yes, if it comes down to it we'll say that, but it will be hard this time because unlike when the cat had her cancer, she still has energy and fun, but if the skin problem keeps getting worse she won't.... We've had her since I was 8 weeks pregnant, so Walter's never known life without her. I know kids do accept these things better than us worrywart adults though. Let's just hope that the vet comes up with some new miracle instead though.

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