Euthanasia: Dogs and Cats When Is It Time?

I Think We Are Lucky We Can Choose to Euthanize Suffering Companions.

A Life Well Remembered

A woman wrote me a kind letter after I euthanized her really good dog, and she said “Thank you for your work to make Thor’s life so well remembered.”

And what that means is that his life was good. And at the end when quality of life declined and was finally irretrievable, she made the decision to let him go. An “obvious” decision without alternative in that case – but impossibly hard nonetheless. How can you “end” something you love with all your heart? Easily actually, from a certain perspective. My good customer lives with no regret, nor cruel memories, of her dog suffering. He had a life well remembered without a grueling, tormented ending.

Chapters of a Book

If your dog’s life was a book (and it is) how would it read? How will you remember it?

All books come to some ending. We may love a book and sigh as we close it, sorry to see it end. Dogs and cats may be the same sort of relationship in a way. Each chapter could be a year in the life. The chapters should read with dignity, a bright flame of fierce love of life and engagement in all the things a pet loves to do, the whole book through. In the last chapter, we should not read about degradation or suffering, long dark days and isolation. You write the last chapter. Chances are you will remember your good decision, or your bad decisions in the foreseeable future.

“Not going to get any better.”

Hopefully your vet, and your good judgment, will indicate an ‘unstoppable’ situation when it’s encountered. Your vet owes it to you to tell you when they’re at that terrible point where all they’re doing is putting their finger in the dyke, or trying to brake before the inevitable crash. And if, during this attempted deceleration you perceive that overall quality of life isn’t what you ‘want’ for your pet then why make the pet experience every grueling yard of the downward spiral? This by itself might not compel you, but taken in light of other points I want to make, it does factor in.

Who am I to decide?

You are the only one that can decide. God put a series of checks and balances in place to dispense the suffering or infirm souls of animals. In nature a dog or cat with depleted vision and agility would be consumed by the circle of life. Always, in nature the predator eventually becomes the prey. Compounding this are the earnest efforts by owners and veterinarians to keep pets as comfortable and stable as possible into later years. So pets can literally wear out, and remain in limbo; overdue for their natural release, in a broken body for quite some time. Only you can abbreviate the decline. How far into the decline you decide to take a pet is TOTALLY up to you. You are the one to decide.

How do you know it’s time?

Your pet will do any one or more of the following things, within the context of their prevailing condition, age or illness:

1. They stop eating

2. They often stop sleeping, and perhaps start pacing

3. They may lay down and not get up for any of the normal reasons

4. They can cry or whine

You know it’s time to let a dog or cat stop suffering when:

1. Your children and your neighbors encourage you to consider it. Denial can make their voices and comments seem so distant and small. Almost unheard. But when your dog is long-gone after a long, sad end, their words will thunder in your ears. You kept her on, way too long. They tried to tell you.

2. Your heart hurts when you look at your pet and you know it’s wrong to keep him keepin’ on.

3. When your dog or cat is “pitiful” in your eyes or the eyes of those you love and trust.

4. When you can’t even kid yourself that “He’s got his dignity; Oh yeah, THIS is a dignified existence. This is what I want for him.”

Your Sacrifice, Tribute, And Final Gift to Your Guardian:

Your dog served you all its life. Sure, you took care of her and gave her the essentials like food shelter and healthcare. But she was by your side any time you were available. She never let you come home from work or vacation without coming to see how you were. She would do anything for you. She would stay with you if you could not even afford to feed her anymore. She would die for you, or with you.

If you want to honor her, if you want to give her a sacrifice on par with the life she spent on you – let her have her dignity and a painless and unfrightening release. You can’t give your dog money or jewelry. They’re not motivated by much other than love, and tasty treats. When they’re hurting, and there’s no way to stop it, it’s over. And it’s time for you to stop being selfish and thinking about how YOU’RE gonna hurt when she’s gone. She’s hurting, and if you’re reading this; it means you’re still standing by focused on your own heartache. Do the honorable thing. Make a sacrifice even if it pains you, to stop hers.

Think Of Them, But Think LIKE Them:

What’s on the mind of any old dog or cat with severe infirmity or sensory deprivation?

A blind or sick animal has to assume that sooner than later, a predator will discover it, in its compromised condition and tear it to shreds. This is the way of things in nature, the circle of life. It’s gone on this way for millions of years before we came along. If you think an animal is coping with blindness, deafness and an inability to move around with the rationalizations that we can use, you would be wrong.

Your sick, blind, isolated dog or cat has a HIGH anxiety level, is fearful and as you may have seen in recent months, easily startled because at any moment, they believe a predator will erupt from the shrubs and consume them. Can you honestly say your elderly, weak, or end-stage dog or cat is easy-going and self-assured; the way it might have been as a younger pet with capable vision, hearing and agility? Old age is a stage of relative anxiety for infirm and very-elderly dogs and cats.


What is suffering? Can you honestly look at the dog or cat, and think “He doesn’t feel that. He doesn’t know that a problem exists there. He feels fine. He is unaware of his illness or infirmity.” This is delusional. Perspective must be maintained, however; that we all have aches and pains. Most of us have a lump or two. Some of us even hurt from time to time and many of us have handicaps. It all comes to a head when we’re very very old as it does for dogs and cats.

But a dog cannot rationalize it’s gradual loss of ability and we don’t assist or reassure them the way we can encourage and empower our flagging relatives. They don’t speak a human language and if they’re very old they can neither see nor hear us try to reassure and assist them. Is suffering the experience of pain? Why do people always define it that way?

Is not “suffering” the experience of ANY helplessness, such as fear, pain, isolation, hopelessness or loss of control? Is there a way to make people understand that even without human words or understanding, these five conditions of helplessness are experienced as sharply by animals as they are by us???

Think of It Another Way:

If I could produce an ornate wand from my robes, and cast a spell on you, allowing you to BE your dog for a month; all your obligations would be handled, your life would not disintegrate in the meantime – Would you even be willing to *BE* your dog for a month? …What influences your belief that your dog should be that way for another month?

Dogs Don’t Smoke Pipes, Drink Wine and Read Good Books:

What’s important to a dog: Ability to move around, to be pain-free, to have dignity and smell pretty good, to enjoy communion with the pack (that’s you by the way), to be able to serve and protect. Where does your dog’s ‘day-to-day’ fall short?

Five Years Ago Did You Think Like This?

Do you ever wish you might just come down in the morning and discover that they passed peacefully in their sleep? What does that tell you about your true, unvarnished or even subconscious estimation of your pet’s condition? Do you feel that way about other engaged, comfortable pets?

The Daily Agony of Being “Too Old”:

Are your dog’s eyes crusty, red and gooey?

Is your dog’s mouth infected or rotting?

Does your dog have open wounds which will not heal?

Does your dog have red, gooey or swollen ear canals?

Is there ANY chance that the conditions listed above don’t hurt, pretty badly?

If you saw a human child with rotting eyes, ears, or teeth, enormous skin lesions or untreated cancers, would you not turn your head, cry out loud for the poor child, and be sick with the sorrow? These are the kinds of things you see in documentaries on child-neglect among impoverished non-industrialized societies!!!! …oh, and commonly in the homes of people with very old and very sick pets.

So much suffering seems to be acceptable before the demise of our dogs and cats that would not be accepted for a dear, innocent child. Does a dog or cat understand very much more about its weakened, terminal condition than a small child?

I want to thank you, on behalf of a suffering pet who is unable to speak for itself; for your kind consideration of these points.

Dental Health: Canine Oral Health and Bacterial Infections


Please look at this subject from your dog’s viewpoint. We would not accept our dog’s oral health in a person. It has almost nothing to do with the way the teeth look. Here’s the impact of dental rot:

1. Stink – To you, and even more so, to your dog.
2. Taste Bad – Imagine eating food with those teeth
3. Create a mist of germs for the lungs, with every inward breath
4. They hurt. Can you look at that and think it’s painless?
5. Last but not least the germs gain access to the blood stream. Ewwww.

If your dog’s teeth are rotting out, it’s miserable. Compare that to the risk of anesthesia. I mean, it’s NOT A SNAP DECISION but it’s an important one.

If I had a dog with a rotting mouth, FOR ME, it’s a no-brainer I’d give my dog a break, from that honestly, regardless of risk

Don’t be shocked, but I’d (personally) rather take my chances on Bailey being among the 0.005% that dies from the process – as opposed to being among the many living with a decaying mouth.

Epilepsy: Canine: Anticonvulsant Therapy

Epilepsy in dogs
Escaping dogs

Dogs on Diazepam, Phenobarbital, KBr and Prednisolone

Clorazepate dipotassium (Tranxene:Abbott) is a benzodiazepine pro-drug
2mg/kg q12

KBr 15mg/lb – 25mg/lb and even 45mg/lb
Loading – rapid control: A loading dose of 450-600 mg/kg, usually divided over 5 days,
If the patient appears obtunded prior to a dose, skip it and resume when the patient seems more normal.
Serum bromide level is checked. The therapeutic range for dogs is 0.7-3.5 mg/ml.
But decrease PBarb dose while going higher and higher.
the phenobarbital dosage should be no higher than 1-2 mg/lb/day or severe sedation

Monotherapy with oral KBr (administered without a loading dose) is recommended at 50-80 mg/kg/day as a starting dose may have to increase to 120 mg/kg/day in some dogs. The dosage is administered once a day, but the total dosage can be divided to avoid GI upset.
Loading: the loading dose is 400-600 mg/kg total dose divided into equal treatments overthe next 36-48 hours. The loading dose is mixed in food to minimize vomiting/diarrhea.

Sudden discontinuation of anticonvulsant medication can produce status epilepticus.

PBarb levels should be: are maintained between 15-45 micrograms/ml.

Consider measuring triglycerides: Hypertriglyceridemia should be considered in dogs with a history of seizures.
dietary therapy has been successful in reducing triglyceride concentrations and eliminating seizures

felbamate (Felbatol:Wallace Labs) 10kg animal is $22/month
45 mg/kg/day, PO, divided TID. The drug is well absorbed and the plasma elimination half-life is approximately 13 hours.

Ketogenic diet: Protein and fat ONLY
Dr. John Freeman of Johns Hopkins

If neither phenobarbital or bromide are effective in treating seizures in the dog, mephenytoin (Mesantoin:Sandoz) – WITH the other drugs.
10 mg/kg, TID may be used with the dosage increased as needed to achieve a therapeutic blood level of nirvanol of 25-40 5g/ml. Steady state blood levels should be achieved in 6 days.

This clinical study found that ocular compression (OC) may be a useful aid for stimulating the vagus nerve to control seizures in dogs. The globe was intermittently compressed into the orbit, using digital pressure superior eyelid of one or both eyes for 10-60 seconds. Ocular compression was prescribed at 5 minute intervals,

Sodium valproate has recently shown some promise in the control of canine epilepsy. Its current recommended use is in combination with phenobarbital for resistant seizure dis- orders. The recommended dose of sodium valproate in the dog is 15 mg/kg/day. If the total dose exceeds 150 mg, it should be divided BID to avoid GI disturbance. The dose can be increased if necessary by 5 mg/kg/week to a maximum dose of 60 mg/kg/day.

For dogs and cats, diazepam has been recommended at a dose of 0.5-1.0 mg/kg, IV, up to a maximum dose of 20 mg

How To Care for Bettas, Siamese Fighting Fish

Betta occur in a myriad of colors and are breeding for more and more
Betta occur in a myriad of colors and are breeding for more and more

For ages people have been asking me about Bettas, or Siamese Fighting Fish. And I have not until now authored anything on them, whicle at the same time being a huge fan of these desktop favorites. My first attempts at Bettas were ‘fails’ because no one knew what to tell me about their successful care but over the years, good luck. In fact, now when I see Binkie, I think “Why won’t you die? I want a red Betta!”

(Just kidding)

Here is the only way I have been successful at Bettas and then I will tell you what I did to kill the first ones:

Successful Betta / Siamese Fighting Fish care:

  • 1-2 Gallon facility
  • No aeration
  • Must have gravel on the bottom.
  • Must have live plant like Banana plant, Apon bulbs, dwarf lilies, Java fern, Java moss, valisneria or sword plants or Bacopa type. Not anachris or cabomba. (Nothing that would be sold as a “bunch plant” so beware.)
  • NO filtration
  • Rare to no water changes (as long as live plant is on board and adequately lit)
  • Underfeeding with a mere 3 pellets of Tetra’s “Tetra Betta” food per day.
  • Adequate lighting to grow the plant but not so much the algae. If algae appears get a trapdoor snail or similar. ‘Not so much’ on the apple Snail, Mystery Snail or Ramshorn snail.
  • Temperature comfortable for people, not cold, not hot.

How I killed other Bettas as a kid.

  • No gravel
  • No plant
  • Keeping in a tropical fish tank and watching them gradually almost imperceptibly but inexorably picked down.
  • Too frequent water changes or too infrequent water changes.

The live plant and gravel are the “keys” to success.

Just watch your feeding rates per the above notes and see if you can fenagle a bit of live plant material into this “system”.

My favorite source of information / breeding Bettas comes from Kasia.

Companion Animal & Fish Health