How to know when it's time to put a dog down

The most difficult decision an owner can make regarding their pet’s care is knowing when it's time to put a dog down. 

Dedicated owners might wish for our canine companions to pass away naturally without euthanasia, but this type of death is rare for pets. More often, the natural death of a dog is usually long, painful and stressful. If they are experiencing poor quality of life, putting a dog to sleep is usually the humane thing to do. 

When faced with the dilemma of determining when it's time to put a dog down, there’s rarely a clear ‘right time’ for every pet and their owner. 

Key signs it’s time for putting a dog down are usually made up of a mix of factors. We explain these in this article.

Indicators it’s time to put a dog down

Sometimes putting a dog down is the clear option to avoid your best mate’s prolonged suffering. It may be that your pet is badly injured and in pain, where life-saving treatment is not an option, or if they have become old and no longer have a quality of life. In that case, it’s probably time to put your dog down. 

Other times the decision to euthanise a pet, who is a treasured and beloved family member, is not so easy. 

As dedicated pet owners, we know our dog’s habits and mannerisms better than anyone. Keeping an eye out for unusual behaviours that are out of character for your best mate will provide the best indicators it’s time to put a dog down.

Above all, ask yourself the question: “What is a poor quality of life for my dog?” This will be different for every owner, but if you can identify that your pet is suffering, then it’s time to put your dog down.

When determining when it’s time to put a dog down, here are six specific things to look for:

  1. If your dog has lost their appetite, eating or drinking less than usual or not at all, it can be a sign that they are in pain.
  2. Decreased activity, or limping or yelping when they are trying to walk is another sign of pain.
  3. nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea.
  4. Has your dog stopped enjoying their favourite activities? Distress, anxiety or depression are indicators of a pet’s poor quality of life.
  5. They are acting differently from their usual behaviours. This might be growling or snapping at other dogs or even humans.
  6. Do they have more ‘bad days’ than ‘good days’?

You might also find it useful to read our article Pets and Pain: is my pet suffering? or access our free pet quality of life calculator.


When to put a dog down

Deciding when it’s time to put a beloved pet to sleep can be truly heartbreaking for owners and their families. But putting a dog down is usually the humane thing to do to prevent prolonged suffering. 

The best way to determine if euthanasia is necessary is to monitor the pet’s quality of life over time. 

While it’s helpful to monitor any changes to your dog’s behaviour, it is also important to obtain a professional assessment from a vet. Give Goodbye Good Boy a call and one of our dedicated end-of-life veterinarians can visit your home to provide a quality-of-life assessment. We are committed to ensuring your dog’s end-of-life journey is as peaceful as they deserve.

Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that owners know their pets better than anyone else – even vets. If you believe your dog is experiencing poor quality of life, it might be time to consider their end of life journey.

If you have any questions about dog euthanasia, or to schedule an end-of-life assessment, give our arrangers a call on 1800 573 186, or visit the Goodbye Good Boy website.

About us

Goodbye Good Boy is Australia’s premier pet end-of-life service. From grief counselling to euthanasia and cremation services, to fitting memorial options, we’re here to help you navigate your pet's end-of-life journey.

Dedicated owners treat their pets as equals in life. Goodbye Good Boy promises the same in death - offering a similar type of send-off you would expect for any other family member.