When is a dog’s quality of life over? A Comprehensive Guide

You love your dog and don’t want her to die. At the same time, though, you also want your dog to maintain her quality of life. And if she’s in pain or unhappy, or has trouble doing everyday things, then you don’t want your dog to continue to suffer.

There might come a time when our dog gets old or sick and we have to make serious — and heartbreaking — decisions about how we should proceed. Choosing to euthanize a dog — or putting a dog down — is a complicated and difficult decision to make.

Dogs are our family. When we have one, we are responsible for taking care of him, protecting him, and just simply being there for him — as we would with any family member. We love cuddling, playing, and relaxing with our pups, and we want them to have the best quality of life possible.

In order to determine if euthanizing your pet is the right choice in your situation, Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM, developed a Quality of Life Scale — also called the HHHHHMM Scale. This scale will help you be objective during this emotional time and assess your dog on specific quality of life factors that will then let you know if it’s time to let go of your lovable pooch.

You Have Options When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

While some dogs do pass away peacefully in their sleep, many are not so lucky. As a pet owner you can choose whether you want your dog to have a natural death or to ease his suffering by putting him to sleep. Choose what feels right for you and your dog.

Euthanasia is when a veterinarian gives an overdose of a sedative, usually the injectable pentobarbital. The process is painless and quick, usually over in 10 to 20 seconds. The dog goes quickly to sleep and then his heart stops.

Choosing euthanasia can be very difficult for owners, but ending suffering and pain is also the most compassionate gift we can give. If you are unsure about whether or not your dog is suffering or if euthanasia is appropriate for your dog, talk to your veterinarian. He or she will answer any of your questions about the process and your dogs current condition and likelihood of returning to a healthy and comfortable life.


If your dog is in so much pain that even medication can’t help, it is only fair to let it go. Some signs that your dog is in pain include:

  • Excessive noises of groaning and grunting
  • Panting excessively
  • Trembling
  • Limping
  • Restlessness
  • Not able to eat or drink
  • Excessive licking or scratching of a particular part of the body