How to Explain Dog Having to Be Put to Sleep

Updated on January 09, 2011
C.R. asks from Chicago, IL
17 answers

Unfortunately, we are getting close to having to put our dog to sleep. Any advice on how best to explain this to a six year old?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

More Answers


answers from San Diego on

We went through this when our 14 year old cat got ill and was at the end of his life before we had to put him to sleep. Our children were 7 & 5 at the time I think and I was pregnant with our third. We told them that his body was very old and could not work very well anymore. He was in a lot of pain. They went with us to the vet when we put him to sleep and they were in the room to say goodbye. The night before we put him to sleep he had lost the ability to walk so they knew it was coming. We explained that the vet was going to give him special medicine that would take the pain away so his body and mind could relax and not feel the pain so his spirit could leave the body that wasn't working and move on. We told them this is what dying means. The vet was also very good at telling what he was doing, he was amazingly comforting and careful. He'd been treating our cat the last few months of his life.
We were very careful not to use the word "Sleep" in refering to anything so the kids would not get scared that they or we could fall asleep and die.
There is a really good book by Mr Rogers about losing a pet that we bought that was very good that you may want to look into.
So sorry for your loss.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My 6 year old's little dog had to be put to sleep last spring. We didn't tell her he was put to sleep, we just told her he had died. Trying to explain putting a dog down can be very confusing for kids, and many times they may think it will happen to them if they get sick. Also, telling them the dog has to be put to "sleep" doesn't really tell them the right thing either...sleep is temporary.

My daughter handled the loss of her little buddy much better than I expected. She still talks about him and how much fun he must be having in heaven and how much fun she will have with him when she goes to heaven.

She was also very happy to know that he was happy and not in pain once he was in Heaven too.

I'm so sorry you are having to go through this. My other advice is that it is ok for your child to see you crying about this. My mom tried to tell me to be strong and not cry in front of my daughter, but if it is ok for me to cry then it is ok for her to cry and vice versa.

God bless!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I like the book Dog Heaven. It tells how happy and healthy dogs are in heaven, very sweet,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

_____ is really (sick, old, whatever) and we can't make him healthy again. He isn't happy any more, and wants to go to heaven where he can be happy again. The angels really like dogs, and will take really good care of him. The vet is going to help him go to Heaven to be with the angels (Or if you have a family member that has died, you might use that name instead of angels...) If your kid asks how the vet will help, you can just say that he gives the dog a special drink that lets him go to heaven. (I wouldn't want to mention shot or medicine... wouldn't want your kid to associate them with death....)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi C..

I am so sorry that you are going through this. We went through the same thing and it was so hard. If you are feeling incredibly emotional about the whole thing, know that you are not alone. It is totally normal.

We explained our dog's death to our child and I was so surprised at how well-received the info was. In hindsight, my husband and I realize that the discussion about the dog's death, was an opportunity to explain the circle of life. My child has had many questions over the past year about it, but the questions did not come right away. It took time. This will not be a one time discussion that you have with your child. What I would say to you is try and keep your explanation simple. Try to meet your child where he or she is at. If he/she does not appear overly upset, just realize that they are coping with this info on their own level.

Again, I am so sorry. I know that putting our dog down was one of the hardest things. It's ok to show your child that you are sad and that you are coping too.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My children were just 3 and 4 when we had to put my cat to sleep but I told them that Jock Meister had gone to heavan, which is a place where cats are no longer sick anymore. I also explained to them that heavan is like air; you can't see it but it's there and if you are still enough, sometimes you can feel it. This explaination was for why, although we could no longer see our cat, he is still with us always. They seemed to accept it well enough.

Oh, I didn't tell them beforehand that we had to put him to sleep. I wouldn't have been able to tell them this without bawling my my eyes out and I didn't feel like they were old enough to understand.



answers from Phoenix on

First, I would ask Grandma T - she knows everything and has some of the best answers for these situations. So if she doesn't, PM her.

When we have lost a pet, or have found dead birds in our yard that need a funeral, if you're OK with this too, I like to bury our animals in the back yard. The kids make a little special grave marker, depending upon your religion or beliefs, we pick out a spot, dig the hole, lay gently in, say our prayers and good byes, cover and mark.

For the next few weeks the children will go back to the grave site frequently to have their own personal time and I'm sure share their feelings and memories with loved and lost pet.

This gives them a healthy place to mourn and that it takes a little while to say good bye.

And then, within a few months, we can hardly remember exactly where someone is buried.


answers from Fort Collins on

The only advice I would add is to make a special photo frame or something with your child to help them remember your dog with. Let them know that it is ok to be sad and that you miss your friend too.



answers from Chicago on

the only advice i can give you is to get the book "Dog Heaven" its a great picture book for kids! good luck and just be honest


the only advice i can give you is to get the book "Dog Heaven" its a great picture book for kids! good luck and just be honest



answers from Chicago on

I think you have to tell him the truth! Allow him to be part of it. Explain that he is sick etc. I am not a fan of lying to our kids to save their feelings...because it doesn't do them any good to think that all good things don't come to an end eventually.

Show him what the problems are that the dog is facing. Teach him about what a healthy dog does and what the differences are between that and what is happening with your dog. Give him as many details as he can comprehend.

Then when he is gone, have a funeral, or a party. Celebrate his life. Don't make it more awful than it needs to be but do something. This is a very teachable moment...and it can be a positive experience (for the long term thinking of your child.

Sending you my prayers because putting a beloved pet down isn't any fun for the adults either!

(sorry...I assumed the 6y/o was a was the dog...I don't like constantly saying child or him/her).


answers from Cincinnati on

We had to put our cat to sleep last year & explain it to our 2.5 year old daughter. We got a sitter for her while we took her to the vet. Then we went home & got rid of the litter box, toys, food/water dishes etc... Once we picked up our DD, we explained to her Lacy (the cat) was really sick. She had bad owies so we gave her back to her mommy. Her mommy will make her feel all better just like I do for you but she will have to stay with her mommy.

My daughter accepted this and was not traumatized at all. It worked quite well for us. Good luck C. & I'm sorry about Scruffy..... I know first hand how hard it is.


answers from Kalamazoo on

You need to start telling her now (if you haven't already) that your doggy if very old, sick etc, you're not sure how much time you have left with her/him. I did this for about 6 mo before I put our Sassy cat down. The day before, I told them that I was taking her to the vet to see what he could do for her. I told them that she was old in in pain. When they got home from K and 2nd grade that day, I told them that there was nothing the vet could do for her, she was just old and it was her time, he gave her a shot so she wasn't in pain anymore and then she died.
Now, we're on the verge of this again with our almost 13 yr old dog :(


answers from Houston on

Our dog is very ill and in a lot of pain, and we are going to have to help him/her have an end to the suffering. Lets all treat him/her extra nice this week, because it will be his/her last. I know it's sad to say goodbye, but it's really so that our dog won't be sick all the time anymore, and can go and be happy with his/her animal friends and family with God.



answers from Chicago on

Great advice here. Just wanted to answer as well because we just had to put our 14 year old dog down a month ago. I am still reeling...but my daughter (age 4) is handling it great. I told her exactly what happened when I woke her up in the morning. Unfortunately, ours was a very sudden illness that happened in the middle of the night, so we had no preparation. I just said " Remember how Sadie wasn't feeling good yesterday? Well, Mommy had to take her to the vet after work and they found that she was really sick. So they gave her something to help her feel better, but there was still nothing they could do, so she died." Not perfect and at first she didn't seem to understand why we couldn't go get her but as the day wore on she accepted it. And we had a good cry and now we look at pictures a lot and tell funny stories. I am very sorry about your dog, it really stinks that they can't always be with us. :-)




answers from Chicago on

with our cats we explained that they had a sickness that couldn't be fixed and instead of making them suffer we let them die. All the kids were fine with this. We had a special saying good bye ceremony before it was done and let them say goodbye to the still cat after if they wanted to.



answers from San Francisco on

Good advice you have gotten (I didn't read all). Just don't say you put the dog to sleep. Say the dog died. Children can be literal. They can become afraid to go to sleep themselves. So sorry about your dog.



answers from Chicago on

I would go to the local library and ask the librarian in the children's area for some books on how to handle this situation. When our cat died, our child couldn't quite understand what was happening. Be sure to let them know that it's ok to feel sad and mad - to have feelings about the pet. We got some books, read them aloud and then discussed what was happening in the book. It will lead to some discussions on what they are feeling.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions