Putting a Family Pet to Sleep

Updated on January 11, 2008
J. asks from Arlington, TX
12 answers

It looks like we may have to put our beloved 16 year old dog to sleep in a week if she doesn't respond to new pain meds. What do I tell my 2 yr old daughter. She loves this dog and I hate that we have to put our dog down but I know it's time. Does anyone have any good ideas? I just don't want to tell her anything that would scare her.

My daughter knows our dog is sick and hurts and that we give Honey medicine to make her feel better. She will tell people without asking that Honey is hurt and not feeling good and says we give her medicine to make her feel better. Our dog is a 16yr old lab who has artritus in her back and its hard for her to get up and she is now going to the bathroom on the floor. We are going to try another med to see if it helps her pain. If not we have to put her to sleep.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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answers from Dallas on

I'm so sorry that you're going through this.

Just tell your daughter that your dog went to heaven where the dog isn't in pain, & he/she can run & play again. Then just tell your daughter that you're happy that the dog isn't in pain anymore, & you'll one day see the dog in heaven.

That's what I told my son when my FIL died recently. Good luck!


answers from Dallas on

My daughter was 5 when we had to put our first Cocker to sleep at 13 yrs old. This was hard on her but I truly believe it was harder on hubby and I because Maggie was our baby before we had a baby.

I got the book called Doggy Heaven and we read that. She accepted the news better than we accepted what we had to do. We were so attached to that dog.

Four years ago, we had to but another Cocker to sleep. Now Frankie was toughfor for daughter because she was about 9 at the time. Again, this was extrememly hard on hubby and I for Frankie had been with us since before daughter was born as well. He was 14. We knew we had to take him in the following week and of all times, it was early Easter morning when he had an attack and we had to go in the middle of the night.

The first thing daughter noticed when she got up to see what the easter bunny brought her was that Frankie was gone. It was a sad weekend but we got through it again with Doggy Heaven.

Both of our dogs ashes are in very nice little cedar chests (Tooth Acres) and they are on my mantle with a picture of the 2 dogs together. To this day, I cannot move the ashes to another spot. We currently have 3 dogs now. A 7 yr old cocker, 3 yr old cocker and 1 yr old poodle.

I am sorry you are going through this, it is very hard because if you are like me, your dog is like a child to you and you are very attached. Things will get better.




answers from Dallas on


Our lab died last summer. He was sick as well. I told my daughter (who was 5 at the time) that he went to live with Jesus. Even at 2 I believe she would have accepted this explanation.

Hope that helps.




answers from Dallas on

I had to put my cat to sleep recently for the same reasons. I waited to long hoping new meds would help. My two year old saw our cat get really bad over night. It was horrible. He had nightmares for a few days. All the others gave great advise just don't wait to long. It is such a hard thing to go through. You have my sympathy.


answers from Dallas on

Hi J.,
I'm sorry to hear about your dog, Honey. :(
I would suggest being honest about it. My friend lost her mother last year to gallbladder cancer and had someone come out to the house from Hospice to help explain and have the children express their grief. She said that children need to know the truth, you don't have to be graphic about it but use the correct language and say that they "died" and not went to sleep as some people do.
We had our 14 year old German Sheppard put down about a year ago when my son just turned three. He asked and I told him the truth. It was hard to tell him that she died but it was harder saying it than for him to hear it! He still asks us why she died and we tell him because she was old and was sick. I would only give out information that she asks about and not volunteer something that she may not be ready to understand yet.



answers from Dallas on

Hi J.!
I'm so sorry! We put our beloved Boxer, Bailey down 6 months ago. My situation was a little different- I have a 6 year old and 2 year old son. The 2 year old didn't seem to miss him much. He just repeated whatever the older one said. We had several vet visits trying different pain meds, too. We realized that there would probably be 1 more visit before the final visit so we took Braeden, my 6 year old, along so the doctor could "help" us. My husband warned him that Braeden would be there and to be discrete. We told Braeden over the next week that we had one more thing to try then we would have to say our good byes because she had a long and happy life and was ready to go spend the rest of her time with Poppa, wha had just recently passed at that time. At the time that was enough. Since then he has had the occasional night mare and questions followed along with tears. So we have had to tell him more about Poppa and Bailey. But, it was slowly and not all at once so it wasn't enough to scare him! Good Luck, I hope this helps!!!



answers from Dallas on

This is the HARD part of pet ownership and as a pet sitter, I've watched several clients go through it in the past 2 years. I came home from the Vet after going with a client to put her Corgi to sleep, and I had been crying, of course, and one of our daughters asked what happened....I explained that Clint had to be put to sleep because he was very ill and that he was in Doggie Heaven....well, I thought that would be accepted...but my daughter said, "Oh, Doggie Heaven...with a Doggie Jesus?" :) Kid's - that made me smile then and still does now and they'll talk about it from time to time if I mention other dogs that have been put to sleep and it comforts them.

Your daughter is 2 so keep it at her age level and kid's bounce back so be 'real' in your emotions and she'll be OK.



answers from Austin on

This sucks, I know telling a small child about this. But they are suprisingly understanding if you keep it light talk about how much she hurts, etc. and that the doctor can give her some medicine to make all of the pain go away. She will just go to sleep and won't be in pain anymore. I went on with the being with other doggies in heaven and all of that and my little ones would tell people who asked about where our dog was that she was up in heaven so she wouldn't hurt anymore. Not really religious, but it was good for the kids to help them accept that the pet wasn't hurting and had good company 'up there' with all of the other pets and would not be lonely and would be happy and look down on the family with a smile. Just be honest and filter it out and let them know you are very sad too, but it is the only thing to get rid of her pain.

GOod luck.



answers from Dallas on

I'm so sorry for your loss. We had to put our sweet old mini-Schnauzer down in March of '05--he was about 16 as well. Scooter was such a huge part of our family. But, my daughter, who was 7 at the time, didn't seem extremely fazed by it. Don't be surprised if your child doesn't seem upset, then weeks later suddenly be very upset. Just tell the truth in as simple terms as possible. Your sweet doggie is in a lot of pain, and she wants to run and play again. The doggie doctor has special medicines that help to die so she can get to heaven faster and not be in pain anymore. I still have moments when I find myself missing him terribly, even with a new dog. I had him before I had my husband or my child & he saw me through all the major times of my adult life. God bless and comfort you all through this difficult time, and don't try to hide your sadness completely. Dying is a part of life--don't ignore your own grief.



answers from Dallas on

Well, first and foremost I can SO very much relate to this situation. I had two pets growing ill at a very rapid rate and I wound up having to put them to sleep about 6 weeks apart. It just about killed me as they were my first babies that were there for me through thick and thin and they loved me regardless so I felt like I'd really lost not only a part of me but my best friends and confidantes... My son was just over 7 at the time the first one was going to be schedule that day... and I let him have some QT with just him and her and I took pictures for both of them.. and me because I really needed it...

At that ponit is when someone recomemended a book to help jOsh with the loss -- it's called Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

I bought the book... and we read it... and it really seemed to bring him comfort as does having photos of the last day of just the two of them together ...just for him.

I was just petting her and he snapped a photo of me... that to this day just still makes me cry... like now just thinking of it. These little people were members of our famliies. It was very hard for my son... very hard...

but don't prolong the inevitable needlessly...



answers from Dallas on

You've already gotten some good suggestions. One thing that we did that helped with closure was to have a memorial service for our dog (she died last June). I found this poem online:
and I cut and pasted it and put a photo of our dog on the top sheet and then we add some prayers before and after we read that one. My kids were older so this was important and I don't know about you, but when I lose a pet it is often harder on me than the kids and your biggest issue may be your daughter's concern over why you're so upset. My son still remembers sitting in my lap when I was crying over 8 years ago when one of my cats died. But, I think it's important for them to see that we do mourn the loss of a pet, in a way similar to the way we mourn the loss of any other family member.



answers from Dallas on

I'm sorry there is nothing that can help and the longer you put it off the more pain you make your friend suffer it is one of the hardest things to do but sometimes it just must. we have in this lifetime had to send to play with God three of our friends each were in such pain and so we let God set them free to run and play again. hope this helps.

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