Telling the Kids About Having to Have Our Dog Put to Sleep

Updated on February 26, 2011
C.M. asks from Saint Charles, MO
14 answers

Our wonderful dog whom my husband and I got together 12 years ago has been diagnosed with stomach tumors that are inoperable. We have no choice but to have her put to sleep. It is hard enough on my husband and I but we don't have any idea how to tell our girls - ages 2 and 5 years old. They know that Kita has been sick and they are sad about that. I just don't know how to tell them that they won't ever see her again.

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 Kansas City on

We dealt with the unexpected death of our 5 year old dog a couple years ago with a 3 & 5 year old.
We read Dog Heaven and it really helped.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

There is a good children's book called Ten Good Things about Barney. I believe it is about a dog that died.

As a child, my parents had to put to sleep two German Shephards that were part of my early life.(they attacked the postman) Though I loved them dearly, I don't remember being traumatized because my parents told me that they were going to live on a big farm that would be a wonderful place for them to run around on. Though I don't think lying to your kids is good, in this case, it was the 'right' thing for my parents to do for me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

I had to have my special cat, Orphy, euthanized when my son was 3.5. This was the cat that was at my side, and his, from the moment I brought him home from the hospital. He had been sick for awhile, my son knew that, as he came with me to the weekly vet appointments for treatment.

So we talked about it and I told him that is was time for Orphy to go to kitty heaven and that the vets would help him do that and release him from his pain. He went with me and Orphy to the Vets, but opted to stay in the arms of his favorite vet tech during the procedure. She told me later that while she was holding him he whispered "By By Orphy, I love you".

We talked often about Orphy in the ensuing month and years - we still have a house full of pets and, since Orphy's passing, have had to euthanize his companion cat, Euridice, and bury a hamster. Now at 14 years old he realizes that humans outlive pets and that our duty to them while they are with us is to provide a good life and love for them while we are graced with their presence.

I never used the term "put to sleep" - that implies all kinds of scary images for children. Like, they might go to sleep and not wake up. Always use the term euthanized and always be open for discussion about their sorrow, fears for their pet, and the wonderful memories that they have of their pet.

Make sure they have a chance to say good bye and expect them to mourn her loss, just like you and your husband will mourn.

God Bless.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

When my daughter was 2, I had to have our dog, whom she adored, put down. I told her that Charlie was sick, that there was no medicine that could help him, and he wasn't happy being alive anymore because he was so sick, so the vet gave him some medicine that would help him stop breathing and die peacefully.
If you believe in any kid of afterlife, the kids may be comforted by the idea that she is in doggie heaven.



answers from San Francisco on

However you talk about the dog's death according to your beliefs. Please do not say the dog was put to sleep. Many kids take this literally. Going to sleep = death. No wonder they may not want to go to sleep. We always talked about the animal being sick, died, and went to heaven. We often are afraid to use the words die and death. It's better to use the words appropriately than using euphemisms like going to sleep. So sorry. It's so hard to loose a beloved pet.



answers from San Francisco on

Ohhhh...I am soooo sorry. It is such an emotional time for you. We just went through this with our cat. OUr kids loved our cat and she was a big part of our kids' lives. We were very open and honest with them. We are a devout Christian family and used our beliefs in dealing with this situation. The kids cried..were sad...were also happy...but sad for the loss and knowing that soon we would be physically separated from our dear little furry friend. OUr kids are 11,8 and 4.

Our kids could see that our cat was ill and needed to be put to sleep because she could not function normally...she was not happy. We asked them to pick the day to put her down...they chose last Friday. We talked about making it a special day to celebrate her life. We planned to go out to dinner then see a movie after putting her down. We asked them if they would like to be in the room when the doctor put her to sleep. Our oldest declined but the other two said yes. We talked about holding her, talking to her and petting her as she slipped away. Our 8 year old said she was going to whisper in the cat's ear, " to heaven!!"

I think talking about it is sooo healthy for them. They can handle the many emotions that come as long as you can hold up under it all. Growing parents took the silent approach. THe pets somehow were gone one day and we were either told they needed to be put down or they got sent off to a farm. Never did we get the truth because they thought we wouldn't cope well. Really, I think they didn't want to have to deal with our emotions through it all. I still have a hard time to this day not being able to say a formal goodbye to some of our beloved pets. Maybe that is why I go overboard with my kids in being open and honest.

Back to our cat. We actually never had to officially put her to sleep because she died before the appt. We came home to pick her up after getting the kids from school and she had passed. The kids walked in to see her sprawled on the floor. She looked peaceful and my daughter pointed out that it looked like her body was running..."running to heaven Mom...she did what I told her to do." We wrapped her up and took her to the vet's office for them to bury her at a nearby pet cemetary. She was cremated. We told the kids we can visit the cemetary and already looked at pictures on the internet. It has been a week now and the kids are fine. They don't ask much about her anymore...but occasionally bring up fun memories of her. I really think that dealing with questions and emotions about life and death are so healing and comforting to kids.

I wish you peace during this emotional time as you are mourning the future loss of your little 12 years. Cats are fun but dogs somehow seem sooo much more a part of a much more like another kid. I am sorry.


answers from Detroit on

I am so sorry for what you are and will have to go through...I will give you my own personal experience with our 12 yr old dog Oscar and my 5 yr old son... he and Oscar were best buddies. Oscar looked out for our son from the moment he was born. And our son loved him and called him his "fur brother".

Oscar got very sick and we had to put him to sleep. Knowing our son would be heart broken and wanting to spare difficult conversations and pain....we lied to our 5 yr old and said Oscar was going to live at a retirement home. People assured us our son would forget about him in a weeks time. One month later our son came to us sobbing....begging for us to go and get Oscar from the retirement home. We foolishly continued the lie.....and he kept asking. He would tell us that he missed the sound of Oscar's bark....the smell of his fur....could we please just bring him home and our son would promise to be gentler and take even better care of him.....

I asked some of these same wonderful moms for suggestions.....turns out that the lying was absolutely the wrong idea (duh--I know), no matter how right we thought we were or how much we hoped to spare our son pain. He deserved to know the truth and have that opportunity to grieve. Once we finally fessed up and told him....he cried LONG and HARD! But he was able to move on and now "talks" to Oscar from time to time (he tells him he loves him....about his 1st day at kindergarten...etc).

Your girls will probably handle it better than you think....they'll be sad but still have that innocent view of illness and death. I wish you luck and peace with your decision.


answers from Modesto on

I was always honest with our kids when we lost a pet be it a parakeet, tarantula, mouse, rat, dog, or cat. You just explain to them that they are sick and in pain and old and it's time for them to go back into the earth so a new dog, cat, spider, bird, or person can be born. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Out with the old, in with then new.
Honesty is the best policy.
God takes care of his own.



answers from Cumberland on

I don't know if I would use to term "put to sleep". That could be confusing and scary. They may confuse being put to sleep with being put to bed to sleep. And a shot to do so may be frightening to them the next time they have to get a shot. You probably don't want to say that the doctor is unable to help Kita-that could be disconcerting, as well. Maybe just say-she was very, very sick and -like you said-they will never see her again. Is it possible-soon-to get another dog? I don't mean to diminish how much you love your dog-I am a dog lover and owner-but it might help:(



answers from Kansas City on

I had to put my boxer to sleep, he was very old and I knew it was coming. I gave my daughter time to adjust...How long does you dog have, is he suffering? My daughter was 3 at the time and we had talked about death often. My mother died and so I often talk about my mommy living in heaven. I was very up front with her. I had to have him put down in the middle of the night (just because it happened that way) but I told her that soon Bailey would have to go to heaven and I was very up front with why. He was old and his body was hurting him and god (we are not Christians, not that that mattters) and I didn't want him to suffer. That soon Bailey wouldn't be with us anymore, and that we would all miss him, but that she wouldn't want him to be in pain. I told her all nice things about how happy he would be and that he would miss us too but that he would have a telescope up there and that any time he could, he could see us (and who knows...maybe he does ;) That he would get all kinds of good treats and that some day we would all be together again. She was sad for a little while after the day he left us, and she still talks about him, but she is ok with it. They were VERY close. A few weeks later, we were coming out of Sam's and we saw a BEAUTIFUL sunset, and she said to me (and our friend) "Look, that is where Bailey is and he is letting us know he is up there with God" It makes me cry even know, and it has been over a year. Death is sad, but I am sure it is not the end. Let your girls know that death is normal, and it happens to everyone. Let them know that it is okay to be sad. I would highly recommend NOT getting another pet. I have friends who do this and it is not a solution. You are only teaching your children that life is replaceable. Another pet will not fill the void that may be left and it is better to wait, even if they ask for another dog right away. MHO, wait until they are older. Good Luck, and I am sorry for your loss



answers from Columbus on

I agree that it's a good idea to be honest w/ them but maybe w/o explaining the process. It's always helped my son when we say he/she will be in heaven and won't be suffering anymore. They can run and play and eat dog bones all day... whatever you want! My son also loved the movie All Dogs go to Heaven. It's a silly movie but it helped him develop his own concept about heaven (at least for dogs) and it made him realize that they're not really gone forever or they're watching over you.

Last year we lost our infant niece and my son knew instantly that she would be in heaven and be happy & healthy.

Also, I work at a vet clinic and can tell you that I've only seen kids be present for that procedure 1-2 times ever. I'm not sure if it's something you're considering. We lost 2 dogs at once when I was young and I made the mistake of peeking at them (dead) and it gave me nightmares. It's a very peaceful/easy procedure... I just don't know if kids should be present. Just thought I'd throw that 2 cents in there! Good luck and I'm so sorry for your family in this situation. It's so heartbreaking!



answers from Milwaukee on

Tell them that she is sick and you can't keep her. They don't have to know about the procedure at their ages unless you choose to tell them. We had to put one of our dogs down 3 years ago and luckily the youngest didn't really know too much other than that he was sick but the older ones hugged him and cried and said good bye. My husband and I were crying a lot and we called over family members to say their last good byes. Good luck. When our next dog goes it's going to be very h*** o* our son. He's only five so he's growing up right along with the dog whose 3. heck he cried when we talked about getting rid of our up north vehicle because of the memories. We did it without him being there and told him a few days later that we had to get rid of it because it was getting too old (the truck not the dog) and he was ok with it. I wish you luck and sorry about your dog. We had a little footprint of his made that we saved from the vet right before he passed.



answers from New York on

We had a similar situation when our daughter was about 6. She knew our dog was old and sick. For a while, we talked about the fact that dogs don't live as long as people do and that he may die soon. My husband took him to be put to sleep. When they left, we made sure to say goodbye. Only my husband and I knew about the dog being put to sleep. We told my daughter the dog needed to go to the hospital for dogs. The next day, we told her he had died. She was prepared about this ahead of time and death has always been an open discussion for us. It wasn't until she was much older that we told her the truth and how sometimes its the best thing for the dog because they are suffering. She understands the difference between dogs and people.

I would NOT tell your children that the dog is being put to sleep. They are too young to understand that. Give them a chance to say goodbye first. Best of luck to you and I'm so sorry for all of you.



answers from New York on

Oh my goodness. I am so terribly sorry. I have lost 3 dogs and 1 cat in my life and I still cry.

You have received really great advice from the other wise Mommies out there.

One thing I would like to add is that when my beloved cat of 17 years had to be put to sleep I was beyond upset and actually said, "It's so unfair. Why can't our pets live as long as us?"

My mother, very wisely, said, "Animals don't live as long as we do so that we can love many, many more of them. There are so many animals that need our love and it is now their turn."

I still, so clearly, remember her saying that. It is really the only bit of wisdom that anyone shared with me, at the time, that I remember.

I am tearing up just writing this. I am so sorry. Just keep reminding them how loved your dog is and that she will always be. And how lucky you all were to be able to share so much love. They will be sad and that will be hard for you to see, but they will be ok.

We have a cat who is nearing 16 years old and our son is 3 1/2. We know that our poor old man is coming to the end of his journey and we are also really worried about how to break it to our son, who loves our cat, when the time comes. I hope I can remember the same advice I am giving you now.

I'm so sorry.


For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions