When Should You Consider Putting Down a Diabetic Dog?

Dogs with diabetes can live a quality life with proper management. However, the final stages of canine diabetes can be painful and stressful for your pet, leading some dog owners to consider putting down a diabetic dog. So, is it right to put your diabetic dog to sleep, and how should you do it?

Putting down a diabetic dog is justified when your pet is in extreme pain, and there is no hope the pet will get better. The procedure should be carried out by a veterinarian or a trained euthanasia technician. 

Since there’s more to putting down your diabetic dog than expressed in the above statement, this article is a comprehensive guide to the ethics and practicalities of putting a diabetic dog to sleep. Specifically, you’ll find details on the following questions: 

  • Should You Put Down Your Diabetic Dog?
  • When Should You Put Down Your Diabetic Dog?
  • Who should put down a diabetic dog?
  • How Should You Put Down Your Diabetic Dog? 
  • Where To Put Down Your Diabetic Dog?

You’ll also find answers to a few general FAQs on animal euthanasia at the end of the article. Let’s discuss the details of each of these questions.

Should You Put Down a Diabetic Dog?

Many dog owners will face the “what next?” question when a diabetes diagnosis is given. Unfortunately, there are dog owners who do not respond to this question with an effort to treat and manage canine diabetes but, instead, opt to put their dogs down. 

Dog getting injection.

A worldwide survey on diabetic dog euthanasia found that 1 in every 10 diabetic dogs was put down upon diagnosis, while another 1 in every 10 dogs was euthanized within a year after diagnosis. The decision to put down the diabetic dogs was informed by factors such as cost, inability to manage the disease, dog age and welfare, disease comorbidity, and impact on the owner’s lifestyle. 

So, is it right to put your diabetes dog down for any of these reasons?

There are different ethical and legal approaches to the question of whether you should put down a sick dog. 

According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), dogs can be painlessly put down if they cannot be humanely or safely placed in a shelter or new home, if they are injured, sick, dying, or in psychological or physical suffering and their owners cannot afford the expenses of private veterinary care.

This answer seems to present a wide range of situations where dog owners can decide to put their pets to sleep. Instead, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides a more detailed but restricting answer to whether you should put down your sick dog in the 2020 edition of the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals

Points to take into consideration regarding euthanasia

  1. Death by euthanasia ends suffering from the disease.

Dogs (and other animals) can be put down as a way of doing what is best for the animal. This includes situations in which continuing to live is not an attractive option for the dog owner and the veterinarian, as in cases when the animal is overwhelmed by disease and suffering

In such cases, the dog or animal is worse off continuing to live and is better off losing life to find relief from pain. In addition, when extreme sickness (diabetes in our case) does not allow the dog to continue enjoying the goods of life, putting the pet to sleep ends a life that is not worth living but is instead worth avoiding.

  1. The dog’s welfare is compromised, and the pet has no quality of life.

Veterinarians and dog owners can decide together that putting a dog to sleep is a good outcome if the indicators of the dog’s welfare and quality of life are compromised.

Dog welfare entails the following:

  • That the animal functions well.
  • That the animal feels well.
  • That the animal is able to perform species-specific behaviors.

If these three points are absent, the dog’s life is near the end and the animal no longer enjoys good welfare. In such cases, putting a dog down is the humane thing to do to relieve the dog of suffering.

Points to consider:

You can put down your diabetic dog. But this must be the best option for your dog when disease and suffering weigh on your dog’s welfare and quality of life. In such situations, the death of your dog is better than life.

Note that these guidelines can have contextualized interpretations in different states. Also, it is important to appreciate that the answer to the question of whether you should put down a diabetic dog is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. So, exactly when should you put down your diabetic dog?

When Should You Put Down a Diabetic Dog?

Answering the question, “When should you put down your diabetic dog?” is a way of breaking down the general answer to the question of whether you should put down your dog.

Generally, healthy dogs should not be put down unless:

  • Their behavior is a threat to humans and is beyond behavioral rehabilitation.
  • The dog in question cannot be safely rehomed.
Aggressive dog

According to the AVMA guidelines, the decision to put down a dog should not be made in questionable instances where the pet can still have a life worth living. For example, dog owners should not put down a diabetic dog because keeping the pet in their home is no longer convenient for the owner.

In this case, veterinarians should act as dog advocates and propose alternatives to euthanasia.

Options for saving dog from euthanasia include:

  • Keeping the dog and opting to treat and manage diabetes so that the pet can live a quality life.
  • Giving up the dog to a shelter.
  • Giving the diabetic dog a new home by finding someone willing to adopt a sick dog.

These options limit the occasions for putting down a diabetic dog to the strictly necessary situations. Specifically, you should only put down a diabetic dog when:

  • The dog is medically so sick that death is imminent, and there is no chance it will get better.
  • The dog is medically unfit for prolonged life, as in the case of severe neurological damage in the final stages of diabetes.

But, does putting down a diabetic dog imply that the owner should do it, or who should put down a diabetic dog?

Who Should Put Down a Diabetic Dog?

As a general rule, dogs and other companion animals should be put down by a veterinarian. In a survey of the 50 US states, the AVMA established that many states allow persons who are not veterinarians to put down companion animals. These are known as euthanasia technicians and are expected to undergo some form of training before practicing. 

In a few states, however, untrained persons also perform euthanasia. This is especially common in animal shelters.

The AVMA provides a list of State Animal Euthanasia Laws indicating who should perform euthanasia on animals. Below is a tabled example of 5 randomly picked states.

Euthenasia laws from five states

StateWho Performs Animal Euthanasia
California– Licensed veterinarians.
– Registered veterinary technicians with proper training.
– Employees of an animal humane society or control shelter with proper training.
Texas– Licensed veterinarians.
– Certified euthanasia technicians.
– Non-veterinarians supervised by a veterinarian.
New York– Licensed veterinarians.
– Certified euthanasia technicians.
– Licensed Veterinary Technicians.
– Authorized agent of a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Ohio– Licensed veterinarians.
– Certified euthanasia technicians.
– Veterinary technicians.
South Carolina– Licensed veterinarians.
– Licensed veterinary technicians under the supervision of a veterinarian.
– Euthanasia technician.
– Employee of the department of natural resources trained and certified to perform euthanasia.

There’s no doubt that being trained or untrained to perform animal euthanasia can significantly determine how a diabetic dog is put to sleep, which is what our next question addresses.

How Should You Put Down Your Diabetic Dog? 

Dog getting injection

The rule of thumb on how to put down a sick dog is that it should be done in a human manner and in the quickest, painless, and anguish-free method. Doing this gives sense to the real meaning of euthanasia, “a good death.”

According to the AVMA, the preferred way to put down a dog, and other companion animals, is by using an intravenous injection of barbiturates and barbituric acid derivatives such as Pentobarbital or a combination product of pentobarbital

The administration of pentobarbital can be done alone or after the pet has been put to sleep using a sedative or general anesthesia.

Other common methods used to put down dogs:

  • Injecting an overdose of nonbarbiturate anesthesia such as ketamine and xylazine combined. This is recommended in circumstances where the pet is of a large size or when it would be difficult to restrain the dog.
  • Injecting the euthanasia drugs T-61 or Tributame when they are available, and barbiturates are not. 
  • Using inhaled agents in chambers such as inhaled anesthetics, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. These methods are used with conditions and are not recommended for single companion pets or as routine options. They are especially acceptable in institutions with appropriate equipment and trained personnel or in rare circumstances of disease outbreaks. 
  • Gunshot when euthanasia is done in remote areas where more humane options are unavailable. In such situations, prolonging the life of the pet would extend the period of suffering. A gunshot is also an option when there’s imminent danger to human life but should be performed by a skilled person. 

Note that the legality of these methods may vary from state to state. Check the AVMA State Animal Euthanasia Laws summary referenced earlier for details in specific states.

Unacceptable methods for putting down a dog include:

  • The use of intramuscular (IM), intrapulmonary, and intrathecal routes to administer euthanasia chemicals. These are associated with extra pain for the pet, and there’s little information on their effective use.

As can be guessed, putting down a dog will be emotionally draining. As such, where the pet is put down is also an important consideration.

Where To Put Down Your Diabetic Dog?

The AVMA recommends that companion animals be put down in a quiet and familiar environment. This could be a private room in a veterinary clinic, at home, or at an animal shelter. The isolated and familiar environment reduces distress for both the pet and the owner.

Most dog owners opt to have a veterinarian or licensed euthanasia technician come to their home. The home is the most familiar environment for the pet and offers a less distressed environment when the pet is put down. Driving with your sick pet to a vet’s clinic can create more anguish for both you and the dog.

Putting Down a Diabetic Dog FAQs

Putting down a diabetic dog majorly follows the general guidelines of dog (companion animal) euthanasia. Following are a few general FAQs on dog euthanasia.

What is Emergency Euthanasia?

Emergency euthanasia is an enacted law in some states that allows veterinarians, law enforcement officers, animal control agents, and other designated agents to euthanize or shoot an animal in an emergency situation of sickness beyond treatment, injury, or when an animal is deemed dangerous.

The need for emergency euthanasia must be determined by the person performing it and at least one other witness. In addition, the animal’s owner must be confirmed unavailable prior to putting down the animal.

What Happens When a Dog is Put Down?

When a vet and the dog owner come to the decision that putting down a dog is the best option in acute sickness or suffering, these steps are followed to put down a dog:

  1. The dog is helped to be as comfortable as possible in an isolated room at home or at a vet clinic.
  2. A sedative is administered if the dog appears anxious, restless, or in pain.
  3. The vet inserts an indwelling catheter into the dog’s vein to ensure the euthanasia substance is delivered as fast as possible.
  4. The euthanasia substance is administered, which causes loss of consciousness and sensation and suppresses respiratory and cardiovascular functions.
  5. The pet sleeps smoothly, and the vet tests for the absence of a heartbeat before pronouncing the pet’s death.

The pet owner may ask to stay away or be present during this procedure. Bringing another person when your pet is put down is recommended as a form of emotional support.

Do Dogs Feel Pain when they are Put Down?

In itself, putting a dog to sleep is painless. Inserting the needle that delivers the euthanasia solution may pinch a bit though. When the euthanasia substance is administered, a dog may present muscle contractions in the form of paddling legs, stumbling, unusual sounds, or weaving the head. These are the effects of the solution and do not indicate pain or suffering considering the dog is already unconscious and has lost sensation. Giving a sedative prior to the euthanasia solution may reduce these effects of muscle contraction.

Also, your dog may urinate or defecate after death, a sign of complete muscle relaxation and not pain. 

Concluding Tip

Putting down a diabetic dog can be distressing for both the dog and the dog owner. To prevent a distressing experience, it is paramount to work with your dog’s veterinarian on issues related to if, when, where, how, and who should put down your diabetic dog.

The information in this article is built by thoroughly researching available info on putting down a dog or animal. Remember to always consult your vet on matters related to putting down your diabetic dog, as each dog is a unique case.