I have a 14 year old female mixed breed dog. Her normal weight in her days of youth and fitness was 40 pounds. She is hovering around 32 or 33 pounds currently. She has had what appears to be a stroke and now suffers from an occasional seizure. Her appetite has diminished but she will enthusiastically consume any fish, poultry or beef that I 'home cook' for her. She has good days and she has bad days but does not appear to be in any pain. She has difficulty walking, her hips are in bad shape and motor co-ordination is compromised due to the 'stroke' or 'seizures'.

She sits in her spot which gives her a good view out the front window in order to 'guard' the area/home. She is alert.


Due to her 'state of mind' and continuing to fulfill basic functions I am averse to euthanasia at the moment. The basic life features I'm looking at are the following.

  1. Eating - Regular eating and interest in food
  2. Urinate/Defecate - Physically able to expel waste as well as have solid bowel movements.
  3. Alert - Able to recognize surroundings and appear lucid
  4. Habits - Normal interaction with the world and continued engagement in usual habits

    • Attributes - No ongoing pain or suffering, appears happy.

I'm of the belief that these 4 foundation components are the basics in order to continue.

She is old, a bit crotchety and limps. When she walks her head is turned sideways a bit since the 'stroke' and occasionally falls down if going down a single step as her co-ordination is a bit sloppy.

This is nothing new to me and I don't feel as if I'm 'hanging on' too tightly. I have had to disconnect loved ones from respirators during my time on the planet and letting go of my beloved dog will be difficult but not impossible.

Question - What is the ethical 'line in the sand' to make the decision to euthanize a pet?

I am of the mind that it's when the four items above are not fulfilled any longer or there is an ongoing pain factor then the time has come to act and do the right thing.

  • 2
    Not related to the euthanasia part, but I wanted to say that the limping and loss of motor control could be bad arthritis. We had one that would yelp when she got up and then it was like her back end didn't want to work. Her back end would randomly fall out from under her when she walked. The vet gave me a medicine called 'Metacam'. It's a liquid you just squirt between their teeth. It's easy to give. I gave it to her every day for a week and now it's once or twice a week to maintain. It's helped her tremendously. You could ask your vet if they would recommend it for your dog.
    – Dalton
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


This is going to be an opinion question and/or judgment call, but I'll suggest a basic principle:

Quality Of Life.

If the animal can be made reasonably comfortable and content, extending its life may be worthwhile. But if that extension inolves surgery or something else significantly unpleasant, you need to consider whether, from their point of view, they're gaining enough enjoyable lifespan to justify the immediate discomfort -- remembering that you can't explain it to them. If not, the kindest thing you can do is to let them go.

I've known some animals who were pretty decrepit... but who didn't seem to be in pain, and seemed to be with it enough to enjoy being around their humans. I've known some others who were technically more healthy but who had significant discomfort that couldn't be treated. Others, of course, may fall anywhere along the spectrum.

Just watch out for the temptation to let your reluctance to lose them dominate over their needs. That's hard, but it's part of our responsibility to them

And remember: we don't have them long enough, but they have us all their lives. That's not a bad thing.

... but it sounds like you already know all this.

  • 3
    +1 for it being a judgement call. Also, this falls under the category of quality of life: Think about the things that your dog has enjoyed in the past. Can she still enjoy any of them? How has your dog shown that she is happy/enjoying something? Does she do that any more? In the past, I have found these questions to be helpful when making this difficult decision.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 21:47
  • 3
    One more thing I would like to say to anyone facing this decision: Try to accept the fact that you may never know if you made the right decision at the exact right time. All you can do is make the best decision you can, based on both love and reason. Which is exactly what you would want your pet to do if the roles were reversed.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:57
  • 1
    Late addition; when one of my cat's passed recently, I did a bit of wed searching and found that there's now a fairly standard short questionnaire to help you evaluate a let's quality of life, plus a few slight variations on that form. Easily findable by websearch, and I found it really helpful when deciding how long we should hold on. (Turned out to be until he was too weak to get around the house, since the symptom that really took him down was loss of appetite.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 16:19

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