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Should my kids be there when we put our dog down?

Hello – I hope you can give some advice…I’m the mother of two small kids ages 4 and 7, and my 16 year old dog has some serious health issues and is suffering.  We’ve chosen to have her put down.

This dog has been a part of their lives since they were born and we all love her and will miss her.  I’ve scheduled a house-call vet to come out to our house for this to minimize the stress and let her pass in her own home, but I’m torn on whether to have our kids present for this.

What are your feelings on this matter?



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5 Responses to “Should my kids be there when we put our dog down?”

  1. Taylor - Blog Administrator says:

    This is a very tough question to answer as it depends on the age and maturity of your children and your family dynamics. Ultimately the decision is yours. Here are some suggestions to consider:

    The age and maturity of your children. As a general rule the recommendation is children under the age of 8 should not be present. Of course this has to do with how mature your child is and you will be the judge of this.

    Explaining what is going to happen and then having your children see your dog to say goodbye before and after the procedure while not being present for the actual process is a good compromise. They are participating in the goodbye process without having to see the actual moment of death.

    Making the choice to say goodbye to a family member is such a difficult decision to begin with. Our heart goes out to you all.

    Blog Administrator

  2. Dear Beth,
    I am a veterinarian of 20 years and I operate an in-home euthanasia service in Southern California. I have had multiple families choosing to have their children present regardless of age. I have seen some children be present who probably should not have been but in my opinion, it greatly, if not mostly depends on how the parents handle it and on the parents’ reaction to the euthanasia and their handling of the child.
    I don’t necessarily think that age is a factor. Maturity is also relative and is not necessarily dependent on age.
    It is a very personal decision and I think that one of the best thing that a parent can do is to educate the child (in terms appropriate to age) as to what will happen. I would also (of course depending on your spiritual beliefs) emphasize that your pet’s BODY is dying ant that your pet himself or herself will go on to his or her next adventure, whatever that might be and again, depending on your spiritual beliefs.
    After the child has been educated on what will take place, the other best thing that the parent can do is GIVE THE CHILD A CHOICE on whether or not the child WANTS to be present. And make it clear that the child will have a choice on attending or continuing to attend throughout the procedure. Make sure that the child knows that he or she can leave at any time and perhaps have someone who can be with your youngest if he or she decides that he wants to leave mid procedure, so that he does not find himself alone and scared and so that it does not interrupt your personal involvement in your pet’s passing.
    It is also very important that you choose a veterinarian who is comfortable with children being present and who does not disagree with the kids being around.
    Another point to consider is to ensure that the adults around the child will be as calm as possible. Doting a bunch of sympathy and “Ohhhhh pooor baby….” is very harmful to a child’s emotional state and can have lasting effects. Of course, holding the child and being there for him or her and hugging him or her is perfectly fine.
    Children usually cry hard and intensely, but frequently recover faster and better than we adults do… So don’t underestimate your children’s strength and ability to recover and ability to handle this loss.
    You are very welcome to use my website to educate yourself and your children as to how the procedure will be done. I also have a video clip on an in-home euthanasia that I am sure will be helpful. It is done in a very respectful manner and very calming and reassuring. Here is the direct link to the video on my website:
    On the rest of the website, you will find written information on how the procedure is done, you will also find information on the quality of life which will be helpful in preparing your children and in getting them to realize that your pet’s life is not enjoyable anymore (or will not be at the time when you make the decision), you will find information on the aftercare so that everyone understand what will happen to the body afterwards…
    Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email or by phone if there is anything else that I can do to help you.
    Dr Annie Forslund
    Home Pet Euthanasia of Southern California

  3. Lia says:

    You should let the dog live the rest of his life happy with your family.DO NOT kill
    him you will regret it and once it is done their is no turning back………….
    so don’t kill him he has a chance of getting better.PLEASE it happened to me follow my advice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Spanky says:

    Lia, yes, once it’s done there’s no turning back. Kinda how it works. It’s a tough call, but if the animal is suffering & the options are limited or non-existent one has to make that tough decision. Perhaps you had incompetent advice and your pet lived out many more days?
    I’ve put down several pets and had others die before me of natural causes (the best way). My family is dealing with this now and it’s a tough call, the toughest, but we don’t our pet to suffer, and she’s suffering.
    We are going to leave it to our 12 yr old daughter’s discretion as to be there or not. Seeing the birth of a kitten or a puppy is something everyone should see. I feel the same goes for the other time heaven’s door opens….but we’ll leave that decision to our girl if she wants to be there.

  5. jennifer Logan says:

    we had our 10 year old house rabbit put to sleep last night and our 6 year old son was with us. Fred was a very much loved family member but was old and suffering from severe pneumonia with no chance of recovery. 2 vets advised a natural death would be very distressing for him. The vet took Fred away to put a canula in his ear and wrapped it in a blue bandage so the canula opening was not visible and then brought him back to us. our son insisted on staying with me and not wanting to leave the room with his dad and so the 3 of us were there together stroking his head and ears. The vet very discretly hid the injection so that our son didn’t actually see what she was doing. We were focused solely on Fred and being there for him and saying goodbye. of course my son was very upset but not by the process but that Fred was no longer going home with us. he came home last night and wrote a card to Fred and drew a picture and we talked only when he wanted to and answered all his questions. we informed him that Fred was ready to say goodby and go and be with his other bunny friends. I hope this helps in your decision and I would say let the child decided at the actual time what they want and that its ok if they change their mind at any point. I’m sorry you have to make this sad decision but a child grieving for the loss of a pet is part of the circle of life and I believe helps them grow with empathy and love for living beings.

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