For those of us who think of our dogs as friends and family members, facing the fact that they won't live as long as we do can be almost unbearable. It's easy enough to put out of your mind when your dog is young, healthy and full of vigor - but when you have a senior dog that has a poor quality of life due to terminal illness or is in constant pain, you're going to have to address the situation.
If cost isn't an issue, you might want to consider home-based hospice care, which is offered through some veterinary hospitals and volunteer organizations. The way pet hospice works is that care for a terminally-ill dog is provided at home rather than in a clinic. While it might not necessarily extend the life of your dog, it can be helpful in preparing you and other family members for your dog's imminent death.
Without a doubt, the hardest decision you will have to make as a dog owner is whether or not you will have to put your old dog to sleep. In many cases, euthanasia (carried out by means of painless injection) is the fairest way to offer your dog a quick and painless end.
If putting your dog to sleep is something you're considering, it's a good idea to discuss the process well in advance. Decide where and when the procedure will take place, which family members will be present and how the remains will be handled. You'll also want to discuss with your family as to how they'd like to say their good-byes. In some cases, veterinarians will actually come to your home and perform the procedure, which can take much of the edge off saying good-bye. Your dog can stay in the comfort of his own bed, in his own home. What's more, you don't have to deal with the clinical environment of the vet's office or pass through a crowded waiting room.
If you or your family are having trouble adjusting to the loss of your dog, you may want to ask your vet for a referral to grief counseling services or pet loss support groups. There are also a number of wonderful websites that can provide comfort and support after the loss of your dog.
The nicest thing you can do for your dog - and for yourself - is to never forget that he was a dear friend and an important part of your family.