Excuse me in advance for the extremely long and detailed text.
Last week I lost my dog who had been in good health for most of her life. We did notice a few weeks ago that she was feeling a bit sick: she was quiet, vomited a few times and peed in our home. We had made an appointment with the vet but cancelled the day before because she was healthy and happy again by then, assuming she must've felt a bit under the weather but was all better now. Two weeks ago we started to notice that she was drinking more than usual and would pee in our home again despite us walking her before bed. I did some research and found that such troubles are usually related to kidney problems. When I noticed her looking at us sadly on top of that and not barking as often as she used to (she has always been quite the yapper) we decided to make another vet appointment, which would take place that next Saturday. On Thursday however, my grandmother (who lives with us) called: she said our dog’s breathing had suddenly started sounding extremely unusual. My mom confirmed that she was indeed breathing loudly and called the vet immediately so she could come over that same day.
I couldn’t go along due to work but soon received the devastating news. According to the ultrasound, our dog had a tumour near her kidneys that had taken up almost ¾ of the space in her tummy. Her heart was enlarged and the vet suspected one of her two kidneys might’ve already failed. He wasn’t sure about that last part since my dog was so frightened that she tried to fight back and bite him, making it impossible to do a full check-up. He didn’t dare to muzzle her since she already had difficulty breathing. He had told us that she probably wouldn’t have made her saturday appointment if we hadn’t come by. Once the diagnosis was made, he insisted multiple times to let him perform euthanasia right away.
While our family has always been for euthanasia when our pets are in pain, we were hesitant to do so in this case. Aside from the drinking and peeing, she had been in pretty much perfect health up until the day before. We had a hard time believing that things were so bad that she had to be put down right then and there. All our other pets were usually given one final attempt at recovery through medication, or were so visibly in pain that we already knew they wouldn’t return if we took them to the vet. Here we hadn’t even considered her having a deadly illness as a possibility. My grandma and mom even said that while her breathing was louder than usual, it didn’t sound like she had that much difficulty with it or that she was in pain. After long moments of doubt, we decided to hold off the euthanasia for now. Even if things were hopeless, our whole family at least wanted to be able to say goodbye to her properly instead of losing her so abruptly. Our dog was also visibly frightened, trying to jump into my mom’s arms constantly to get away from our vet, and we didn’t want her to die both suddenly AND frightened. Our vet, albeit begrudgingly, injected a dose of painkillers that would work until 2 AM. Afterwards we’d have to feed her painkillers he prescribed but he warned us that even with the painkillers she probably wouldn’t live longer than two weeks past this point. He also told us to keep her in a well ventilated room from now on to make it easier for her to breathe.
We did just like that and decided to sleep with her in our big couch in the living room so we could keep an eye on her. She seemed very unresponsive and befuddled during the first hours after she received the painkillers. As hours passed and the medication gradually wore off, she became more like herself but also more restless. She would often walk from one side of the couch to the next, laying down next to each of us for a short period of time. I could start to hear her loud breaths again but unlike what my mom and grandmother had witnessed before, it actually looked like she had a hard time breathing this time. At least it was difficult enough that she clearly couldn’t relax enough to fall asleep. Other than that she showed zero signs of actual pain. But since she was clearly deteriorating, we all silently agreed that we’d call the vet in the morning and ask to have her euthanized that same day. Her condition had visibly worsened after her vet appointment and keeping her alive any longer would’ve been unfair towards her. At least now we knew it was indeed the right thing to do. We’d been given one night to say goodbye and now we could all join her to the vet and be there in her final moments, which would give our family some closure and give her the peaceful death she deserved. Sadly it never came to that.
Around 2:20 AM she kept trying to get off the couch. We didn’t want her to hurt herself by jumping, so we helped her off. We turned away a few for only a second and suddenly she was nowhere to be found: after a bit of searching we found her hiding underneath a table, sitting down. We tried to sit her back down onto the couch but as soon as we did, she walked to the other end of the couch again. Suddenly we heard her whine 3 times and saw a drop of substance leaving her mouth. Alarmed, my mom softly took her in her arms and that’s when it happened. A large stream of blood was leaving her mouth. She wasn’t coughing it up, it just streamed right out. After a few seconds her head suddenly fell limp next to her shoulder, eyes wide open. For a few seconds, we thought she had died then and there. After a few seconds she snapped her head back in place but the blood kept streaming and now there was foam spilling through her nose. Her head fell limp again, than came back again. After she snapped her head back in place a third time, she just laid there with eyes wide open, her heart still beating softly but completely unresponsive. We just held her in our arms and cried as her heartbeat slowly softened until we couldn’t feel it anymore. The whole ordeal took less than 5 minutes and she was gone. She had fought but lost the battle.
We were heartbroken: we knew she didn’t have much time left but we never would’ve expected her to die that same night. We called the vet and told him what had happened. He suspected that due to the painkiller’s effect ending, she must’ve started moving a lot to get rid of the pain which might’ve caused the tumour to press against her heart and resulted in her having a heart attack. There’s no complete certainty about that since no autopsy has been taken place. The vet nevertheless assured us that there was nothing we could’ve done to save her and said that even he hadn’t expected it to happen so soon, although he had feared that she wouldn’t make it past three days.
Aside from this gut-wrenching sadness, I also feel extremely guilty about this whole ordeal. I never wanted her to be in pain. She was our little angel and deserved to die feeling no discomfort whatsoever. And now she probably died from a heart attack, which I can only imagine must’ve been an extremely painful ordeal. I feel like our choice to decline euthanasia robbed her from a peaceful death. We had a chance to let her go softly, which the vet said was the last kind thing we could do for her, and we refused. She might’ve died in our arms but she did so suffering. Was it selfish of us? I know that if we had allowed the immediate euthanasia, the whole family likely would’ve been left in utter disbelief and feeling like we had just let the vet kill our dog without understanding that she truly was that sick and without any goodbyes. It still kills me to this day that I couldn’t be present for my previous dogs’ euthanasia so I know I would’ve been devastated if I wasn’t there for hers AND hadn’t been able to say goodbye either. Should we have pushed those feelings aside and fully committed to what the vet was insisting on? What was the better option: suffering a painful death surrounded by her family or receiving a peaceful death after a her terrifying experience with the vet? Both sound like something I didn’t truly want for her. She deserved to go quietly in her sleep, not covered in blood fighting for her life. Did we make the wrong choice? I truly don’t know……