Dealing with Health Issues

Love Dog
In This Chapter
  • Treating common puppy and adult health problems
  • Helping the senior Beagle
  • Knowing what’s an emergency — and what’s not
  • Bidding a fond farewell

Of course you’re going give your Beagle the best of care. But no matter how diligent you are in your efforts to keep him healthy, eventually your dog will get sick. Some illnesses are serious; others are not. This chapter helps you determine which of your little hound’s health problems are emergencies, which ones are less so — and how to deal with each, in partnership with your vet.

Treating Puppy Problems

Beagle puppies are almost always in the best of health, but occasionally a problem befalls one of these little gals. Beyond the usual cases of worms and such, a Beagle under the age of 1 year may encounter one of the following conditions.

Cherry eye

This condition results when the tissue that holds the tear-producing gland in the dog’s third eyelid weakens, causing the gland to pop out of place and become visible at the inner corner of the eye. The gland looks like a cherry: round and bright red. The condition isn’t painful — at least not initially — but without treatment, the tear gland can become irritated or infected, or even cease to function. For that reason, you should put in a call to your vet as soon as possible if your Beagle develops this condition.

Treatment consists of surgery that tacks the gland back into its proper position.

Chondrodysplasia

Chondrodysplasia is a big name for a relatively rare disease that keeps a Beagle very small. The condition prevents the bones and vertebrae from growing properly, resulting in deformed vertebrae and legs, and joint pain. Some people call the affected dogs “dwarf Beagles.”
The disease usually shows up when the puppy is 3 to 4 weeks old. Affected puppies don’t develop as quickly as their littermates, have trouble moving, and appear to be in pain. By the time the pup reaches 6 months of age, the growth plates of the bones have matured and the puppy becomes more comfortable. However, she may limp when she walks, her legs may be deformed, and her back and neck appear abnormal. An X-ray taken when the puppy is no more than 2 months old can illuminate the bone abnormalities that are the hallmarks of this disease.
Chondrodysplasia has no cure, but medications can relieve the pain that comes with the arthritis that results from this condition.

Puppy pyoderma

Sometimes a Beagle puppy develops what looks like mild acne on the hairless area of her abdomen. This condition is called puppy pyoderma, and it usually results from the presence of Staphylococcus bacteria.
Puppy pyoderma is not a serious condition. Your vet can prescribe special shampoos to treat the belly zits and speed their exit. In severe cases, he may also prescribe an antibiotic.

Handling Adult Health Challenges

Generally, the period between 1 and 8 or 9 years of age finds your Beagle in her prime. She’s not as vulnerable as she was when she was a puppy, and she doesn’t have to cope with the frailties of old age. Still, some maladies can befall the young and middle-aged adult Beagle. Here’s a sampling of the most common.

Allergies

If your Beagle constantly scratches herself or if you just can’t seem to get rid of her ear infections, she may suffer from an underlying problem: allergies. Just like people, Beagles and other dogs can develop allergic reactions to a wide variety of sources. These allergy-triggering sources can include grass, pollen, carpeting, or even certain foods.
Treatment for allergies depends on the severity of the problem and the cause. Minor problems may be controllable with simple antihistamines and dietary adjustments, such as adding fatty acid supplements. More severe problems require diagnostic testing. Depending on the results of the tests — which, in the case of food allergies, can take up to four months to perform — your vet may recommend a complete change in diet or even allergy shots.
Allergies can’t be cured, but in many cases they can be controlled — with time and patience. The result, however, will be a much more comfortable Beagle.

Dental problems

The vast majority of dogs over the age of 3, including more than a few Beagles, have some sort of dental problem: bad breath, inflamed gums, and yellowing teeth. A veterinarian can take a look at your dog’s teeth and confirm a diagnosis of dental disease.
Treatment of dental disease starts with a full cleaning that is performed while the dog is under anesthesia. The cleaning includes not only removing the tartar (the brown and yellow stuff) from the teeth, but also extracting any teeth that have become loose. The vet may also prescribe antibiotics to fight off any infections that the dog’s dental disease may have caused.

Tip

You can prevent dental disease from occurring in the first place — simply by brushing your Beagle’s teeth every day. See Chapter Sprucing Up Your Beagle.

Hypothyroidism

Most of the time, the Beagle body does just what it’s supposed to do, but occasionally the inner workings go awry. For example, if your middle-aged Beagle starts putting on weight for no apparent reason, becomes lethargic, and starts losing hair on both sides of her body, she could suffer from hypothyroidism. This condition occurs when the dog’s thyroid gland produces insufficient levels of thyroid hormone. The skin may become scaly-looking and rough to the touch, and become infected frequently. Chronic ear infections and skin allergies also could signal the onset of this condition.
A blood test can confirm the veterinarian’s diagnosis. Daily doses of synthetic thyroid hormone can control the condition and allow your Beagle to live a completely normal life.

Idiopathic epilepsy

Epilepsy is fairly common among many dog breeds, including Beagles, but very often the cause is unknown. Such epilepsy is called idiopathic epilepsy, and it’s believed to be genetic in origin.
The first epileptic seizure usually occurs between 6 months and 4 years of age. A seizure usually starts when the dog falls on her side (unless she’s already lying down). The head and neck arch, and the mouth opens wide. The limbs extend fully and begin to move in a jerky manner. The dog may lose control of her bowels or bladder, and she may froth at the mouth. The seizure probably will last about two minutes, although it can continue for longer. Afterward, the dog sleeps for about 20 minutes. When she awakens, she may walk aimlessly and be extremely hungry or thirsty.
If your Beagle has a seizure, your best immediate course of action is no action at all. Just leave her alone, unless she is near a flight of stairs — if that’s the case, move her to a safe place. And keep kids and strangers away; even the nicest dog may bite during a seizure because she’s scared, confused, or just completely out of it.
Your vet needs to see your Beagle if she has more than one seizure or if the seizure is accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Your vet will perform an extensive examination and lab tests to determine if the seizure has an obvious cause, such as a brain tumor. If nothing turns up, epilepsy is likely and the vet can prescribe medication such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide, both of which can control seizures.

Intervertebral disc disease

If your normally active Beagle suddenly stops, yelps with pain, and refuses to put weight on a paw, she may have developed a condition that’s quite common to this breed: intervertebral disc disease.
The disease results when a disc — the gelatinous cushion (like a jelly doughnut) between two vertebrae — ruptures. When the rupture occurs, the vertebrae no longer have a cushion, and the ruptured disc material may protrude and press onto the spinal cord. Depending on where the rupture occurs and its severity, the dog could experience paralysis in some or all of her legs. If you notice your dog exhibiting symptoms of this disease, your dog needs to see her vet as soon as possible.
At minimum, a myelogram — an X-ray of the spine after a dye has been injected into the spinal fluid — is needed to determine whether a dog has disc disease. However, the myelogram may not reveal a disc rupture. In such cases, the veterinarian will order a CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment for disc disease depends on how severe the problem is. For relatively mild cases, a month of strict confinement to a crate (the dog can’t leave the crate except to eliminate) plus administration of an anti-inflammatory medication may help. For more severe cases — or if the problem recurs — surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and remove the disc is the treatment of choice, followed by several weeks of crate rest.

Easing Your Beagle’s Golden Years

The Beagle enters her senior years at around 8 to 10 years of age. Why the range? Because every Beagle is an individual. The care she’s been given, her genes, and her luck all play a role in determining not only her lifespan but also when she enters the twilight of that lifespan. Rather than assume that your little hound is a golden oldie at an arbitrary point in time, see if she’s showing signs of impending seniorhood. Those signs include:

Slowing down: Aging dogs aren’t all that different from aging people — both species move more slowly than when they were younger. As your Snoopy-dog enters her golden years, she’ll probably take more time lying down for a nap, getting up from that nap, and getting up and down the stairs than she did when she was a youngster. She also probably won’t want to chase a ball or retrieve a Frisbee for as long as she used to.

Getting grayer: Gray or white hair, especially around the eyes and muzzle, is a strong indicator of seniorhood.

Having accidents: Many aging Beagles appear to forget proper potty protocol. The causes can range from simply having an aging bladder to developing a condition called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), which I discuss in a later section of this chapter.

Being “out of it”: The senior Beagle who seems to get lost in her own backyard or ignore you when you call her may simply be showing her age. At this point in time, many dogs lose some of their hearing or vision, which can cause them to act disoriented.

Freaking out more often: Loud noises, such as fireworks and thunderstorms, may not have upset your Beagle during her youth, but that could change once she hits seniorhood.

Warning!

Although all these developments may herald the onset of canine old age, they could also signal the presence of serious illness. Don’t attribute any of these changes to mere seniorhood; have your vet check your Beagle over.

Checkups are, in fact, a great way to help your Beagle’s seniorhood be truly golden. Start by stepping up her wellness exams. Most vets want to see your aging Beagle twice a year rather than once a year once she’s truly an oldie-but-goodie. The reason: Frequent checkups give your vet that much more opportunity to uncover any possible problems.
In between visits, keep a careful eye on your senior Snoopy-dog for any changes in her physical demeanor or behavior. Some of those changes can mean the onset of diseases or conditions that are common to senior Beagles. Here are a few.

Arthritis

Arthritis is most commonly found among older dogs, although it can strike a dog of any age. When the cartilage that covers the bones becomes worn, the bones that form the joints rub up against each other. The joints become inflamed, and painful arthritis results.
The arthritic Beagle has more trouble getting around than the  more agile Snoopy-dog does and may have trouble lying down for a nap or getting up from one. Negotiating stairs and taking walks may become challenging.
To confirm a diagnosis, your dog’s vet needs to examine the affected limb(s) and the rest of the body. He may also take X-rays of the affected joints. Fortunately, remedies for arthritis abound. They include:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These range from common aspirin to state-of-the-art meds such as Rimadyl and Deramaxx.

Nutritional supplements: Glucosamine and chrondroitin sulfate are examples. They come in tablets, liquid, or injectable form.

Acupuncture: The traditional Chinese healing method employs specially placed needles to bring the body into proper balance.

Dietary adjustments: Reducing the amount of food your dog eats helps pare poundage from an overweight Beagle and thus reduces strain on the joints.

Surgery: Your vet may suggest this in certain cases.

Tip

Giving your arthritic Beagle moderate exercise can do a great deal to alleviate arthritis pain. One or two daily walks, regular swims, or other gentle, regular exercise can help a stiff, sore Beagle stay a little more limber and reduce her discomfort. Most importantly, keep your dog slim enough so you can feel her ribs. A sleek physique lessens strain on the joints.

Cancer

Cancer is one of the most common diseases to strike dogs of any age. According to the Animal Cancer Institute at the University of Colorado, one in five dogs will develop cancer during her lifetime. Those odds rise considerably when a dog ages. The Veterinary Cancer Center at the University of Colorado reports that 45 percent of all dogs over the age of 10 die from cancer.
The signs of canine cancer are similar to those of human cancer. They include:
  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Appetite loss
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Offensive, unexplained odor
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss
In addition, seizures, unresolved vomiting, and a change in demeanor can signal the onset of cancer, particularly if one or more symptoms in the list above also are present.

Canine cancer can take many forms. Among the most common are lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), skin cancers, and bone cancer. A cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence for a dog. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy (the good news here: Dogs generally tolerate chemo much better than people do), radiation, and a change in diet. In addition, many scientists are working aggressively to improve treatments for cancer in dogs.

What about health insurance?

In theory, pet health insurance sounds like a great idea. Just like with human beings, health insurance for pets allows you to prepay some of the future veterinary costs that your Beagle is likely to incur. However, theory and practice aren’t always identical. Before you sign up for any health insurance plan for your little hound, look carefully at the deductibles and reimbursement rates, and crunch some numbers. Check, too, for strange conditions or exceptions. For example, at least one major health insurer covers the cost of spaying or neutering but not the cost of the anesthesia required for either procedure (no, I’m not kidding).
Your objective here is to make sure that you don’t end up paying more for your Beagle’s health care than you would if you hadn’t signed up for insurance at all.

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome

One of the many ways that humans and dogs are similar is that both can acquire a disease in which proteins form plaque deposits on the brain. These deposits cause a wide range of behavioral changes, including apathy, anxiety, confusion, disorientation, and a changed sleep cycle. In human beings, the condition is known as Alzheimer’s disease; in dogs, the disease is called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).
To diagnose CDS, a veterinarian may perform blood tests, urinalysis, testing of thyroid and adrenocortical hormone levels, and CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Two treatments can help delay the effects of CDS.

Anipryl: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved this drug specifically to help reduce the symptoms of CDS.

Prescription Diet Canine b/d: Hills Pet Foods, which manufactures the product, says this food is designed to combat the effects of aging on the canine brain, even when those effects are as extreme as CDS symptoms can be.

Diabetes

Many breeds, including Beagles, can acquire diabetes, which results when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin, a hormone that enables the body to process sugar in the blood. Older dogs and overweight dogs are especially vulnerable. Symptoms include:

– Increased thirst and urination

– Weight loss despite an increased appetite

– Cloudiness of the eye

Blood tests and analysis of a urine sample confirm the diagnosis. Treatment is the same as for humans: injections of the insulin the body can’t produce by itself. The condition can’t be cured, but a lifelong program of medication, nutritional management (to reduce or maintain weight), and regular exercise can enable the diabetic Beagle to live a long, healthy life.

Remember

Even if your Beagle is disease free, you need to adjust your routines to your little hound’s age. If the stairs are getting to be too much for her, pick her up and carry her. If her eyesight is failing, reconsider whether you want to rearrange your furniture. If her hearing is on the wane, start teaching her how to respond to hand signals as well as audio cues (Chapter Housetraining Your Beagle shows you how). If her metabolism is slowing down and she’s starting to look a little pudgy, adjust her food regimen accordingly.

My Beagle Is Sick! What Should I Do?

No matter how careful you are with your Snoopy-dog, the time will come when she’s clearly not feeling well. But even though your Beagle may exhibit symptoms of illness that frighten you, not all of those symptoms signal the presence of a life-threatening or even serious condition. In this section, I identify signs of illness that require an immediate trip to your vet or emergency clinic, signs that require a phone call, and signs that may not signify illness at all.

Call the doggy ambulance

There’s no such thing as an ambulance for dogs (at least not that I know of), but the following symptoms should prompt you to get your Beagle to your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately.

Breathing problems

If your Beagle seems to be having trouble breathing, she needs to see her vet right away. She could be suffering from life-threatening heart or lung problems, pneumonia, heartworms, anemia (perhaps caused by an undetected internal injury), or obstructions in the respiratory tract. Even excess weight can force your four-legged friend to literally gasp for breath. A runny nose qualifies, too. If your Beagle has a cloudy or bloody nasal discharge, she needs a vet’s attention immediately.

Changed gum color

If your Beagle’s normally pink gums turn white, blue, yellow, or red, get her to a vet pronto. The various colors may indicate anemia, shock, breathing problems, liver or gall bladder disease, blood poisoning, severe infection, or heat stroke. Unexplained bruising of the gums is an emergency, too.

Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is the condition that results when a dog is overheated — and an overheated dog is a dog whose life is in danger. She’s likely to be panting to an extreme, have a dark red tongue and gums, and be extremely lethargic. She also may be confused, experience shallow or rapid breathing, vomit blood, and collapse.
Have someone else phone your vet while you cool down your dog. Immerse her body in a tub of tepid to cool (but not icy) water, spray her with water from a hose that’s not been out in the sun, or apply cold wet compresses to her face, neck, feet, and armpits. After the soaking, get her to a vet so she can be treated for any problem resulting from the excessive heat.

Warning!

Never, ever leave your Beagle in a parked car when the outdoor temperature is 70 degrees or more, not even in the shade with some windows rolled partway down. The interior temperature can exceed 100 degrees in a matter of minutes and kill your little hound.

Hypothermia

If your Beagle has cold legs or rigid muscles, shivers deeply, and acts lethargic, she may be experiencing hypothermia, the opposite of hyperthermia. Wrap your dog in blankets, put her in your car, and hot-foot it to your vet’s.

Tip

Your Beagle’s coat is too short to protect her against extremely cold temps for very long. If you’re going to be out on a frigid day for more than a few minutes, put on her doggy coat or sweater.

Obvious trauma

If your Beagle experiences any clearly traumatic event, such as a fall or being hit by a car, she needs to see a vet right away, even if she seems to be OK. She could have a life-threatening internal injury.

Persistent vomiting

A Beagle who vomits frequently over several hours — particularly if the vomitus contains blood or foreign material — may have a major malady. The many possible causes include ingesting a foreign object, poisoning, pancreatitis, kidney disease, cancer, or inflammatory bowel syndrome. Some of these causes are lifethreatening, while others aren’t. But only a vet can tell you why your dog can’t keep anything down, and to do that, he needs to see her. For that reason, persistent vomiting qualifies as a symptom that requires a vet’s immediate attention.

Tip

If you think your dog’s problem is caused by poisoning, have someone call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The specialists there can determine what antidote your Beagle needs, and the caller can forward that info to you and your vet. A phone consult to the center costs $55; you can pay with plastic. The phone number is 888-426-4435. More info is available at www.aspca.org/apcc.

Significant bleeding

If your Beagle bleeds from anywhere so extensively that the bleeding continues even after a pressure bandage has been applied for 15 to 20 minutes, she needs to see a vet right away. Bleeding that spurts or pulses outward for any length of time also requires a vet’s immediate attention.

Tip

If you accidentally cut the quick of your dog’s nail while trimming, don’t panic and don’t call your vet. Just check out Chapter Sprucing Up Your Beagle.

Staggering

Is your Beagle walking as though she’s had several beers too many? If so, she may have ingested antifreeze — a potentially fatal dietary indiscretion — or have a metabolic problem. Get her to a vet pronto.

Sudden collapse

A Beagle whose legs suddenly buckle underneath her needs to see a vet pronto, even if she remains conscious. She could be suffering from heart problems or the worsening of an illness.

Sudden eye change

An eye that suddenly becomes red, changes color, or shows a change in the size of the pupil needs prompt veterinary attention. Possible causes are glaucoma, which leads to blindness if not treated promptly, or another eye condition called anterior uveitis.
 

Give your vet a heads-up

The symptoms listed here may signal problems that are potentially serious but not immediately life-threatening. Your best response to these problems is to call your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you first notice any of these symptoms after hours, though, it’s okay to wait until morning to make the call.

Appetite changes

If your Beagle bypasses her meal more than a couple of times, she could have a serious medical problem. The same is true if your dog suddenly starts eating much more food than usual. Increased food intake is a common symptom of diabetes, a condition that often befalls older dogs.

Bad breath

Hoochy poochie breath is no laughing matter, despite all the joking references to “dog breath” that we hear. Your foul-mouthed Beagle may have dental disease — discussed earlier in this chapter — or other problem such as diabetes, kidney disease, sinus problems, or a problem with her immune system. All require a vet’s attention.

Behavioral changes

A sudden or extreme change in your Beagle’s behavior or personality can indicate that something physical is amiss. A disoriented  older dog may have cognitive dysfunction syndrome or may belosing her eyesight or hearing. Lethargy and depression can signal the presence of many dangerous conditions.
If your dog’s personality has changed significantly, check on your own for any physical signs of illness — but also call your vet. Share with him what you’ve discovered to put your Beagle on the road to recovery that much faster.

Body odor

A Beagle with BO is not necessarily normal. Unless your dog has rolled in something gross, her stinkiness could result from seborrhea (which also causes hair loss, flaking, and greasy skin), an infected wound, or cancer. In any case, she needs a vet’s attention.

Constipation

A dog who goes for more than two days without taking a dump may simply be constipated, or may have an intestinal blockage caused by a foreign object or a tumor. Call your vet.

Diarrhea

All dogs get the runs sometime, often more than once. Such instances usually result from a dietary goof or a tummy bug. A 12-hour fast, followed by a bland diet of hamburger and rice, usually gives the digestive tract time to recover. But if your Beagle’s diarrhea lasts for more than a day, put in a call to your vet. Call sooner if she exhibits any other symptoms listed in this chapter.

Hair loss

Doggy baldness is not normal. If your dog is losing so much hair that she’s got bald spots, she could be suffering from one of several conditions. Call your vet.

Lameness

The Beagle who favors one leg over the others needs to see her vet as soon as possible. This condition isn’t a dire emergency, but it could reflect serious problems that range from arthritis to bone cancer. A dog who favors one leg, then the other, may have arthritis or a heart valve infection. Either way, she needs to see her vet.

Lumps and bumps

If you find a lump under your Snoopy-dog’s skin, call your vet as soon as possible during business hours, and make an appointment for him to see your four-legged friend. But don’t panic: The lump may not be cancerous. Warts, fatty tumors, and cysts also can make your dog feel lumpy. Your vet can tell you what’s going on.

Sores that don’t heal

A cut or sore that doesn’t heal may signal a serious condition such as cancer, or a less serious (but frustrating) condition called acral lick granuloma. Either way, the dog needs to see her veterinarian, who can run the proper tests and determine the cause of the problem.

Stinky ears

A stinky-eared Beagle is probably a pretty unhappy Beagle. Her problem probably results from a painful ear infection. If such infections occur frequently, they may reflect an underlying problem such as allergies or hypothyroidism. Successful treatment requires a vet to address not only the infection itself but also determine the cause.

Unexplained weight gain or loss

A Beagle who’s porking out or getting skinny for no clear reason could be more than a little sick. If you notice a change in your Beagle’s bod either way, but can’t figure out why, make that call.

Unusual fatigue

If your Beagle seems to suddenly lose energy and fails to regain it, your vet needs to know. Such lethargy could be a symptom of anemia, kidney disease, liver disease, hypothyroidism, obesity, arthritis, or cancer.

Weird-looking poop

Poop that changes from its usual color or otherwise looks odd could signal one of many problems, and requires a vet’s attention. Unusual-looking poop includes:

Black or dark brown poop: This indicates bleeding that could result from a tumor, an ulcer, kidney or liver problems, or inflammatory bowel disease. Other possibilities are parasites, a bleeding tooth, bleeding in the mouth, dental disease, or even swallowing the blood that results from an overlicked paw.

Grayish, greasy-looking poop: Poop that looks like this may indicate that your Beagle can’t digest the fats in his food. Other possible causes of gray poop may be urinary stones, a tumor, or an inflammation of the pancreas.

Not to worry . . .

The following conditions appear worrisome but actually don’t require a vet’s attention.

Butt-dragging

Nothing is seriously wrong if your Beagle starts dragging her bottom across the ground. The likely cause is anal sacs that need to be expressed, or emptied. You can do this thankless task yourself by following the steps in Chapter Sprucing Up Your Beagle, or you can ask your vet to do the job.

Cloudy discharge from the penis

If your Beagle boy discharges a bit of cloudy stuff from his penis, watch his bathroom behavior. If he has no problems peeing, there’s no need to call the vet.

Noisy breathing

Sometimes a dog starts to breathe in a way that resembles a human asthma attack. Vets call such breathing reverse sneezing, and it’s nothing to worry about. The condition generally abates within a few minutes — but if it doesn’t, call your vet.

Saying Goodbye to Your Beagle

Living with a Beagle — or, for that matter, any dog — has to be one of life’s greatest joys. But for all those joys, dog ownership brings one sorrow that is almost certainly inevitable: We almost always live longer than our dogs do. That means the time will come when you will need to face your Beagle’s impending death and say goodbye to her.
In all likelihood, that time will come when your Beagle is 10 to 14 years old. In some unfortunate instances, it could occur sooner; if you and your Snoopy-dog are very lucky, it will occur later. No matter when the end comes, however, you need to be prepared for it — not only for your sake but also for your dog’s.
Fortunately, we can limit the suffering of our canine companions and allow them to die with dignity, thanks to euthanasia. But with this ability comes the responsibility to use this power wisely — to know when the time is right to euthanize. How can you tell when the time has come? Answering these questions can give you clues:

How’s my Beagle doing? If your dog is still interested in the world around her, eating with gusto, and enjoying your company, she may be able to stick around a little longer. On the other hand, if she’s apathetic, in constant pain, and losing her appetite, now may be the right time to let her go.

How am I doing? Your state of mind should count for something in this decision. If your Beagle has a terminal illness but still seems healthy, you may not want to euthanize her yet. On the other hand, if you’re providing nursing care for your terminally ill dog — and if that care is becoming more than you can handle physically, emotionally, and financially — it may be time to consider euthanasia.

What will happen? Find out from your vet how your dog’s condition will progress. If your dog will suffer or lose her dignity, or if you and your family will face undue hardship, now may be the time to let her go.

When you’ve decided that the time has come to let your dog go, you can follow these suggestions to make the process a little easier:

Make arrangements with your veterinarian beforehand, if at all possible. Most clinics will allow you to pay for the procedure in advance and will allow you to choose how you want your dog’s body to be disposed.

Try to book your appointment at the end of the day. This allows your vet to spend some time with you and not have to rush off to see another patient.

Arrange to be off work at the time of the procedure, if you can. At this time, it’s hard to even put up a pretense of working, much less actually get something done.

The procedure is brief and painless for your Beagle. Your vet or a technician probably will prepare an intravenous catheter (IV) and place it in one of your dog’s veins. The vet then pumps a sedative through the IV to cause your dog to go to sleep, and then administers the euthanasia solution. Some vets do the procedure in one step.
Many owners choose to stay with their pets during the euthanasia procedure. If you can maintain sufficient composure to comfort your Beagle, you won’t regret having stayed with her as she goes to a better place. On the other hand, if you can’t bear the thought of watching your Beagle die, don’t feel you have to stay — your reaction could add to your dog’s stress. Either way, you are in the best position to decide what’s best for both of you.
Afterward, you’re likely to feel devastated — but, if your Beagle had a prolonged illness, you may also feel relief. Either feeling is okay. What’s important is that you’ve given your Beagle the gift of a dignified death — the final gift in life that was filled with love.

For more information on euthanizing a beloved canine companion — making the decision, experiencing the actual process, and coping with the aftermath — consult my own book, Senior Dogs For Dummies (Wiley), which contains an extensive discussion on coping with the end of a beloved dog’s life.

by Susan McCullough

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