Senior Dog Care. Natural Death and Euthanasia

Since my dog, Hina became unable to eliminate on her own, her aging is proceeding day by day.

For instance, in the span of a few hours, she is unable to do things she was able to in the morning. Additionally, different physical conditions/symptoms manifest daily.

Hina bath
Cleaning Hina’s body in the backyard by my husband.

We give her activities during the day (taking her outside on the dog stroller, and/or sunbathing etc.) so that she can sleep at night which has been an issue due to some delirium caused by her old age.

Her body curls up to the left side of the body even when she sleeps, possibly due to her brain tumor or vestibular barrier.

If we did not place a towel around her neck, her body curls up to her left.

She suddenly not want to eat. She was eating food just a 2 days ago with no issue.

Her ability to swallow food seems to get weaker now. She cannot swallow solids or wet food now. (It does not look like she has a pain inside of her mouth).

She always had a big appetite, but now I make her liquid food, nutrition milk for a dog, watermelon juice, Pocari Sweat (Japanese sports drink).

Giving Hina liquid food
Using a syringe, feeding her liquid food from the side of her mouth.

Because of her fluffy fur, it’s hard to tell, but due to this food change, she has lost her weight quickly. I can feel her hip bone when I touch her hind area.

DIY bedsores pillow for dog
I made bedsores prevention pillow in a shape of a doughnut. I arrange so that Hina’s hip bone will align with the hole of the doughnut pillow.

Since then, I change her body position every 2 hours. Maybe due to using this bedsores pillows, I haven’t seen any bedsores on her body.

But due to her weight loss, her muzzle hangs lower than usual which unfortunately caused her canine tooth to penetrate the skin.

Instead of showing a painful image of her muzzle, I’ll post my cat GYO GYO’s “Fremen reaction”.

Because we can no longer anesthetize her for that, we give her an ointment prescribed by a vet.

Our current veterinarian has been very understanding of the difference in the view of life and death between Japan and the United States. He also has been understanding and supportive that in Japan, it’s normal to nurse the old pets till the natural life ends. But when Hina’s appetite went down the other day, he finally mentioned the word “euthanasia”.

According to our veterinarian, less than 10% of the pet owners in the US choose natural death.

The reasons for that can be the following;

  • Every adult in the household works full time,
  • Veterinary cost is extremely expensive,
  • Quality of life,
  • Cannot handle seeing their pets getting old or dying process,

There can be so many reasons.

We take Hina out on the walk on the dog strollers, because of her no longer able to walk. Since then some dog walk friends and animal rescue friends begin to suggest to euthanaze Hina. For the past few months, I was even told: “You were a terrible dog owner (for not euthanizing her).”

Since this was not a comment from my close friends, I didn’t take it personally. But due to the different culture between Japan and the US, I now realize that nursing a very old dog can be a bit challenging in the US.

Hina on the dog stroller
Hina on the dog stroller. To adjust to summer weather, we added a mini fan on it.

Natural death or euthanasia—Which is the better choice? It is different in each case. Actually, it’s not that we have “consciously” chosen natural death for Hina. Now, we have less and fewer things that we can do for her, but she doesn’t seem to be in pain, still enjoying going outside on the dog stroller, eagerly drink her liquid food, I still sense her will to live—enough to live one more day.

Eating custard cream
I’ve made her custard cream. She seems to find another reason to live 🙂

It would be best if I can ask Hina what to do. But I think this is part of the learning in life, where my dog teaches me by letting me decide what to do on her behalf.

Since my animal rescue partner is traveling to Florida for the next 3 weeks and Hina requires round-the-clock care (changing her body position and hydrating her every 2 hours), I’m going to take a break from my rescue work until August and planning to spend relaxing time with Hina.

During these times, I intend to write about everyday life with Hina, just like summer break diary I had to write when I was a child.


I grew up with dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, fish and love animals since day one. I use to work as writer/magazine editor in Japan and after moving to the United States, I started volunteering at the local animal shelters and rescue organizations. I have been fostering many dogs and cats since 2007. Currently, I am actively feeding many feral cats and doing their TNR (Trap Neuter Return) in the community.

I live with my 12 year old dog and 2 cats. I had lost 13 years old, "long term foster dog" to cancer at the end of Oct 2015. My hope is to create a sanctuary for senior and special needs homeless animals and treat them with both western medicines and holistic way.

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