The thought of your dog passing away is unbearable to grasp. No matter how long a dog lives, all dogs have an expected lifespan that unfortunately always seems too short. As your dog ages and nears its final years you will need to look for signs the end is coming soon. As a pet parent, this can be difficult to observe since most dogs are excellent at hiding their injuries and pain.
Dogs that live in the wild naturally hide signs of illness or injury the best they can to ensure they aren’t an easy target for predators. Although your dog is domesticated they still have this natural instinct which makes it difficult for pet parents to notice their beloved dog is nearing the end of their life.
Signs A Dog Is Dying
To make things easier for you, the following list includes signs you can look for to help find out if your dog is approaching the end of its journey.
1. Searching for Comfort
A dog that feels unwell and dying will sometimes seek comfort. This can be cuddling in the arms of their owner or hiding under the bed, in their dog crate, or under other furniture to be in a safe place as their life comes to an end.
At first, you might not think much of your dog crawling into your arms while on the sofa watching television together. However, if your dog is crawling into your arms when you are sitting on the floor playing with them, you might want to consider this as a sign.
Your once happy and energetic dog might become depressed because they don’t feel well. You will notice your dog will become withdrawn, stop doing things they usually do, refuse to go on walks, and have unusual sleep patterns. A physical sign that is noticeable is the expression on their face. Their eyes will look sad and sometimes look like they are about to cry.
If your dog is showing signs of depression for a long period of time, visit a veterinarian for further assistance with treating depression.
3. Not Interested in Daily Routine
Dogs thrive on daily routines. They enjoy eating, playing, sleeping, and going on walks at the same time every day. This might seem boring but dogs love a familiar regimen. You will notice they have a difficult time keeping up with their daily routine or have no interest in continuing with their regimen. Loss of interest in playing outdoors, running around in their invisible dog fence, going on walks, playing with toys, snuggling on the sofa, and playing with the children in the household are key signs your dog has lost interest.
4. Changes in Appetite
Your hungry little cookie monster that begged for treats every day will experience a lack of appetite. Most dogs that don’t feel well eat less or stop eating completely. Loss of appetite and no interest in consuming their dog food or drinking water is a common sign most dying dogs experience. Once you notice their eating and drinking habits are gone, you can be sure your dog is feeling unwell and possibly nearing its last days.
Your happy puppy dog will become grumpy and irritated as its quality of life deteriorates. They could be suffering from health conditions that come with old age or a terminal illness. They could be suffering from pain and become grumpy, irritated, and react by growling, snapping, or start barking at everything.
6. Cold and Shivering
A dog’s body temperature becomes lower during the dying process. Curling into a little ball to try to stay warm and showing consistent physical signs of shivering or trembling is common. You can help your dog by surrounding them with blankets in their dog bed to help them stay warm and comfortable.
7. Color of the Gums Change
A change in the color of your dog’s gums is a sign their organs are not working properly. A blue tone on the gums is a sign there is a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream (1). Pale or white gums can indicate there is a loss of blood or internal bleeding. Or, it could be a sign of severe anemia.
Loss of muscle control is common in aging dogs. Spasms or twitching can also occur due to dehydration. However, muscle spasms can also cause your dog to lose its balance which can prevent them from their daily activities.
9. Gastrointestinal Problems
This symptom is usually rare but it’s worth mentioning since some dogs have digestive issues towards the end of their life. Signs such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting can occur as your dog nears the end of its life. Visiting a veterinarian is recommended to help lessen the symptoms and help your dog feel more comfortable.
10. Extreme Lethargy
This symptom is easily confused with depression. Extreme lethargy symptoms are highly noticeable because your dog won’t move around much, refuse to go on walks and feel heavy and limp if you pick them up and hold them in your arms. Chances are you have already seen your dog experience extreme lethargy symptoms throughout their lifetime when they were feeling unwell.
11. Unusual Breathing
One of the most common signs a dog is close to death is labored breathing. As a dog’s body breaks down, slows down, and is on its way to ending life breathing becomes strained and unusual. Sometimes a dog can be just minutes away from death while others can experience unusual breathing for days or weeks.
The loss of bladder control is normal for aging dogs that still allows your dog to live a good quality of life. However, if your dog is experiencing other symptoms mentioned on this list combined with sudden incontinence issues that seem to have come out of the blue, visit a veterinarian immediately to determine if it’s just old age or a sign your dog is dying.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What are the signs of a dog dying?
Signs a dog is dying to include depression, loss of interest in daily activities, appetite changes, irritability, lowered body temperature, changes in gum color, twitching, gastrointestinal problems, unusual breathing, extreme lethargy, loss of coordination, and incontinence.
2. What do dogs do when they are about to die?
Most dogs will become lethargic, try to hide or seek comfort and become sad and depressed due to feeling unwell. Some dogs might cry, whine, or breathe heavily or unusual.
3. What happens when a dog dies naturally?
The body will break down, organs will shut down, breathing will become labored and slow until it stops. All dogs are different and can experience additional symptoms depending on their condition.
4. Do dogs ever die in their sleep?
Yes. Some dogs will pass away in their sleep. The timing is natural and it can occur at any time of the day when a dog is sleeping or awake.
How to Help Your Dog When They are Dying
Continue daily routines
Chances are your dog has been in your life for many years and you have established a daily routine. Continue to treat every day as you always did in the past. Offer to walk your dog on time, feed them and include play and cuddle time. Your dog will feel a sense of normal even though they don’t feel well or have the energy to participate.
Don’t introduce your new activities into your dog’s life when they are lethargic. Instead, stay on track with your routine and only do what your dog enjoys such as play with toys or cuddle on the sofa.
Your dog is feeling unwell and probably confused. Having you close by brings them comfort and helps keep them calm.
Do your best to help limit the pain your dog is experiencing. The veterinarian will guide you towards proper steps and medications or over-the-counter supplements such as CBD oil that will help lessen pain and create a more calm physical and mental state of mind.
Contact the veterinarian
Contact the veterinarian as soon as you notice your dog could be nearing the end of its life. An exam will determine your dog’s health condition and the veterinarian will make suggestions on how to help your dog reach the end of its life in peace. Sometimes the veterinarian will recommend putting your dog to sleep to help reduce suffering.
Make them happy and preserve quality of life
Your adorable little dog still has its personality and wants to play and live. Do your best to make them happy by offering them a few of their favorite dog treats and placing their favorite toys around the area they are resting near. Sometimes just being able to see their favorite toys brightens up their day and makes them feel happy.
Hold them in your arms
Some dogs will feel the most comfortable and safe when they are in your arms. Cuddle them in a blanket and hold them in your arms if their condition allows you.
What To Do After Your Dog Passes Away
The big moment happened and your dog has finished its journey here on earth. You are most likely feeling overwhelmed with grief and sadness. Making end-of-life decisions and saying goodbye to your dog needs planning and organization. Consider incorporating the following options into your goodbye plans for your dog.
Many pet parents choose cremation and keep the ashes in a beautiful container to always remind them of their dog. Others decide to spread the ashes in locations that were their dog’s favorite places to go.
Contact your local pet cemetery to find out more about burial options. You can also choose to bury your dog in your yard if you own your home and choose to find a special area that suits the occasion.
Honoring your dog
Many pet parents keep a box of memories of their dog that includes their collar, identification tags, a lock of their hair, their favorite toys, and other items that encourage pleasant memories.
You can have a memorial stone made and place it in your garden. Typically, the name of your dog and a sweet message that will brighten your day is placed on the stone.
You can keep a memory of your dog close to you every day when you choose a necklace and charm that resembles your dog. You can also wear a locket and place a picture of your dog inside to keep close to your heart.
You might be feeling sad but you can help yourself heal by creating a unique ceremony to honor your dog. Some pet parents plant a tree in their yard to symbolize their dog’s life and give them something to nurture and grow as time moves forward.
The grieving process is different for everyone. Make sure you understand your limits and create a healing process for you to be in the present moment as well as look towards the future.
Take your time and don’t force yourself to push forward too fast. Take a few days off from work if possible, enjoy your favorite comfort foods and do things that bring you joy. Creating a photo album is recommended so you have all of your dog’s memories in one place. Decide if you prefer to display your dog’s items or hide them away and look at them on occasion.
It’s important to follow what feels right for you during the grieving process. Some pet parents feel comfortable with immediately welcoming another dog or pet into the family while others need to allow the pain from losing one dog to fall into the past before they can open their heart to another pet.
Helping your dog enjoy the end of its life will help you feel like you have some type of control over the situation. Remember to do your best to recognize the signs your dog is dying then take steps to help your dog feel as comfortable as possible as they reach the end of their journey.