Pet loss is one of the most painful and hardest things that a pet parent has to cope with. In some cases, a dog can pass away suddenly and without any warning. In other cases, though, there are several certain signs that a dog is dying. In this article, we’ll look at all of them and give you some additional advice, as well.
Dying dogs tend to lose their interest in whatever makes them happy. This includes their favorite activities, such as going outside to play or eating their favorite food or dog treats. A dying dog can easily lose their attachment to these things and even more.
As difficult as it might be to understand, a dog can also show disinterest in the people that he or she loves. Generally, the animal might have so little energy that reacting in the same way he always has would be impossible. Many dogs experience some mental confusion before they pass, so this so-called disinterest is most likely not done on purpose. Your dog’s brain effectively begins to function slower and slower, to the point where it comes close to shutting down. No one can expect a dying animal to show excitement.
Dogs that are approaching their time will often seem like they are very burned out. Dying dogs can choose a specific place to be in, and they often tend to avoid moving from one spot to the next. The one place that your dog chooses is typically located in an area of your home that’s more or less secluded.
A drop in a dog’s activity levels can be seen when he gets old. This doesn’t mean that the animal is coming close to the end of his days. It’s also worth noting that dogs that suffer from chronic illnesses can also seem to be exhausted on occasion. If you notice this, it might be a good idea to take your canine friend to the vet.
A lack of or suppressed appetite
A dying dog usually has no appetite for food and doesn’t want to drink any water. The closer he is to his final goodbye, the more he will refuse to drink and eat. Why does this happen? The answer to this question is that the dog’s digestive system starts to gradually shut down, and the pet’s kidneys and livers do so, as well. A decreased appetite can be correlated with visible weight loss, especially as the dog begins to approach his death.
Keep in mind that older dogs tend to eat smaller amounts of food compared to young adults and even compared to puppies. If your older canine companion is regularly drinking water and eating small amounts of food, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Loss of bowel and bladder control
A dying dog typically loses control over his bowels and bladder as these organs begin to shut down, as well. This can lead to the dog defecating or peeing as they are simply lying on the floor. Even well-trained canines might not have the necessary energy to get up and relieve themselves on their own and in the right place.
Since some dogs can experience this issue for several days before they pass, it is your responsibility to change your canine friend’s bedding and make sure that he’s clean. This should be done to prevent the development of sores, which can be quite common in dogs that lie on one side for hours on end, especially in their pee.
Some dogs that are close to dying can experience restlessness, but as you can expect, this is a symptom that can show up in a variety of diseases and medical conditions. It’s not strictly related to dog death. However, if the dog is dying, his behavior will change. He might get up, start to pant, lick his paws, vocalize, or change his resting spot rather frequently.
If you have been a dog parent for some time, it goes without saying that you have become accustomed to your Fido’s breathing pattern. As dogs approach death, they can sometimes have a difficult time breathing. This can happen over the course of several hours or right before the dog dies. You might notice short, slow, and irregular breaths with some pauses in between. On the other hand, you could notice labored breathing, especially when the dog is really close to passing. If a dog has a fever or there is fluid in his chest, heavy breathing is to be expected, as well.
Some dogs seek comfort
One of the most heartbreaking signs that a dog might be dying is that he might look to his pet parents for comfort. Saying goodbye to your canine friend with grace and love means that you remain in his company during his final hours. Reassure them with a soft voice or gentle stroking. If you’re suspecting that his end is near, it might be a good idea for you to take some time off work so that your Fido doesn’t have to face the end all by himself.
Although you might break down emotionally, try not to do so in the presence of your dog. This could distress him even more, and you probably want him to pass peacefully.
Changes in gum color
A dog’s health status can often be seen in how his gums look. A healthy dog should have pink gums (the color of bubblegum, not intense pink). The pink gums are a result of good and oxygen-rich blood circulation. Moderate moisture is also present on the gums and in the animal’s oral cavity. When the blood flow isn’t on par, there could be some color changes that any pet parent can notice. For example, Fido’s gums and tongue can turn either pale or blue. Pale gums can be seen when the dog is somehow losing blood, whether it’s due to internal or external hemorrhaging. Blue gums can be seen in some intoxications, but also when the blood isn’t oxygenated enough.
Have a talk with your veterinarian about how you can prevent circulatory issues in your canine companion. Some dogs have tumors, such as hemangiosarcoma, and these can sometimes break inside of their body and cause hemorrhages. If this happens and it’s to a minimal extent, there are some pills that you could give your canine friend to stop the bleeding. If the hemorrhage is severe, the dog’s health status is at significant risk, and you can’t really fix the issue with some pills. Your dog might require a blood transfusion, in this case.
Body temperature changes
We might have mentioned that dogs that have chronic illnesses can have a fever before they pass. Hypothermia is possible, as well. Some pet parents can notice that their dog has a cooler breath, as well as cold paws. There is a drop in body temperature and blood pressure before the dog crosses the Rainbow Bridge.
Muscle tremors and shaking
Some dogs experience shaking, muscle tremors, as well as twitches. These spasms occur because of the digestive troubles that a dying dog experiences. There is also a lack of food in a dog’s system at this time, which means that a decrease in blood glucose levels can be responsible for the twitching, as well. A lack of water in the body can lead to dehydration, and this can be another cause for a dying dog shaking… more
Bad skin condition
Because most dogs experience dehydration before they pass, the pet parent can notice that the condition and quality of the animal’s skin deteriorate with each day that goes by. The skin can turn dry, and in some cases, it can even smell.
Is your dog really dying?
The more of the clinical signs that we have described are shown by your dog, the higher the chances that his time is drawing close. However, we recommend that you take your dog in for a consultation if you are having doubts or if your dog isn’t suffering from a chronic illness or you don’t even suspect that he might die because of old age.
The vet will be able to tell you if your suspicions are true. In most cases, no additional tests are necessary. A visit to the vet can be helpful in case your dog isn’t approaching his end, but he might be suffering from a medical condition. If he has just gotten older, some of the symptoms might last for an indefinite amount of time or for the remainder of his life. Some dogs can be rheumatic just like humans are, especially when they grow old. This could mean that you’d have to manage their pain as best as possible and use supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, or even CBD oil if the pain gets nearly unbearable.
If your dog really is about to die, the veterinarian will at least guide you through the process and give you valuable advice on what you could expect, depending on the medical conditions that your friend is suffering from. Putting your dog down is an option for situations where the dog is really suffering, and there’s no solution to the problem. Calculating your dog’s quality of life and having a talk with the vet can help you make the right decision in this sense. It’s not for everyone, but many pet parents would rather end their canine friend’s suffering rather than have him die a painful death.
Comforting a dying dog
Once you have recognized the signs that your dog might be soon dying, the best thing you could do is to try to make him as comfortable as possible. It can surely be frustrating to have to deal with symptoms such as loss of bladder control or vomiting, but being patient with Fido in their old age can make the transition easier for both the dog and yourself.
Since many dogs seek comfort at this time, you should try to sit with your friend for as long as possible. Show your dog affection, even if your dog isn’t responsive. He will still appreciate the comfort.
Unless you want to put your dog down before things start to get extremely painful, it’s not a particularly good idea to move your dog to a new place before he reaches his end. If you have kids, you should explain to them what’s happening so that they know why the dog can’t play or interact with them in the same way.
Having a daily routine can be helpful whether the dog is still in good shape or not. Monitor your dog’s behavior. Even if his health declines, he might still be interested in his daily routine.
Last, but not least, if you have any option when it comes to medication that can control the symptoms or just ease the pain, make sure to get it from your vet.
What can you do if your dog dies at home?
Ideally, your vet will be with you when your dog passes. Many clinics can collect the body and offer burial services or cremation services depending on what you prefer and your budget.
If your dog has crossed the Rainbow Bridge without the presence of a veterinarian nearby, we have some pieces of advice that we can give you. It would be a good idea to wear gloves while you handle the body, not because it can be dangerous, but because you could get exposed to some of the body secretions. Besides, this would complicate things on a mental level for you even more. If you were really close to your canine friend and you have family or friends that can help you, you might want to ask someone else to handle these tasks if you’re extremely emotionally sensitive. As difficult as that might be, some of your loved ones might be able to offer you the emotional support you need during this time, which could include practical things such as handling the dog’s body for you. However, many pet parents prefer to do these preparations themselves to spend several more minutes in the company of their dog.
Place your dog’s body on blankets, a sheet, or a dog bed. Keep in mind that bodily fluids could leave the body at some point or the other, so use some items you can easily part with. There’s no need for you to be scared, but your dog’s body will experience rigor mortis sooner or later. Wrap the pet in a blanket and store the body in a cool place until it is picked up by a professional service.
We’ve written an extensive article about euthanasia in dogs, and we have more advice on how you can handle the loss of a canine friend in that post.