Death is an essential part of life, but that’s something most dog owners don’t want to think about. Unfortunately, dogs have shorter lifespans than people, and a day will come when you’ll need to say goodbye to your faithful companion.
But how do you know that your dog is near death? The early signs a dog is dying are lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, and loss of interest in the world around them. These common signs may start appearing months or days before death. At the very end, your dog may experience pain, labored breathing, a change in gum color, and restlessness.
Whether your dog is getting older or you already have an old and sick dog at home you may be worried that their time to move on has come. Knowing the warning signs that a dog is dying can help you get prepared as there are many things you can do to keep your dog comfortable at the end of its life.
Signs That Your Dog is Dying
There are several signs that you can look to know if your dog’s time to go has come. A dying dog will exhibit several telltale signs that death is approaching.
You’ll have enough time to contact your vet and decide whether natural passing or euthanasia is a better way for your dog to go.
Early Signs Your Dog is Dying
Below, you will find the early signs that your dog is on its way to leaving this world. Some dogs may start to exhibit these symptoms months or weeks before their death, though they may also happen mere days before dying.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite is a common symptom of many diseases but it can also be a sign that your dog is dying. Like people, dogs will stop eating when they feel sick, so you shouldn’t jump to any conclusions yet. Especially if your dog isn’t exhibiting any other signs of dying.
Book an appointment with your vet and have them check your dog to rule out any health problems first.
Loss of energy and lethargy are common signs of dying, but they can also point to an array of underlying health problems. Dogs that are near the end of their lives don’t move around much and spend most of their days lying and sleeping.
While lethargy can be a symptom of many diseases, unexplained lethargy or lethargy coupled with old age can be a sign that your pooch is dying.
Weight loss is common for older dogs and is a normal part of the aging process as senior dogs can’t digest proteins as efficiently as their younger counterparts (source). Your dog may start losing weight way before experiencing any other signs of dying.
Since various illnesses can cause weight loss in dogs, take your pooch to the vet for a full checkup. There is a chance that your dog is sick, but can be treated and make a full recovery thanks to a proper diagnostic.
As death grows near, some dogs may seek out solitude and look for resting areas that are away from the usual household hustle and bustle. You may get a feeling like your dog is becoming distant and detached or that they are no longer following their daily routine.
Distancing, physical and emotional detachment are more common in dogs that are dying, though some dogs’ may start being clingy and still seek distance.
Late Stage Signs a Dog Is Dying
The early-stage signs that a dog is dying are subtler and often mistaken for a symptom of an underlying health issue. However, the end-stage signs of dying are hard to miss or mistake with anything else.
At this point, the only thing you can do is keep your dog as comfortable as possible and ensure that they aren’t in pain. As the end gets near you’ll need to decide between euthanasia vs natural passing.
If you notice some or all signs listed below, know that your dog is dying and that you need to make a decision having their best interest at heart.
Near the end, many dogs experience labored breathing. Your dog’s breathing may be slow or very fast, uneven, or your dog may have trouble pushing the air in and out of their lungs.
Labored breathing is usually one of the last signs that happen before a dog dies, and is extremely painful to watch. These are often the hardest moments and the time most owners decide to go with euthanasia to end their dog’s suffering.
Unfortunately, dying is rarely painless and it’s common for dying dogs to experience some level of pain. If you’ve decided on a natural passing, have your vet prescribe you some quick-acting pain relievers so you can keep your pooch comfortable and pain-free in their last moments.
As your dog’s organs start to shut down, they will no longer feel any thirst or hunger. As a result, your dog won’t feel the need to get up and go to the water bowl and will become dehydrated.
You can try to keep your pooch hydrated by giving them water using a syringe or a dropper. However, there isn’t much you can do if your dog won’t or is unable to swallow it.
Senior dogs often lose control over their bladder (source). Therefore, incontinence in itself isn’t a sight that your dog is dying and can just be a byproduct of aging.
However, if your dog becomes incontinent out of the blue, and also shows other signs of dying, then your dog’s body is likely shutting down.
Some dogs may become restless in their final hours. Your dog may pant, try to get up, or change its position frequently, vocalize, or lick its paws. It may seem like your dog can’t find a comfortable position to lie down.
Try to figure out what is the cause of your dog’s restlessness and try to alleviate their discomfort to the best of your ability.
Changes in Gum Color
When a dog is close to dying, its organs aren’t working properly, causing its gums to change color. In dogs that are in a critical state or dying the gums gradually turn from bubble gum pink to blue or white.
Blue gums signify that there is a lack of oxygen circulating in the bloodstream. White gums, on the other hand, are a sign of insufficient blood flow.
Signs of Death
If your dog is exhibiting most or all of the signs listed above, know that the end is near and that they will soon pass away. You should know that during and after the death your dog can eliminate, twitch, or vocalize.
All of this is perfectly natural as your dog’s muscles and organs release one final time. Clear signs that your dog has passed away are:
Lack of Heartbeat
Lack of heartbeat is the ultimate proof of death. When your dog dies, its cardiovascular system will stop working, thus depriving cells, organs, and tissues within its body of oxygen.
Besides the lack of heartbeat, you’ll also notice the lack of respiratory movement of the chest as soon as your dog dies.
The bladder and bowels may empty shortly before or when your dog dies. This may catch you by surprise, especially if your dog didn’t eat or drink much in their final days.
However, a dog’s body still produces waste, whether they eat or not and that waste will have to be eliminated. As your dog’s muscles relax after dying the bladder and bowel emptying will take place.
Post Death Reflexes
Sometimes muscle twitching can be observed moments after death. These post-death reflexes can be upsetting for unprepared owners, but are completely normal.
The twitching is just the leftover nerve activity and reflexes, and will soon completely cease. There’s nothing more you need to worry about, your dog is now at peace.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Suffering?
As your dog is nearing the end of its life their condition will deteriorate quickly and it may start to feel pain. All dogs are individuals and may behave differently when they are in pain, but you know your dog the best.
Restlessness, whining in pain, confusion, trouble getting up, and glossy eyes are a few signs that your dog is suffering. Even if you decided on natural passing you can always change your mind and call your vet to perform euthanasia.
Humane euthanasia is the only thing that can end your dog’s suffering and you’ll know exactly when it’s the right time to let go of your pooch.
How Can You Help Your Dying Dog?
When your dog is dying, there are a couple of things you can do to help them stay comfortable till the very end.
One of the best ways to help your dog enjoy their last days is to manage its pain as much as possible. Talk with your vet and have them prescribe fast-acting and powerful pain meds that will ease your dog’s pain and suffering.
Since dogs thrive on routine, you should stick with yours as long as possible. This will soothe some of your dog’s stress and anxiety.
At some point, your dog won’t be up for his regular play session or walk in the park, and that’s okay.
Your dog will benefit from your presence during their final moments so stay close by. Keep in mind that your dog’s condition can deteriorate quickly so take a few days off work to stay at home and take care of your pooch one last time.
While some dogs pass away peacefully in their sleep, most aren’t so lucky. As a dog owner, it’s up to you to know the signs your dog is dying so you can comfort and put an end to their suffering.
Depending on your dog’s condition you can choose a natural death or opt to end your dog’s suffering with euthanasia. The choice is only yours, so choose what feels right for your dog and you!