Pet loss – one of the hardest, most painful thoughts we could ever bring ourselves to even imagine, but an experience we all go through at one point in our lives if we don’t pass before our dogs do. In some cases, dogs pass away suddenly without any prior hint or warning, while there are certain signs a dog is dying in many other cases.
In all cases, though, death is one thing in life that we all have to accept. As hard as it is on us all, be that with the loss of a human being or a pet animal, we have to celebrate the life of the lost one and have to believe that we will meet again – sometime, somewhere we know nothing about.
Unlike us human beings, dogs aren’t that likely to pass away due to natural causes associated with senior age. The numbers show that they’re more likely to pass away due to other unnatural causes.
However, this is obviously not always the case, as many canines do indeed pass away due to natural causes as they age.
By knowing what the warning signs and symptoms that a dog is dying are, you’ll be much more knowledgeable and educated on the subject for when the time comes, where you’ll ultimately decide to do all that’s within your power to keep them alive, or to just give in to fate and put your dog to their final sleep.
The 12 Most Common Signs A Dog Is Dying
The following is a list of the most common signs a dog is dying and will help you know how to tell when a dog is dying.
Keep in mind that it’s not always necessary that any of these signs found in your dog mean they’re going to pass away soon, but the more of these signs that are being exhibited by your dog together at once, the higher the chances are that their time on earth is coming to an end.
A dying dog will always show signs of great decrease in activity levels, oftentimes to the extent of doing nothing all day long but lying around as if they’re extremely burned out.
Most of the times, dying dogs choose one specific place to stay in, and they don’t tend to move around from one spot to another.
This one place they like to stay in is often in a secluded corner in the house where they’re alone and away from everyone else.
If your dog is still moving around from one place to another very normally, but is just doing so at a slower pace than usual, this may be a signal of just old age and not necessarily a dog that’s nearing their final hour.
In addition to great decrease in activity, dying dogs also tend to lose interest in what’s going on around them really fast.
Be that people it holds great love and affection for, events that used to make it go ecstatic, its favorite dog food or dog treats, or some of its favorite toys that it used to love playing around with – a dying dog will show great loss of attachment to all of these and more.
One thing you always have to keep in mind is that if your dying dog shows signs of disinterest in you, your family members or anyone else it once used to love very dearly, this doesn’t mean that the canine’s love for you or them has died away.
It’s just that a dying dog has very little energy to make such things apparent anymore, even though they may still feel the same way deep inside.
This is very important for you to understand as a loving dog owner that needs proper closure, because dogs very near to their final hour will very often start showing signs of disinterest even in their owners – but at this point it’s not something they can control anymore.
Another thing you have to also keep in mind is that a huge part of this “disinterest” and “loss of attachment” is due to the mental confusion that dying dogs tend to experience.
A big part of this mental confusion is because your dog’s brain functions begin to slowly shut down, and once they do, there’s no real chances of turning that around.
3. Suppressed Appetite
We already mentioned this in brief in our #2 point right above this one, but will talk about it in more detail because of its importance.
Generally speaking, the closer a dog is to their final goodbye, the more they will refuse to eat or drink anything you try to get them to consume.
This behavior is due to their digestive system gradually shutting down, as well as their liver and kidneys also gradually shutting down.
If it’s just a slight decrease in food intake that your dog is showing, and an appetite that’s not as large as it used to be when they were younger, this may just be a normal sign of your dog getting older and nature taking its course.
As long as they’re regularly eating their food and drinking their water, albeit in lesser amounts, then chances are this isn’t a sign of the dog dying process.
A decreased appetite that signals a dog’s near death will almost always be accompanied by visible weight loss.
4. Digestive Trouble
The older a dog gets and the closer they near death, the weaker their digestive system is going to get, and the more you’ll notice these digestive troubles  make themselves very apparent.
What you’ll most commonly notice is your dog vomiting a good portion of any food you get them to eat, simply because their digestive system just isn’t working nearly as efficiently as it was before, which causes the food to remain undigested in their stomach.
And the only way for that problem to be solved is for the food to go out of their system the same way it went in, by vomiting it out.
5. Breathing Difficulties
You’ll often notice that your dog’s finding it incredibly difficult to catch a breath  as easily as they used to before, with their breathing now becoming fairly shallow.
Also, you’ll notice that it now takes them significantly longer time between one full inhale/exhale and the next.
6. Decreased Heart Rate
A dying dog’s heart rate will also go on a downward slope of gradual decrease, falling down from the usual range of 100-130 bpm to 60-80 bpm, and even lower as their time comes closer.
7. Uncoordinated Movement
Just like human beings, the older a dog gets and the closer they are to their death, the less coordinated their movements will become – to the point where there’s no coordination at all and they can’t move around by themselves without the help of someone else anymore.
This is an important reason why dying dogs tend to stay in one place all the time, because they just can’t find it within their power to move from point A to point B by themselves anymore.
8. Inability To Control Bowel Movements
No matter how well trained your dog is when it comes to controlling their bowel movements, be that defecating or urinating, a dying dog will usually have incredible difficulty controlling their bowel movements.
This means they may “go” all of a sudden no matter where they are, be that in their designated indoor potty area or not, as this is something they can’t control at this point.
9. Muscle Tremors And Shaking
If you closely monitor your dying dog, you’ll more than likely notice them experiencing muscle tremors, shakes and twitches at different times.
These tremors, spasms and twitches happen because of the digestive troubles a dying dog experiences that we’ve already talked about above, the lack of food in their system that causes a decrease in blood glucose levels, and the lack of water in their system that causes dehydration.
10. Bad Skin Condition
Because of the usual dehydration a dying dog experiences before their death, you’ll also notice that the quality and condition of their skin and fur is getting worse by the day. Look out for their skin which will become dry.
11. Bad Dental Condition
Besides their bad skin condition, their dental condition won’t be any better. Their gums will become very visibly pale, and the pink color they once used to have that indicates healthy gums will be long gone by now.
12. Loss Of Consciousness/Coma
Sudden loss of consciousness and entering into a state of coma are signs during the dog dying process. This usually happens hours before their death.
Do I Really Have A Dying Dog? How Can I Tell If My Dog is Dying?
Besides the fact that the more of these symptoms mentioned above that your dog shows all at once, the higher the chances are that their time is drawing to a close, you can always have your veterinarian take a look at your dog as well.
Most of the times, a veterinarian will be able to tell you whether your suspicions are true (or hopefully dismiss them) on the spot and without needing to conduct tests that need days for the results to show up.
If the symptoms your dog is showing are just signs of an underlying health problem, just old age starting to catch up to them or anything else they’re experiencing that’s not a clear indicator that their time is drawing to a close, your veterinarian should and will explain what really is going on with your dog, and hopefully the air would be cleared up.
On the other hand, and if the opposite to that happens, after the unfortunate confirmation of what’s going on in your head, your veterinarian will guide you through the process of where to go from here , whether putting your dog down through means of euthanasia is the most appropriate option for them at this point, and how to prepare for the passing of your dog.
Watch this video to learn more about the symptoms to look out for in your canine.
- WebMD Veterinary Reference, Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on September 13, 2018 Dog Not Eating? Possible Causes and Appetite Solutions, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dog-not-eating-possible-causes-and-appetite-solutions#1
- Merck Manual Veterinary Manual, Introduction to Digestive Disorders of Dogs, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/introduction-to-digestive-disorders-of-dogs
- Laura Playforth, What should I do if my dog has breathing problems? https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/breathing-problems-and-difficulties-in-dogs/
- End of Life Care for Pets FAQ https://pets.webmd.com/end-life-care-pets-faq#1