How to Recognize a Dying Dog in the Final Moments

Kelly Roper
sad girl with dog

There's a subtle difference in a dog's behavior when he is past the point of struggling to overcome illness or injury and is about to die. Learning how to tell when those final moments have arrived can help you provide your dog with love, comfort and dignity as he leaves this earth.

Signs a Dog Is Close to Death

In some cases, a dog dies quite suddenly and there's no time to realize it's happening. In other cases, death comes slowly and naturally with some signs that are obvious if you understand what to look for. According to Best Pet Insurance this can include the following signs.

  • Dog stops eating and drinking - His organs are shutting down, so there's no sensation of hunger or thirst.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea as the digestive system shuts down.
  • Urination comes without warning - may be bloody.
  • Loss of consciousness - Up until this point, a dog may sleep a lot with brief periods of waking. When he's actively dying, he may lose consciousness altogether just minutes or maybe a few hours before death occurs.
  • Breathing slows - The pause between breaths becomes progressively longer. Near the end, breaths may even come minutes apart after the dog loses consciousness.
  • Heartbeat slows - The heart rate grows ever slower as the muscle loses the ability to function.
  • Muscle spasms and twitching - reflexes and the sensation of pain will decrease
  • Skin will be dry and pale due to dehydration

The Moment of Death

When the struggle is over and the dog dies:

  • He'll exhale his final breath. His body will actually appear to deflate slightly as the lungs empty.
  • His body will go completely limp.
  • If still open, his eyes will have a blank stare.
  • His heart completely stops beating.
  • As all tension leaves his muscles, he may release urine or defecate as the muscles that control these bodily functions completely relax.
  • After about 30 minutes of absolutely no signs of life, you can be certain the dog has passed away.

End of Life Pet Hospice Program

If your pet has significant health issues such as a terminal illness or a debilitating medical problem, the veterinarian may talk to you about an end of life pet hospice program. End of life pet hospice is a term for a personalized care plan to keep a dying pet comfortable. The veterinarian will examine your dog, run tests and develop a home care plan based on your pet's needs. The plan may include a special food such as liquid diets, medications for pain management and scheduled veterinary visits to preserve your ailing pet's life quality and dignity.

You Don't Have to Go Through This Alone

A hospice plan not only provides a dog with the most comfort possible, it helps an owner too. Knowing a much-loved dog is going to die can be extremely stressful, and it can be rough trying to make rational decisions about what is best for your pet. Having a hospice plan and a vet to lean on for advice will guide you through to the end. Think of it as part of your support program during a very difficult time.

How to Recognize a Dying Dog in the Final Moments