While some dogs die suddenly without warning, other dogs give signs that their death is near. Whether you ultimately choose to let a pet die at home with his family or have him humanely euthanized, it's still helpful to be aware of the signs that signal your pet's life is coming to an end.
Signs a Dog Is Dying
If your dog has a terminal illness, you may need to care for him at home during his final days. There are some common signs that a dying dog is in its final decline. Just keep in mind that each dog experiences dying differently, and some dogs may not exhibit every symptom listed.
Lack of Coordination
The dog becomes very unsteady on his feet and has difficulty moving from one point to another. This might be due to physical weakness, impaired brain function or even a combination of the two.
A sick dog will naturally be less active. When a dog is actively dying, he will show signs of extreme fatigue. He will most likely lie in one spot without attempting to get up anymore, and he may no longer even have the strength to lift his head.
Complete Loss of Appetite
The dog shows practically no interest in food or water. When he does eat, he often cannot keep food down. As death draws closer, he refuses to eat anything at all.
As the digestive system begins shutting down, undigested food in the stomach can make the dog feel nauseated. He will vomit to purge the contents of his stomach.
A dying dog progressively loses control over his bodily functions. As his body weakens, he loses control of his sphincter muscle as well as the muscles that control his bladder. He may even have accidents where he lies if he's no longer able to move.
Mental confusion is evidence of impaired brain function. The dog may appear confused at times in his normal surrounding. He might even begin failing to recognize his long-time human companions.
No Interest in Surroundings
Most dogs begin to withdraw into themselves as they draw close to death. They no longer respond to what's going on around them, and they may even cease to respond to their favorite people as their bodies begin shutting down.
The dog may twitch or shake at times. This is typically an involuntary response, but the dog may become chilled as his body temperature begins to drop.
Ways to Comfort Your Dying Pet
If you choose to let your pet pass away at home, here are a few things you can do to make his last hours on earth more comfortable.
- Provide a warm and quiet place for your dog to rest comfortably. Carefully monitor interactions with other pets and children who may not understand the dog's condition.
- You can try offering your dog food and water if he's willing to take it, but don't try to force it on him. Dogs know when eating is no longer any use to them.
- Pet your dog softly and talk to him. Reassure him that everything is okay and that you love him. Even though it is difficult, try to be calm and soothing to your pet. He can pick up on your emotions.
- Place waterproof pet pads close to or beneath your dog if he cannot go outside. You can also have him wear pet diapers if that's easier.
Facing the End Together
Your care and attention can make your pet's passing a little easier. He will still appreciate knowing how much you love him even if he's past the point of responding to you, and you can take comfort in the fact that you were there for him when he needed you most.