What Kind of Behavior Does a Dog Exhibit Before Death?

What Kind of Behavior Does a Dog Exhibit Before Death?

As a pet owner, our pets are precious companions who become like members of our family. The thought of a beloved pet dying is of course something you have probably tried to keep in the back of your mind for as long as possible because of how painful it is to think about it, much less imagine. It is never pleasant to think about how it’ll be when the time comes to say goodbye, so naturally, we all try to delay it as much as we can. Unfortunately, the eventual death of our beloved pets is an unavoidable fact of life. 

Accepting death as an inevitable part of life can help you better cope when your pet’s time is near, and help you stay aware and alert about any changes in your pet’s behavior that may indicate they are reaching the end. This can help you prepare for the necessary arrangements to make for their goodbye, and ultimately, make the most of their final, precious days. Whether your dog’s passing is ultimately due to old age, or perhaps a terminal illness, we’d like to help you recognize the signs that your pet could be in the process of dying. This guide will help you distinguish certain normal changes in your dog’s behavior that they may exhibit from time to time from those that typically occur when a dog is nearing death. Continue reading as we explore and walk you through some of the difficult changes in your pet’s behavior before death. 

Signs Your Dog May Be Ready to Say Goodbye 

As you experience the emotional stress that comes from seeing a beloved pet in pain, recognizing the signs that your dog is dying will help you determine whether your pet is just going through a phase, is simply feeling under the weather, or is in the process of dying.

These are the signs to watch out for if you suspect your dog is nearing the end:

  • Labored breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of Mobility or Extreme Lethargy
  • Crying or intense whining
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

These are just some of the most common symptoms dogs may present when they have become too ill to continue on. Keep in mind that no one knows your canine friend more than you do. You know and understand your pet’s usual behaviors, energy levels, and regular eating habits better than anyone.

Note that no two dogs’ experiences are completely alike. Therefore, if your dog is presenting with a symptom that is not specified above that is of concern to you, don’t hesitate to trust your instincts and contact your vet. Also, understand that just because your dog may be experiencing one of these above symptoms doesn’t immediately mean that they are necessarily dying. Ultimately, your instincts and awareness of your own beloved pet’s habits will serve as major indicators of whether your dog’s time is near or not.

Understanding Your Pet’s Symptoms

The behavior a dog exhibits before death depends on several factors. We understand that as a caring pet owner it can be frustrating to rely on your instincts alone. If you find yourself overwhelmed and confused as to whether your pet is dying or not, here is more detail into what each of these indicators may entail to help you gage the severity of the situation.

Labored Breathing

When nearing death, some dogs may experience difficulty breathing. Signs of difficulty breathing include: extending their neck out trying to reach for more air, heavy breathing through their mouths creating gasping noises, rapid belly movements that appear almost like shaking, congested chest noises. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is advised that you contact your vet immediately. 

Until the vet is able to see your pet to assess their situation, try to keep calm and attempt to help your pet find more comfortable positions to promote better and easier breathing. Don’t forget to also remain calm as your distress may put further stress on your beloved pet.

Lack of Mobility or Extreme Lethargy

Lack of movement can be a sign that your dog is reaching the end. Note that it may be harder for a dog to get up and move around when they are having difficulty breathing, are in pain, or simply haven’t eaten or had anything to drink for days.

Pets may occasionally exhibit different levels of energy in everyday life, but if you notice that your pet is sleeping all day, rarely goes out to play, is always hiding, and lacks interest in daily activities, these may be signs that your dog is in the process of dying.

Crying or Intense Whining

It is never normal for a dog to constantly cry or whine. When this occurs, it is an indicator that  something is likely bothering them or causing them severe pain. As whining and crying are forms of canine vocal communication, they can sometimes be used to express joy and excitement. However, if you notice these sounds from your dog are becoming more frequent, it most likely means that they are anxious or in pain.

Lack of Appetite

A dog that is dying will usually present changes in its eating patterns. Although it is normal for dogs to sometimes refuse to eat something you give them, such as a new type of dog food or perhaps something with a strong smell, it is not normal for them to refuse everything you put on their plates along with water.

A lack of appetite is one of the main signs your dog is close to dying. This is because their digestive organs have started to shut down. If you notice sudden weight loss in your dog accompanied by a lack of appetite and thirst, it might be time to speak with your vet about euthanasia or discuss other options that may best for you and your pet.  Check our resources available for more information on euthanasia and how to know when to put your pet down.

Irregular Bladder and Bowel Patterns

If you notice that your beloved canine friend has lost control of their bowel and bladder movements, this is another sign their organs are starting to shut down. Watch for how often they could be having accidents. If they are potty trained, watch for any signs of pee or feces in unexpected places as this might signify they have become too weak to get to their usual spot.

If this happens, try to constantly clean their area and assist them to get to their usual spot. Don’t forget to remain calm and be patient with your canine friend. Unfortunately, they can’t control what is happening and will need to rely on your assistance.

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pet

It is never easy to say goodbye, especially when it comes to the departure of a lifelong and loyal companion. Accepting that your pet’s time is coming to an end is one of the most emotionally difficult things you can experience. Is important to understand that your dog’s reaching the end is due to no fault of your own and that ultimately, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent this time from coming. The last thing you want to see is your beloved pet in constant pain. Keep in mind that death will put an end to your beloved pet’s suffering and help them reach a more peaceful and comfortable state.

We are here to remind you that you are not alone and that many others have been in your shoes before or will be at some point. We encourage you to take a look at the resources we have available and we hope they can offer your help and a sense of comfort as you navigate saying goodbye to your precious animal friend. 

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