Signs My Dog Is Dying: How To Know If Your Dog Is Dying

Unconditional love. Loyal buddy. Source of joy. Our dogs have so many roles in our lives that we wish they can be with us for a very long time. Unfortunately, dogs have short lives. And the worst part of all is not only seeing them die of old age but also having to witness the suffering that they go through before dying due to sickness. As loving dog owners, the death of our dogs might not be a pleasant topic but it’s something that we will have to face eventually. Recognizing the signs that our dogs are dying of old age or any diseases will certainly give us the chance to prepare and plan out the remaining days of their lives.

“If I had known that on that day our time was near the end, I would have done things differently, my forever friend. I would have stayed right next to you deep into the night, but I thought I’d see you in the early morning light.” 

And so I said “Good night” to you as I walked in through the door, never thinking of the time when I’d see you no more. But if I had known that on that day our time was at the end, I would have done things so differently, my forever friend.”      – Sally Evans

1. Dog Dying Process

It’s very painful to watch your own dog die. As much as we want to avoid it, we also want to know the dying process our dogs will go through and how much time they still have with us. 

The dying process in dogs will depend on their circumstances. For dogs who are old or have a terminal illness, the process begins a few months before their actual death. They often undergo changes in their body, behavior, and thinking. However, there are times wherein the dying process in dogs is abrupt. This is especially true when dogs die suddenly due to accidents or acute infections. 

2. What Are The Signs My Dog Is Dying Of Old Age?

Despite the pain of losing a loyal fur baby, some dog owners are still considered lucky that their beloved dogs die of old age. Now a lot of dog owners are probably wondering how to know how old a dog is so they can decide on how to give proper care and if it’s time to arrange for after-care services. A dog is considered old or elderly when they reach the age of seven years old but large breed dogs age faster than small breeds. Large breed dogs develop age-related health issues earlier than seven years old. Unfortunately all age-related health issues will eventually cause dogs’ health to deteriorate and will highly likely cause their death. Here are some of the signs we need to recognize that our dogs are dying of old age.

Increased incontinence issues

Frequent accidents are pretty normal in senior dogs. You will notice your senior dog losing control over its bowel and bladder and may pee or poop wherever they are lying. This is a sign that their organs are beginning to shut down. 

Mobility Issue

It’s natural for senior dogs to have mobility issues as they age, especially for large dog breeds. But when a continuous decrease in the activity level of senior dogs is noticeable, it only means their bodies are growing weaker. Joint issues and other bone degenerative diseases will cause our poor senior dogs to limp and will force them to stay where they are sleeping due to unbearable pain. 

Hearing and Vision Loss

Just like in humans, senior dogs will also experience hearing and vision loss. However, these aren’t so noticeable since dogs have a great sense of smell and movement. Most of the time, dog owners will only discover that their senior dogs are already blind or deaf when their dogs figure in an accident. 

Detached and Lethargic

As our dogs age, so are their brains. They will show disinterest in things that they used to get excited about and sometimes they get so confused causing them to bark for no reason at all. They usually don’t show any desire to move or engage with anyone at all because they are trying to conserve what little energy they have.

Declining Health

An elderly dog’s immune system will weaken and eventually fail. Thus, they are more vulnerable to all kinds of diseases including the growth of tumors, cancer, and other unusual lumps and bumps. Some of these tumors, lumps, and bumps may be palpable but most often than not these growths are at their end-stage. Meaning, they already have a terminal illness and preventive care isn’t applicable anymore. 

Shallow Breathing

You may notice your elderly dog’s breathing is shallow or labored and panting most of the time. These symptoms coupled with coughing and vomiting may be caused by heart and lung diseases. Some senior dogs may also faint frequently as their heart and lungs are too weak to pump blood and air.  

Loss of Appetite

As senior dogs’ bodies become weaker, they will eventually lose the ability to feel hunger and thirst. Vomiting and diarrhea are often noticed due to their failing digestive system. 

3. How To Know If Your Dog Is Sick?

First, it’s important for dog owners to know the difference between a sick dog and a dying dog. Some dog owners may ask “My dog won’t eat or drink and is shaking. Is my dog sick or dying?”  Knowing the difference between a sick dog from a dying dog will enable dog owners to give their dogs the proper care and medication and not jump to conclusions. 

Our dogs may not have the ability to tell us that they are sick but their bodies will somehow display changes including their behavior. Here are symptoms that tell you your dog is sick.

  • Your dog is not eating. A healthy dog will never miss their meals and treats unless they have a toothache, viral infection, anxiety, stomach discomfort, or nausea. If your dog has been refusing to eat for more than 24 hours, it’s time to contact your vet.
  • Your dog is drinking more water than usual. There are many reasons why your dog is feeling unusually thirsty. You have to factor in your dog’s diet, weather, and activity level with that. If your dog is drinking too much water and has dry gums, thick saliva, a dry tongue, and lethargy, then your dog might be dehydrated and needs immediate veterinary care. Dehydration or excessive thirst might be caused by diarrhea, infection, fever, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, etc
  • Your dog is sleeping a lot. It’s normal for dogs to sleep so much. Depending on their age, size, and breed, dogs normally sleep for 11 hours a day. So, if your dog is sleeping too much, lethargic, always drowsy, doesn’t like to do activities, and has a decrease in appetite, then you have to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
  • Your dog is losing weight. You are probably wondering why your dog is losing weight when he seems healthy and is eating a lot. This means your dog is not absorbing enough nutrients from his food. He may be suffering from food allergies triggered by some of the ingredients in his food. Food allergies in dogs are also characterized by skin itching, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, you need to bring your dog to the nearest vet if he/she is losing so much weight, coupled with a loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.

4. How Do You Know When Your Dog Is Dying

As loving dog owners, we always make sure that we keep our dogs healthy. However, death is a natural occurrence that’s inevitable even to healthy dogs. While there are no crystal balls that can help us foretell the exact date our sick dogs will say goodbye, there are noticeable signs that we must learn to recognize. 

Signs Your Dog With Diabetes Is Dying

Diabetes in dogs is a life-long disease that will affect your dog’s whole life. Although both young and elderly dogs can be afflicted with diabetes, it should be manageable with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, there are cases wherein dogs with diabetes have worsen over time leading to complications. 

  • Ketoacidosis - When ketoacidosis occurs, it means your dog doesn’t have enough insulin to regulate sugar levels in the blood. If that happens, then your dog’s body will start to use body fat to make ketones. In effect, too many ketones will throw off the normal balance of electrolytes in your dog’s body and will eventually lead to organ failure.
  • Frequent infections - Since diabetic dogs have high sugar content in their urine, they are more prone to bacterial infection. Their swollen bladders are also to blame for the increase of bacteria in their urinary tract.
  • Seizures - Too much or too little insulin in your dog’s blood will cause your dog to have frequent seizures.
  • Kidney Failure - Too much blood sugar will eventually damage your dog’s kidneys leading to death.

Signs Dog Is Dying From Kidney Failure

Kidneys play a big role in your dog’s health. They help your dog rid of toxins from their body through peeing. Acute kidney failure means your dog’s kidneys are not able to remove toxins properly. This may be caused by poisonous substances or severe kidney infections due to bacteria.  Signs that show your dog is dying due to acute kidney failure include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dehydration despite an increase in fluid intake
  • Excessive feeling of thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Refusal to eat
  • Dry gums
  • Breath smells like ammonia
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Painful mouth ulcers
  • Fatigue
  • Slow heart rate
  • Recurring seizures
  • Anemia
  • May have shake episodes and tremors

The prognosis of dogs with acute kidney failure is dismal. How much time they still have will also depend on the dog’s health. Some dog owners choose to have their dogs undergo dialysis to prolong their dogs’ lives but death happens after 3 months to a year. Acute kidney failure itself is not painful but dogs may suffer due to the endless cycle of frequent dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and other accompanying symptoms. 

Final Stages Of Bladder Cancer Symptoms In Dogs

Bladder cancer in dogs is one of those diseases in dogs that don’t show any signs until it has gone from bad to worst. During the early stages, dogs often have difficulty and pain urinating. But these symptoms change at the last stage of the disease. As the bladder cancer progresses your dog will experience:

  • Extreme weight loss - Your dog will lose a lot of weight due to appetite loss. If force-fed, your dog will not be able to keep the food down. Vomiting is one of the symptoms that will further worsen your dog’s weight loss
  • Severe abdominal pains - Vomiting and hunger will cause dogs to feel abdominal pains that can be unbearable at times
  • Constant pacing - You will find your dog constantly pacing back and forth just to relieve discomfort.
  • Difficulty sitting and walking - Sitting and walking may be challenging to your dog at this stage including exercise.
  • Withdrawal behavior - Your dog will start to avoid interacting with people and other dogs.
  • Breathing difficulties - At this point, your dog will likely struggle to breathe which will cause your dog to vocalize in pain.
  • Fainting and Seizures - Internal bleeding and severe pain will cause your dog to faint and have seizures.

Bladder cancer is the most fatal type of cancer in dogs. There may be expensive treatment plans available but they won’t guarantee anything. Worst, if bladder cancer has advanced, then your dog might die a painful death.

Sudden Death Causes

Dog end of life signs may vary according to their circumstances. There are deaths that may be too sudden that dog owners don’t have a single clue why their dogs died. In some cases, dog had seizure and died. Seizures are not really considered fatal. So when we talk about how many seizures can a dog have before it dies will depend on the dog’s health. If a dog has seizures that last for more than 5 minutes and happens more than 3 times in a span of 24 hours and was not able to receive urgent care, then it may cause death. On the other hand, seizures may also be caused by undiscovered neurological disorders, a clot in one of the major blood vessels, or poisoning. 

Poisoning will also cause your dog to vomit blood before death or otherwise known as internal bleeding.  Active dogs have a very curious character which makes them constant victims of poisoning. Chest or abdominal trauma from accidents also results in internal bleeding. Certain diseases such as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, autoimmune disorders, and tumors may also account for dog vomit before death. 

5. What Do Dogs Do When They Are About To Die

A beloved dog’s death is not easy to deal with but more often than not, dog owners want to know more details about their precious dog’s last moments. 

Regardless of old dog behavior before death or what sick dogs do before death, they all refuse to eat or drink and may have frequent seizures for more than 10 minutes before they die. They will also show signs of labored breathing or panting as they seem to be breathing their last. Most dogs also appear to be staring blankly and unusually still or restless before they say goodbye to their owners. 

In some instances, dog owners will hear a cry, whine, or vocalization showing signs a dog is in pain. This might be a very emotional scene for dog owners. Especially when they witness how sometimes violently do dogs shake when they are in pain. 

6. Final Thoughts

As dog owners, there’s nobody else knows our dogs better than us. So if there are changes in our dog’s bodies and behavior, we will be the first ones to notice them. Knowing the symptoms of a dog dying will give dog owners enough time to decide whether we want to let them undergo a natural death or end their suffering and give them a beautiful death. We would have wanted our dogs to spend the rest of their lives with us forever but the natural order of life is something no human being can defy. It might not be a very pleasant thought for loving dog owners but at some point in our dog’s life and death, we should choose to be practical. Once we recognize the signs that our loyal dog is dying, we can focus more on how we can make them more feel comfortable in the last days of their lives. We can still have a chance to create precious memories with them. 

Accepting the fact that our dogs are soon going to be crossing the rainbow bridge does not totally mean you’ll let your dog go through the process of dying alone. It is still best to consult and have open communication with your vet so that you may plan for your dog’s smooth transition. 

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