Adrienne is certified dog trainer and former veterinary assistant. She has taken several courses on hospice, end-of-life care for dogs.
Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Dog
Recognizing the signs a dog is dying is a subject that is difficult for every dog owner, but learning how to recognize the common signs that an aging dog or one with a terminal illness is dying is important.
It's an unfortunate fact of life that our dogs don't live forever. How long a dog lives varies based on several individual factors such as breed, size, the impact of the environment and genes.
We ultimately owe it to our dogs to learn more about the natural death process since they have filled our lives with so much joy for so many years. We can learn how to best help our dogs transition by offering proper end-of-life care and love and support through such a difficult time. We will break down the following topics in this article:
- "Natural" death, defined.
- When is it "time" to "go"?
- Assessing a dog's quality of life.
- Early signs of dying.
- End-stage signs of dying.
- Do dogs know when another dog dies?
- The 5 stages of grief.
- Planning a memorial and processing death.
Recognizing the Natural Dying Process
It's important to recognize that the dying process in dogs (much like that in humans) takes place months, weeks, and days prior to actual death.
Dying, therefore, starts happening well before actual death occurs, and the process is a very individual experience.Just as dogs are unique in their own little ways, so is the dying process for each one of them.
Owners often experience anticipatory grief while their dogs undergo several physical, behavioral, and psychological changes during the transition away from this world.
When Is It "Time" to Put Your Dog to Sleep?
Many dog owners will witness only the early signs of dying and may elect euthanasia. Some dog owners who elect hospice, palliative, or end-of-life care under the guidance of a veterinarian will witness the more advanced changes which often take place when death is imminent.
Many dog owners wonder when it is "time" for their best friend to pass. The truth is, nobody knows this—we cannot determine our dog's life expectancy. We can only make an educated guess based on how the dog is feeling and which signs are being displayed.
Many vets suggest judging a dog's quality of life based on whether or not your dog experiences more bad days than good. There are vets now specializing in hospice care who can also offer quality of life consultations.
Consider Your Dog's Quality of Life
Knowing when to put a dog to sleep is ultimately a personal decision considering that only owners know their dogs best. Many dog owners use quality of life scales as a measure, but these are not always accurate considering that the dying process unfolds for dogs in different ways.
For those considering hospice, palliative, or end-of-life care with their vet in support of a natural death, a helpful quality of dying scale is offered by the GRACE Consortium (Gratitude and Respect for Animals and their Care at End-of-Life).
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Dying
Witnessing a pet's death unfold is a difficult thing, but it is best to be informed. Since dying is a process, it means that dog owners can actively take several steps to help their dogs through these changes. Described below are generalized early signs that a dog is dying. These common signs start taking place months to weeks prior to death, although they may also show in dogs that are just days away from death.
Early Signs a Dog Is Dying
- Decreased Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Social Detachment
End-Stage Signs a Dog Is Dying
- Decreased Thirst
- Labored Breathing
- Changes in Gum Color
Signs of Death in Dogs
- Post-death reflexes
- Bladder/bowel emptying
- Lack of heartbeat
15 Signs and Symptoms That a Dog Is Dying
Sleeping more, apathy towards the usual activities, poor hygiene, seeking solitude
Provide your dog with comfortable places to rest and assist with gentle grooming.
Showing disinterest in food, eating small portions, eating less regularly, demonstrating a preference for certain foods
Provide smaller meals at appropriate frequencies; be sure to offer proper nutrition, but also feed what your dog takes interest in.
Gradual or rapid reduction in weight accompanied by wasting
Your vet might prescribe an appetite stimulant or diet for weight management.
Isolation—physical and social distancing
Respect your dog's desire for solitude. Approach and speak to him or her calmly when engaging.
Difficulty getting up and effortful movements
Offer skid-proof flooring and consider using slings and harnesses to assist with mobility.
Disinterest in water and food
Make the water bowl easily available. Do not force your dog to consume water. Consult with your vet if your dog is on medication.
Hygienic pads can be placed underneath your dog and should be changed out frequently.
Help your dog to get comfortable by repositioning them to prevent bed sores. Offer them warmth or cooling as needed.
Often accompanied by labored breathing, restlessness, and inappetence
Consult with your vet to offer pain meds or homeopathic remedies.
Irregular breathing patterns
Make an appointment with your vet.
Change in Gum Color
Rather than bubble-gum pink, gums appear pale, blue, or white
A dry mouth can be remedied with assistance, but gum-color change is often a result of systemic failure.
Body temperature drops and is cooler to the touch
Provide your dog with a light blanket.
These are normal body contractions
Consider that your dog has died and is not aware of any of this
Muscles relax allowing bladder/bowel emptying
Keep a urinary incontinence sheet under your dog
Lack of Heartbeat
The ultimate proof of death
Check for lack of heart beat and other signs of sure death
Although several of the signs depicted here may be indicative of impending death, it's important to recognize that they may also be signs of several conditions that require treatment and may not necessarily result in death.
Similarly, certain conditions such as bloat and heat stroke may result in a dog's death if not attended to. If your dog is old or was diagnosed with a terminal disease, keep in contact with your vet or seek the aid of a hospice vet.
The following is an in more in-depth description of the signs and symptoms of dying in dogs. Not all dogs may show the same signs and/or they may not show up in the same order. As mentioned, death in dogs is an individualized experience.
We are so used to seeing our dogs in perpetual motion most of their lives, that the day they start acting lethargic we tend to worry and rightfully so. In the veterinary field the term "ain't doing right" (abbreviated in medical charts as ADR) is often used to depict abnormal activity in a dog that is simply not doing well.
Lethargy, of course, is not necessarily a sign of impending death in dogs and is not pathognomonic of something necessarily dire, but it can be one of the initial signs of serious illness or the dying process and tends to gradually worsen over time.
- Sleeping: A dog may start to sleep more and seek out isolation in areas where he or she can be undisturbed. Dog owners may notice how some usual behaviors and activities may start to lessen or disappear from the dog's repertoire of behaviors.
- Apathy: A dog may no longer greet the owners at the door or may no longer be interested in going on walks or playing. They may get weaker and may start walking at a slower pace.
- Worsened Hygiene: A dog may no longer groom as before.
As the lethargy progresses, they may be reluctant to get up to eat and drink and go outside to potty; they may lie down in the same area and position for extended periods of time.
How can you help your dog?
Let your dog sleep as much as he or she likes. Provide them with a comfortable and quiet place to rest. Keep your dog away from loud noises, boisterous kids, and the commotion of family members fighting.
2. Decreased Appetite
Your dog may start eating less and may have a hard time finishing his or her daily portion. This reduced appetite may be a consequence of certain cancer treatments or terminal illness. Dogs with cancer may be nauseated from chemotherapy or they may not have a large appetite due to certain tumors pushing on their digestive tract, thus requiring smaller meals. Dogs with mast cell tumors may also have reduced appetite due to the fact that these tumors release histamines which cause increased stomach acid production and nausea. Nauseous dogs may drool visibly and smack their lips.
- Disinterest in Food: A reduced appetite in dying dogs is natural. The body simply no longer needs the energy from food as it once did. Dogs may have a lack of appetite out of the blue or may go through cycles of normal and abnormal appetite.
- Picky Eating: Many dogs will eagerly eat cookies, treats, or people food, but may turn their nose at kibble or dog food. Some dogs may eat only warmed-up meals. Other dogs may develop some new quirks such as eating only if they are hand-fed or only if the food is placed on the floor.
As dog owners, we feel very saddened by their loss of appetite because we associate feeding our dogs with nourishment and taking good care of them. For dogs on medications, food is often used to hide capsules and tablets. Medicating can become particularly frustrating when food is no longer desired. Dog owners often have to get particularly creative to get their dogs to take pills.
How can you help your dog?
Warm up meals and hand-feed your dog. In the last days, feed him what he wants as long as it's not something toxic or something that may cause digestive problems. There are medications vets can prescribe to increase appetite. Prednisone, mirtazapine, and the newer product, capromorelin (Entyce), are good options. As a dog's health keeps declining, soft or liquid meals may be preferred.
In any event, it is always best that a dog with cancer eat something rather than nothing. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best option for your dog.
— Robin Downing, DVM
3. Weight Loss
As dogs eat less, weight loss is common. This can be quite upsetting for dog owners to witness. It is not unusual for geriatric dogs to become very thin and emaciated just because of old age, but in many cases, this weight loss is due to some degenerative disorders such as chronic renal or hepatic insufficiencies and/or some types of malignancies.
- Cachexia: In dogs with cancer, a significant reduction in body condition takes place. This loss of muscle and fat stores is known as cachexia. Cancer cachexia in dogs may take place even though a dog may be eating fairly well. Essentially, cancer cells use up a lot of the dog's calories. This is not surprising considering how fast cancer cells tend to divide to make new cells and use up energy, explains veterinarian Dr. Damian Dressler.
How can you help your dog?
Ask your vet for appetite stimulants and discuss the option of starting your dog on a diet high in protein and fat to combat the weight loss seen in cancer cachexia.
4. Social Detachment
As dogs approach natural death they may seek out solitude. They may detach a little bit more each day from their routines and seek resting areas away from all the hustle and bustle of busy homes.
Before my uncle's dog passed, he reported that in the previous days his pretty collie dog was not showing up as much as before. He preferred sleeping in the barn rather than being present in the mornings to greet him and have breakfast as he always did in the past 10 years. Many owners, however, report that their dogs remain very present and affectionate for most of the time. Some report them even being clingy, although at times they may still seek distance.
- Isolation: As death gets closer, distancing and physical and emotional detachment may become more common in dogs. Some dog owners even report noticing this detachment in their dog's eyes. "It's almost is if Ranger wasn't fully there when I looked into his eyes," my client reported when I asked her about her dog's final days.
How can you help your dog?
Respect your dog's need for peace and quiet. Approach him or her quietly to prevent startling them. Calmly touch them and reassure them. Avoid loud noises or bright lights. Consider spraying some Rescue Remedy or Adaptil in the room.
Imminent Signs a Dog Is Dying
There are some signs that are more likely to occur as a dog is days away from death. As mentioned, there are no rules set when it comes to the dying process and some signs may pop up earlier than expected.
Most dog owners who elect euthanasia after witnessing the early signs may not witness the signs described here; however, in some cases it can happen that natural death in dogs unfolds either because the owners elect to do hospice care with assistance from a vet or the dog has a fast-moving illness that catches them off guard (the vet may be unavailable when the dog passes).
It is always best to be prepared. Most towns and cities have emergency vets on staff 24/7. Many vets now offer house calls. There is even a new franchise company called Lap of Love that specializes in vets offering hospice care and humane euthanasia at home.
5. Reduced Mobility
As a dog nears death, he or she will become less mobile. The dog may start getting weak and no longer have enough strength to get up. Their legs may start giving out or they may have trouble climbing stairs and have difficulty navigating slippery floors. As things progress, the dog may no longer be able to get up and walk around; some may also struggle to lift their heads.
How can you help your dog?
Provide non-skid flooring. Some dogs require assistance getting around. There are several mobility harnesses, slings, carts, and wheelchairs available nowadays. A towel or blanket placed under a dog's belly may come in handy to help support his or her weight. As your dog no longer gets up to potty or drink, place some incontinence pads underneath them and offer water as needed as long as the dog can swallow.
6. Decreased Thirst
Water and food provide energy and hydration and are meant to sustain life, not death. It is normal for dying dogs to want only soft foods and liquids such as bone broth or water.
- Loss of the Swallow Reflex: As the dog advances towards death, the ability to swallow gradually reduces. Dogs may be seen struggling to chew hard foods like kibble and they may cough and choke on solid foods. As the dog's digestive system starts to get weaker, eating solid food becomes uncomfortable. Dogs may no longer walk to the water bowl as usual.
How can you help your dog?
If a dog is mobile and able to swallow, ensure easy access to food and water. If the dog is in a weakened state, caution is needed when offering water. Forcing water down a dog's throat if the dog lacks the ability to swallow may cause choking and aspiration pneumonia. If your dog is on medications, dehydration may potentiate their effects and cause liver damage or similar organ damage. Consult with your vet for instructions to avoid side effects.
This refers to both bladder and bowel incontinence. Incontinence may occur due to a lack of sphincter control; the dog may soil easily because he or she is weak and can no longer get up and move around as he used to. As the dog stops eating and drinking, accidents will occur less frequently considering that gastrointestinal functions are starting to shut down.
How can you help your dog?
Keep pads under your dog if he or she is no longer mobile and clean up messes as soon as you can. The failure to clean up messes may lead to sores caused by waste irritating the skin.
Dog owners may notice their dog becoming restless. It's important to understand whether or not this is part of the natural process or whether this is an indication of discomfort either due to pain or something else that needs to be addressed.
- Change in Behavior: Dogs may pant, get up, and change resting spots frequently, lick their paws, or vocalize.
- Positioning: A dog that is unable to walk and lays down most of the time may be trying to communicate a need to drink, relieve themselves, or a need to be repositioned. Dogs, like humans who are bedridden, may develop bed sores and pain if they lie on the same side for hours on end. It's important to turn these dogs every 2–4 hours as needed. This is a two-person job; one person should hold the front legs and the second person should hold the rear legs while the dog is gently turned from one side to the other.
How can you help your dog?
Determine whether your dog is too hot or cold, whether they are thirsty or need to be turned. Keep calming aids on hand if needed. Talk to your dog softly and use a gentle touch.
Animal hospice accepts that it is the pet owner’s ethical and legal right and responsibility to decide whether the terminally ill animal will die by euthanasia or by hospice-supported natural death. Animal hospice does not accept a pet owner’s decision to allow a pet to die without euthanasia unless effective measures are in place to alleviate discomfort under the care of a licensed veterinarian. Such practices are considered unethical and inhumane.
— American Animal Hospital Association
It is not unusual for a dying dog to experience pain, so dogs owners may have pain relievers on hand as prescribed by the vet. Dogs that are unable to swallow may require drugs given by injection. These can be provided by a vet specializing in hospice care. Homeopathic remedies in pellet form may be suitable to ease some discomfort and can also be delivered as a mouth melt.
How can you help your dog?
Have your vet check on your dog and keep quick-acting pain meds handy.
10. Labored Breathing
You have been familiar with your dog's breathing for many years, and now you notice that your dog's breathing pattern is changing. As dogs near death, it is common for their breathing patterns to change or for them to have a difficult time breathing. This change may take place just hours or days prior to death and is a sign that the dog's body is beginning to slowly shut down. Here's what you'll observe:
- Irregular Breathing: Slower, irregular breaths with pausing in between may be noted. As death nears, the dog may open and close his or her mouth.
- Heavy Breathing: While changes in breathing patterns are common when death is near, labored breathing may also take place when a dog is running a fever, is in pain, or has fluid in his chest.
How can you help your dog?
Ask your vet to check on your dog and make sure he or she is not congested or in distress.
11. Changes in Gum Color
Looking at the dog's gums is an optimum reference when it comes to determining a dog's health status. In a healthy dog, you want to see nice bubblegum-pink gums. These pink gums are proof of oxygen-rich blood circulating throughout the dog's body. The gums are also typically moist. If the blood vessels aren't vascularized and oxygenated well, changes in color may be observed:
- Abnormal Color: In a dying dog or in a dog in critical condition, the gums and tongue tend to gradually turn pale or blue and then eventually white. The mouth also becomes dry. In dogs who cannot swallow, fluid may leak from the mouth.
How can you help your dog?
There is not much that can be done to reverse the gum color changes caused by reduced circulation. If your dog is anemic, due to a bleeding cancer, you can ask your vet about an emergency transfusion, but in many cases this may only provide transient relief. Yunnan Baiyao emergency pills (the red pills found in the middle of the packet), can sometimes help for acute hemorrhage due to hemangiosarcoma., but won't work for major, massive bleedings. Consult with a vet. He or she may suggest a a PCV (a hematocrit level) to asses the situation. For critical cases, humane euthanasia may be elected.
For the dry mouth and dry gums, you can help keep the lips and gums moist with lukewarm water by using a cotton swab if the dog appears to appreciate this.
12. Cool Body
As things progress and death inevitably approaches, the body cools down because of reduced circulation. Owners often notice cold paws and cooler breath. This is normal considering that the body temperature lowers and blood pressure drops before death.
How can you help your dog?
Keep a very light blanket on your dog for comfort, but make sure it's a very light one as a regular blanket may feel very heavy on a dying dog.
When an animal hospice patient is in the last hours of life, recognition and alleviation of pain are top priorities for the pet owner and the healthcare team. Pain should be addressed as soon as it is suspected, when physiologic or behavioral signs are noted. Contrary to a common fear, there is no evidence to suggest that pain suddenly intensifies during active dying.
— American Animal Hospital Association
13. Post-Death Reflexes
After a dog displays some or several of the signs described above, death takes place. Sometimes muscle twitching may be observed immediately after death.
These twitches can be disconcerting to the unprepared dog owners, but they are rather normal. These twitches tend to occur because even after death energy remains in the muscles of the body.
It's important to clarify that these are reflexes and that, they are therefore, not being controlled by the brain. A dog has passed well before his/her body uses up the remaining energy in the muscles.
Breathing, sighing or gasping may be noticed too; but in this case, it's not to get oxygen as it happens during life. Rather, it's a reflex of the nerves.
These bodily reactions are part of the natural event of dying and should not be interpreted as suffering.
14. Bladder/Bowel Emptying
When a dog dies, the bladder or bowels may empty. Diarrhea may seep out.
This can be surprising with a dog who hasn't eaten much previously. The truth is, whether a dog eats or not, the body still produces waste which will need to be eliminated.
Bladder and bowel emptying happens as the body’s muscles relax. Keeping towels under the dog may absorb messes.
15. Lack of Heart Beat
Death is the collapse of the dog's cardiovascular system, which translates into the failure of oxygen delivery to the tissues, cells, and vital organs of the body. The ultimate proof of death in dogs is the lack of a heart beat.
If you are caring for a sick dog and providing hospice care, you can find it helpful getting acquainted with your dog's normal heartbeat.
A stethoscope can turn handy here. Practice with it to hear the heart just behind the elbow. With practice, then you will know when it stops beating. When a dog is euthanized, the vet will be the one to listen to ensure death has occurred. Absence of a heart beat for a period of more than 5 minutes proves that death has occurred.
Other signs of death is no more respiratory movements of the chest as with death the breathing stops. On top of this, when you touch the cornea of the eye, you will notice a lack of blink reflex -- which can occur as early as a minute after death. Normal, conscious dogs will blink when the eye ball is touched.
It is normal for most dogs to die with their eyes open. After a few minutes, it is also normal for the cornea to assume a glassy appearance.
Video on Signs a Dog is Dying
Why Is My Dog Acting Fine If He or She Is Dying?
As seen, death generally unfolds following several milestones, but not all dogs will stop at each milestone. Some dogs may skip some or go through them very quickly, while others may take months to reach the end of their journey. It's important, therefore, to recognize that none, some, or all of the changes described above may be observed.
Death is an individual process. You may therefore stumble on some dogs who remain active, eating, and up on their feet up to their final day, while others may be sluggish and sleep for hours on end in their final weeks. There are no rules set in stone.
Some dog owners report a surge of energy a few days prior to a dog's death. The dog suddenly walks or eats and appears to have more energy. As pleasant as this is, it's often short-lived and not a sign of getting better, rather, it's often a sign of nearing death—the signs of dying return and are often more pronounced.
What Should I Do If My Dog Dies at Home?
In an ideal situation, your veterinarian will be with you at the time of your dog's passing. Many veterinary clinics will collect your beloved pet's body and offer cremation services and burial services for the deceased. Mobile veterinarians, regular cremation services, and animal control can also be of help. If these services are unavailable to you, here are some tips on what to do:
- If available, wear gloves when handling your beloved pet.
- Put your dog's body on a dog bed, on blankets, or on a sheet. Bodily fluids may leave the body at any point and soil linens, so make sure you can part with these items.
- Be mentally prepared and expect rigor mortis and stiffening to take place within hours.
- Wrap your beloved pet in a blanket and consider placing them on top of a large trash bag to prevent bodily fluid leakage.
- It is best to store your dog's body in a cool, private place until you can contact a professional service.
- Make sure to recruit emotional and mental support. Do not feel you have to go through this alone.
Do Dogs Know When a Dog Dies?
Yes. A study published in the journal Animals observed 159 dogs and 152 cats who had recently lost an animal family member. It was revealed that many of the animals in the study continuously went to check on their companion's favorite places in the home. Other trending behaviors included increased clinginess in both cats and dogs, increased napping in dogs, increased vocalizations in cats, and reduced appetite in both dogs and cats.
What are the Stages of Grief?
The stages of grief are nonlinear, but understanding that one may experience each and every emotion helps to aid in the healing process. Here are the five stages of grief:
- Denial: Denial and shock go hand-in-hand. You may have a hard time accepting that your pet is truly gone. Shock may result in the absence of emotion; one may go about daily life as if nothing has changed. This is part of the normal grieving process.
- Anger: Anger is simply a symptom of pain. An owner may experience a sense of injustice—"Why did my dog have to die if I took such good care of him?" Anger is best not internalized and should be dealt with in a healthy manner.
- Bargaining: Bargaining is a common symptom of grief. Individuals may experience bargaining early on as a form of anticipatory grief. This may involve wishing your dog can be spared of a terminal diagnosis.
- Depression: Depression occurs near or shortly after death. The owner may feel apathetic towards normal activities or unable to take care of themselves. Intense sadness is commonly associated with depression.
- Acceptance: Acceptance often occurs as part of the healing process. Acceptance allows one to comprehend the loss but continue to move on in life and cope. Acceptance does not mean forgetting, it simply means find a way to live and continue to love in the present.
Death is Quite a Journey
Death is usually confirmed by using a stethoscope and listening for lack of a heartbeat, but what is death? Death is the collapse of the dog's cardiovascular system, which translates into the failure of oxygen delivery to the tissues, cells, and vital organs of the body. It's the end of the journey.
Death in dogs may occur naturally or through injection of euthanasia solution by the vet. Most dogs are euthanized by a vet, but more and more owners are now electing hospice care for their dogs with the assistance of a vet. Hospice care doesn't mean that euthanasia is never considered. On the contrary, it is considered as a last option should the dog be in unmanageable pain.
It's important that dog owners remain in constant contact with their vets during this time and that they keep injectable pain relievers on hand should the dog no longer be capable of taking pills by mouth. Work with a vet that specializes in hospice care to make sure your dog is comfortable as much as possible throughout the process.
Death is quite a journey. It is part of life and sadly it's one that all of us dog owners will eventually have to face at one time or another. As the saying goes though, "forewarned is forearmed." Being acquainted with the dying process in dogs offers an important advantage.
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.
- AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines. American Animal Hospital Association (2016).
- Peaceful: The Quality of Dying Checklist for Hospice-Supported Natural Dying. GRACE Animal Hospice Consortium.
- Ball, L. When Your Dog Has Cancer: Making the Right Decisions for You and Your DogBook.
- Van de Poll, Wendy. My Dog Is Dying: What Do I Do?: Emotions, Decisions, and Options for Healing. Center for Pet Loss Grief. March 2, 2016.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Will a dying dog vomit up a white liquid?
Answer: It is not unusual for a dying dog to vomit. The white liquid may be mucus which is is often produced in the GI tract when it is irritated. In dogs dying from heart problems (like heartworm disease) coughing up and vomiting foam is not unusual. Dogs dying from bloat may retch and vomit only small amounts of foam. If there is no more swallowing, saliva may pool and cause drooling or there may be nausea if the dog is off food. All in all though, vomiting a white liquid is not specific enough to indicate one disease or disorder, and it may be seen in a dying dog but also in a non-dying dog.
Question: Where should we prepare to take the dog’s body once she has passed and how much does it cost?
Answer: If you are planning to do cremation, several of the companies will come to your home to pick up the body. Costs may obviously vary from one place and another. I will give you a rough estimate based on what I paid for when my dog passed away. The transport to the cremation facility was $75 (I think these costs vary based on mileage, we are pretty far out of town) so if you live in town, these may be considerably lower. And then private cremation was $215. The cremation costs vary based on a pet's weight, so this is based on a large dog. Communal cremation should be considerably lower. I am so sorry you are going through this, but careful planning seems to make it all a bit less stressful.
Question: Is my female dog's black diarrhea and gas a sign that it is dying?
Answer: Black diarrhea and gas can be signs of several medical conditions and, are therefore, not necessarily a sign of a dog dying. However, black diarrhea can be potentially serious, and left untreated, can be life threatening. Black diarrhea can be indicative of bleeding in the upper digestive tract. When blood is digested, it turns dark giving stools a dark color. This is medically known as melena. Melena can be a sign of a bleeding stomach ulcer, which can be seen in dogs given aspirin, steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, it can be seen in dogs who ingested rat poison or who have serious blood clotting disorders or bleeding cancers. If you are seeing black diarrhea, please see your vet at your earliest convenience. Chances are, this can be managed if caught early enough.
Question: How do I know if my dog is dying of old age? My 12-year-old lab/chow with white gums, not eating or drinking.
Answer: The symptoms you are listing are very concerning. White gums can be indicative of anemia which can be seen in dogs with several conditions such as bleeding cancers (a common one is hemangiosarcoma), blood clotting disorders, heavy parasite loads, and ingestion of rat poison, just to name a few. White gums are caused by the dog not having enough red blood cells circulating in the blood. Dogs with white gums can be in shock from this and become weak and lose appetite. If your dog has white gums and is not eating or drinking, please see your vet at your earliest convenience. Caught early, sometimes shock can be reversed by stabilizing the dog and supportive care (e.g. blood transfusion) to help him pull through the crisis.
Question: From the list of 12 signs that a dog may be dying, my doh only has one of them which is she can no longer jump up into bed. I have to lift her back end, but she's still eating and drinking. Any idea what could be going on?
Answer: This can simply be a back problem or a hip problem or some other orthopedic issue, commonly seen in dogs who are aging. Have your dog see the vet. Your vet can prescribe pain relievers that can help her mobility. It's very good that she is eating and drinking.
Question: If your dog guards his food, and guards it for 2 days, and has very severe diarrhea, is it dying?
Answer: Very severe diarrhea, of course, is concerning and should be checked out by a vet. I don't think guarding food and having diarrhea is particularly indicative of a dog who is dying, but of course, severe diarrhea, not eating/drinking can lead to progressive dehydration which can ultimately become life-threatening, so please consult with a vet to see what can be done to keep it under control. From personal experience, I can say that my dog, when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, guarded her food from my other dog when she was still interested in it. Then, as her appetite diminished and became weaker, she mellowed down a bit in this aspect but I still used caution in preventing any possible resource guarding.
If your dog never resources guarded and now resource guards, it is possible that changes in the brain (as a result of kidney/liver failure, brain cancer, cognitive dysfunction in older dogs) may be taking place which can cause abnormal behaviors.
Another possible explanation is that you are offering high-value foods, that your dog cherishes and desires, but doesn't eat due to nausea/lack of appetite. Since the foods are laying around, and your dog has no interest in consuming readily, he may use his growl to inform other dogs or people that although he isn't eating it, he still wants to retain ownership of it. This mindset may especially occur when dogs are in pain or weaker and they feel more vulnerable since they may not walk around as they used to, so they use "their words" more since they can't just pick up the food and walk away.
© 2018 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 07, 2020:
Hi Garykass, this is ultimately a personal decision. Only you know your dog best and can tell how her quality of life is. Our girl died naturally at home, but she had pain meds, was followed closely by a vet, and we were stocked with ample of supplements to make her comfortable in case of nausea,diarrhea, vomiting, pain, anemia etc. We also stayed home with her 24/7 and were there in case there was an emergency. She also still showed signs of enjoying being pet and given attention, although she stopped eating the night prior and needed support to walk.
Garykass on September 07, 2020:
We have a toy poodle that is almost 19 that is completely incontinent and her real legs are very weak additionally she has lost her hearing and most of her eyesight and recently started urinating in bed and on herself pretty regularly she is also very disconnected from us but does eat and drink regularly
We’re reaching the point where we feel her quality of life is almost completely gone we’d love to get your thoughts
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 05, 2020:
Hi Jason, so sorry you are going through this difficult time. These things seem to always happen over weekends and holidays. If you are worried she might be suffering, you can see if you can have a mobile vet come to your home. Lap of Love is a company that can provide end of life care and has vets scattered across several States, not sure if they are in your area and if they work on weekends, but worthy of seeing. You can try calling the closest veterinary emergency center and see if there are any other options. Does your dog want attention? Our girl in her last days wanted to be talked to and caressed. Make sure she is not trying to communicate some need such as needing to be turned or wanting a sip of water or attention. My dog drank a little sip the last moments. I hope she gets to pass peacefully. Breathing changes sound like she's nearing death as it happens with humans.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 05, 2020:
Nathan, so sorry for your loss. I lost two dogs, one slowly to cancer over the course of 3 months, watching her deteriorate gradually, and one rather quickly in one day to some type of heart issue. He had nausea in the afternoon and then got better and then later in the evening just collapsed. Both deaths were painful. Sudden loss seems to leave you in shock, with little opportunity to process. It sounds like your dog though passed in his sleep which at least didn't cause him to suffer. Again, so sorry.
Jason E Thompson on September 05, 2020:
Our Dog has cushions disease. When we came home she could no longer move her back part without help. She has now stopped eating,drinking and going to bathroom for almost 3 days. She has been struggling to breath and has laid in one spot the last 2 days. I'm not sure how long it takes but hate to see her suffer our Vet will not be open till Monday!
Nathan on August 30, 2020:
My dogs death was a 1 day process, August 28th my dog was happy, excited, and full of life And a big snuggle bug. The next day the 29th he started throwing up yellow bile and not as excited he would'nt even look at you, he would drink water but throw it up he would'nt eat. The next day when I woke I tried to wake him up but he was gone.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 15, 2020:
Firstly, I am very sorry about your loss. I have gone through losing two dogs in these past two years and they both died at home naturally.
In my first case, my dog had a severe case of histiocytic sarcoma which involved her spleen and later spread to her lungs. We diagnosed this with an ultrasound and CT scan.
Like in your case, her red blood cells and platelets kept plummeting. The oncologist gave us 1 month, but she made it to three. She got progressively weaker (we had to help her get up and walk), lost appetite, and on her last day, she had labored breathing and was weak, although she still wanted attention and petting. She also started drooling a lot to the point of wetting her paws.
I wasn't with her in her last moments, but my hubby told me that she looked around as if seeing imaginary things and then gasped for air several times in row.
Fast forward one year and my male had some sort of cancer going on too. He too had low red blood cells. I didn't put him through the CT scan but only the ultrasound as I didn't want to put him under anesthesia and put him through the stress of a long drive 3 hours away and back. The ultrasound found a mass on the liver, but we didn't know what type of cancer it was as it wasn't aspirated.
In any case, we put him on steroids as we did with my other dog as he was starting to lose appetite and these helped increase it although temporary.
On his last day he was mobile but got weaker and started drooling. He acted as if he was dying. He then though got better and even ate with appetite after my hubby gave him a red Yunnan Baiyou emergency pill.
He then asked to go outside, tried to chase a rabbit, and once back, he just collapsed. As my hubby was carrying him in his arms to place him on the couch, his neck was limp and started the gasping just like my other dog but only 2-3 times.
I researched this gasping in depth and asked a vet about it and was told that it's a reflex and can happen in humans as well. You can read more about it here: https://dogshealthproblems.com/dog-gasping-for-air...
I don't think your dog was suffering just as my dog weren't. It's upsetting to witness, but once we understand the dynamics it feels a little better. Try to think of all the good memories rather than the last moments. Sending you my deepest condolences.
Julie02832038 on August 15, 2020:
Adrienne, thank you so much for this article and for responding to people's questions. Our Angel died in my arms 6 days ago and I can't stop replaying her final moments. She was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma over a year ago (and given 3-6 months to live) and had been anemic for over two months since we had a big scare with a bad UTI-- after spending the night with the vet on fluids and a week of IV antibiotics, she recovered, but her blood tests continued to show anemia and high platelet count until she died 2 months later. She had also developed bacterial corneal ulcers in both her eyes. We are posted abroad and vet care isn't fantastic, and our vet wasn't able to figure out what was wrong with her. Although I think even in the US it would have been hard (based on my extensive Googling, ha). I think it may have been related to the fibrosarcoma or maybe IMHA. She continued to drink, but was barely eating for about 5 days, and our vet kept saying it was okay for us to wait. Her tongue got very pale and she slept most of the time, but she still woke up and was aware, looked at us, told us when she had to pee, etc. She barked at me to take her out to pee, and when I took her outside, she suddenly started acting as if she was choking, stretching her neck to get air, for about 30 seconds, then she convulsed once or twice, went limp and started drooling uncontrollably. After that she took a few breaths over a couple minutes and passed. It was incredibly awful to watch, although I'm glad I was able to hold her while she went. I can't stop thinking about how horrible it was, and how confused and afraid she must have been. I keep thinking we should have taken her to vet to get IV fluids, even if he said to wait, how we shouldn't have listened to him, and she could have lived longer. For months her test results had shown anemia and high platelets, but we didn't know what to do beyond trying to get her to eat and drink, and continuing her pain and heart medications (she also had a heart murmur and hypertension) to make sure she wasn't in pain. Up until those last few days when the anemia was really getting her down, her quality of life was good. I don't believe she ever felt any pain aside from those final moments when she was struggling to breathe. I'm not sure what I'm hoping for in posting this. I guess I'd like to know if you think she suffered or if there was more we could have done. Thank you for all that you do.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 01, 2020:
Hi Kalli, I suggest having your family give your vet a call as there can be conditions where dogs can be helped. Inform the vet staff about the symptoms you are seeing. So sorry your dog is not feeling well.
Kalli on July 31, 2020:
I am only 10 and my dog has been different and my family this she is dieing so can you help me plez
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 29, 2020:
Hi Nicole, so sorry for your loss. Short of having a necropsy done, it is difficult knowing what may have happened exactly. It is certainly odd that blood work and urine samples can back totally normal and then this. Loss of appetite is surely something that is suggestive of something not being right. It could have been related to her GI upset or maybe not, perhaps there was more going that happened fast or wasn't detected with more in depth tests. Once again, so sorry this has happened.
Nicole on July 27, 2020:
Hi, My corgi who was almost 13 died suddenly last week. She had an ultrasound done in June and all they found was a mass in her liver. But the vet wasn't too concerned and said it was most likely benign and due to old age. A few weeks after the ultrasound she had a severe GI upset and was treated for it at the emergency hospital. Then about 2 weeks after that she was hospitalized because she had pneumonia. Blood work and Urinalysis came back normal (for her) and two days before she died the vet rechecked her and said she sounded ok. She had chronic kidney disease but it was being managed with medication and it was stable. She was acting normally, playing with toys, cuddling, drinking, etc. The only thing different was she wasn't eating as much and very picky, but she had been like that since her GI upset and the day before she died she had very runny diarrhea which I was going to address the next morning but she had already passed away.
Do you think her decreased appetite was an early indication that she was dying? Wouldn't her blood work show that something was wrong?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 25, 2020:
Hi Cacey, your dog is showing several signs of the dying process, but dying is an individual process and there are no rules set in stone. Has your dog seen the vet recently? Was your dog diagnosed with a terminal disease? It's important to work along with a trusted vet if you are planning to provide hospice care at home to ensure your dog is comfortable. So sorry you are going through this. Hugs at this difficult time.
Cacey on July 25, 2020:
My dog can not use his back legs and has not moved for a whole day, his saliva keeps leaking out of his mouth, he was also not able to sallow pills, he can’t lift his head up, normally when someone comes home his ears will perk up but today they didn’t and he’s usually a dog who sleeps every minute of every hour and today I never saw him close his eyes once. His pupils have been very large this whole day and haven’t changed from that once. I think his gums are white. He also peed him self twice and does not eat or drink. Is he dying??
peggy on July 18, 2020:
should you force-feed your dying dog during their last days? considering she has stopped eating & drinking - is 16 years old gets very confused and has all the symptoms you mention.
Joyce on July 15, 2020:
My dog kind of coughs a lot almost sounds like she’s choking she’s 15 years old and has all kinds of the mole like bumps all over her Has a dog door and can get out easily to go to the bathroom and goes to the bathroom in the house a lot. I’m not sure what these are signs of I feel like she’s having a hard time seeing and hearing.
Nessa20 on July 10, 2020:
i had a 12yr Chihuahua she was good and healthy 1 day she wanted to go outside her normal routine and i went to the bathroom and i heard her like scream and bark very lound and scary i ran out and she was already on the ground stift and cold with with her tongue out very sad I wounder what happend to her very unexpected
AnneD2663 on July 06, 2020:
Your article was very helpful to me as I spent the last days and hours comforting my senior mini-dachshund while he died at home on Saturday July 4, 2020. He was 15 years, 9 months, and 5 days old when he passed. Because of your article, I was able to notice each of the end-stage processes that you described and to prepare for the next one. Rather than being surprised and anxious, it was comforting to be able to recognize natural parts of the living and dying cycle. The only thing I wasn't quite prepared for was at the very end his neck arched (not violently, but very pronounced) before it went limp in my arms. Maybe that's what you were describing when you talked about a dog looking like they are gasping for air right at death. He didn't look like he was gasping for air--it was more like a contortion than a gasp. I don't think he was in pain, but it was unprepared for that last part. I had him since he was a puppy and I'll miss him.
His bonded half-sister, who is already 16, was quite curious about the "smell of death" that her brother had during the last few hours, but after he died she was "having none of it" when I took her over to his body after I had cleaned the excretions. She is now exhibiting some distinct characteristics of what I assume is survivor grief. The other 2 senior rescue dogs in the house only joined us about a year ago, and they aren't exhibiting any signs of grieving--probably because they are a bonded sibling pair and never really bonded with the original dogs--friendly, but not bonded.... I'm reading up on what I can do to ease the transition from a 4-dog house to a 3-dog house.
Anyway, thanks again for your helpful article.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 26, 2020:
So sorry to hear your dog is dealing with all that. All I can say is to check whether some local shelters have any vets who are willing to provide some low-cost care or you can call a vet school. If money is low at this moment, you can try to apply for Care Credit which can cover costs and you can give back within 6 months or so I believe.
greg on June 25, 2020:
medium mid aged dog ran over has 3 compound fractures on front leg probable internal injuries..sunday night no vet available no money for rehab
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 12, 2020:
So sorry for your losses in such a short time. It is not unheard of for people and dogs to die from the sadness related to a loss, especially if they were older and frail already. My uncle lost a dog once who refused to eat because he left her behind when traveling for work. My grandma tried her best to get her to eat but her heart was broken. Of course, we may never really know what happened exactly to your pug, so we can only speculate. Again, so sorry you are going through all of this.
Brenda Brumage on June 12, 2020:
My 14yr old Pug died in my arms one night, no apparent reason. The week before she ran away, got her back, she was distant. 2wks later my 16yr old Pug was diagnosed with cancer, 5wks treatment she got worse, so we had to say Goodbye. Then my other 14yr old pug got sick, $695.00 later we could not find a reason for her illness. Within a month she wander off and we never found her. I said she died of a broken heart from my other 2 girls dying. Could this be true?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 04, 2020:
So sorry for your losses, so devastating! Any chance your vet can do a necropsy?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 04, 2020:
Carol, sorry for the delay. For some reason your comment was mistakenly hidden and I just noticed it now. Because every process is different for each dog, the meds to have in our emergency kits may vary depending on what is happening with the dog. For instance, my female Rottie was dying from spleen cancer, so we had pain meds on hand (although she really never showed signs of pain fortunately), meds for nausea, diarrhea and vomiting and chinese herbs in case she was bleeding internally. My male was dying from some issue with his liver so we had him on nausea meds, meds for liver support (milk thistle, Denamarin). So each case is different, so your best is to speak to your vet.
Brazykc on June 03, 2020:
I had a Siberian husky and she was pregnant for the first time. On the day she was due, she passed away and so did all of her 9 puppies. Our emergency vet that was qualified to do a C section was 20 mins away. I was furious because why have an emergency vet close by that can’t offer everything to you. They said they believed she went into cardiac. The day before she was vomiting a lot and the same that morning. The vet that we called which was on a Sunday. Said she would be fine. They knew how many times and everything. I’ve searched the web over and over and can’t find a plausible answer. I’m struggling to understand what could of happened. We took her to a health exam on Monday and they said she was fine and her birth would be fine. She passed on Sunday. Any ideas.
Carol Busseau on May 22, 2020:
My Boston, Max is about 15 years old (we think); certainly no younger than 13. He’s had a seizure disorder for the past 2-3 years and is on medication. He’s pretty much blind with cataracts, and deaf for whatever reason. He’s losing weight, although his appetite at the moment is good (although he’s no longer interested in snacks or licking plates). My desire is to give him the best end-of-life that I can. He can’t really wander the house anymore, but I do make it as safe and obstacle-free as possible. He is still able to (carefully) negotiate 4 steps down and back up, to the yard. He loses his balance a little when he poops. He doesn’t seem to be in pain, just sleeps ALOT, usually in my lap. My question would be, assuming we’re entering the end times for him, what might I expect? Are there medications I should have on hand for his comfort and well being (holistic or Rxd)? I do plan on speaking with my vet soon, but with COVID19 we’re still at parking lot consults. I guess I’m just looking for reassurance at this point.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 04, 2020:
I am so sorry for your loss. I must first say, how difficult it is to deal with sudden losses as such. I lost my dog last year and I too struggled finding out what may have gone wrong. All I knew is he was anemic and most likely had some type of cancer. Truth is, unless we can get a necropsy done, we may never know.
It could have been a heart issue, dogs with heart failure, for instance, are known to be unable to remain in a resting posture, because it prevents them from filling the lungs with air completely.
Could it be she was exposed to some toxin? Could she have had some type of cancer or autoimmune disease? Dogs can have bleeding cancers which can cause them to weaken, be unable to walk well on their hind legs and they can go suddenly down hill fast.
Was any bloodwork done recently? When was the last time she saw the vet? Sometimes we can gather some hints from previous visits.
Pneumonia can certainly cause trouble breathing, coughing, wheezing and death.
There are many possibilities and we must consider than she was also in her senior years and cancer is quite common in older dogs. Again, so sorry for your loss.
Dolly on April 04, 2020:
Hi my gentle giant Sheba just passed away on 1/4/2020, i am at a lost on what killed her.
She was a bull mastiff GS mix and she was 9, for the last 3 weeks it was very difficult for her to move around her back legs were giving her alot of pain. Vet come over n gave her jabs n medicine.
She was getting better but on Monday she stop eating all this while i had been hand feeding her.
On Tuesday I tried giving her some milk which she refuse but I forced her to take her medicine and after an hour or so she vomited n I noticed whatever she eat on Sunday was not digested.
She refuse to move so v had to drag her by her chain to get her cleaned (she was to big for us to carry)
I tried calling d vet again but v r under lockdown due to Covid 19, so vet was not available.
After an hour I notice she was breathing very heavily n she could not put her head down. She sat in the same position for more then about 10 hours.
At 2am just before going to bed I checked on her and found that she has moved to her favourite spot and she was drinking alot of water n d water had some grey stuff floating in it so i changed d water but she just kept drinking n I notice alot of saliva coming out of her mouth. I sat with her till about 2.20am since I did not know what to do for her.
And she just could not sleep or put her head down to relax n her breathing was bad. I felt so bad that i could not help her in anyway n i did not know what to do.
Just before going to bed i checked on her again n she was still drinking i move the bowl but she moved to it n kept drinking.
Finally I went to bed. In the morning when I checked on her at 7am she had already passed away. My whole world come crashing down.
What I need to know is what caused her death even my vets can't tell me, I am so lost. I took so good care of my baby girl n now she is going.
Please if u can from what i have written would u b able to assist n let me know what would have caused her death. One vet told me it could be respiratory pneumonia but not certain.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 28, 2020:
Over, it would be important to know what may be happening to your dog and see what options are available to at least ease the suffering. Are any veterinarians open? How about emergency vet clinics? You can also see if there are mobile vets in your area who can come to your home. I hope you can find help for your suffering dog!
Over on March 27, 2020:
I cant stand it shes not dying shes suffering
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 27, 2020:
Over, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those like you who are facing sickness and loss of their dogs during this already challenging time. I hope you can reach your veterinarian. The signs your dog is showing are very worrisome. So sorry you are going through this.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 27, 2020:
Janine, so sorry for your loss. Sudden losses like that can be devastating. So many things can happen, ingestion of something toxic, underlying disease processes that have gone undetected, viral infections and so forth. How old was your baby? A necropsy from your vet can sometimes give an answer. Again so sorry.
Over on March 26, 2020:
My dog is breathing heavy and fast has white gums is social distancing and does not eat food she was dying in front of me.
Janine on March 26, 2020:
My Maltese had diarrhea this morning, looked like it was just running from his behind. Came out from under bed to say bye before leaving for work only for my son to come home to find my fur baby dead. What eould cause this so fast
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 26, 2020:
Dog Lover, can you tell me what the pills are? They should have a label on the bottle. Poms can be prone to heart issues and tracheal collapse, both which can cause coughing,so it would be important asking the vet why your dog is coughing in the first place. Maybe chest x-rays and neck x-rays can help. I would call the vet immediately and let him/her know about what happened after giving the pills. He/she should provide you with further instructions most likely over the phone since you were recently there. But he may have to re-see the vet if the symptoms are concerning.
DogLover on March 25, 2020:
Hi, we went to the vet because he has had some coughing issues for a long time now. The vet gave me these small pills and after we gave him one he wouldn't eat for the next 2 days. My dog is a 15 year old pomeranian mixed.Today he threw up a yellow liquid with yellow chunks in it. It was raining outside so I thought that he was cold because he was shivering. He wouldn't move so I had to carry him inside the house. I stopped giving him the pills today. Do you think that the cause of this is old age and hes dying? Or do you suspect that the medication has something to it? Please help. :(
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 08, 2020:
I would suggest taking this dog to the vet. Unless this dog happened to roll in something rotten (dogs like to roll in all kinds of nasty stuff) this smell can be due to a yeast infection of the skin. If the smell was fishy, this can be due to the anal glands, and sometimes the smell can be due from advanced gum/tooth disease in the mouth. I am not sure of what may cause your reaction unless the dog perhaps got skunked which can be quite strong enough to cause teary eyes and headaches.
Evelyn Renner on March 05, 2020:
My dog has alot of the 12 signs.of dying. It is breaking my heart to watch him suffer, he is breathing so hard and fast.
HeidiSuttles on March 05, 2020:
Hello all I have a grave concern 4 my fiance's family his daughter who is has three kids and is now currently pregnant with her fourth have a very very old dog who smells very awful and it's making the whole house stink the dog is his granddaughters dog who is away at college and his daughter does not want to put it down because his granddaughter doesn't want to put it down now we were just there the other day and I could not stand the smell that was in the house it was so pungent and foul we were in the house for about 20 minutes before I decided I couldn't handle the smell anymore and had to go outside and that's when I told him it was time for us to go I could not take inhaling that awful disgusting pungent foul smell. As we left and on our way home my chest started to begin to hurt my nose was completely stuffed up and my throat was sore and I started to lose my voice. Now my fiance kept indicating and saying that it's all in my head and that everything was fine. But as we were driving home he started to begin to get the same symptoms of sore throat stuffiness irritation of eyes and so forth. Can that smell from this old dog cause any health issues and make you sick and what are the underlying symptoms that can be caused by this animal smell in the house...?? I need help so I can convince him to convince them to please do something about the smell and the dog!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 10, 2020:
Crystal, the slow breathing is concerning, please take your puppy to the vet to see what may be going on.
Crystal M 089 on February 09, 2020:
My pug puppy is breathing very slow and has mucus coming out of his butt. Is that a sign of him dying
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 07, 2020:
Hi Cheryl, so sorry your dog is suffering from heart failure. If this is coming from the rectum it can be discharge from her anal glands. Typically, this is very smelly and usually a watery brown color.
More common for elderly dogs is peeing when they are sleeping. If she drinks a lot, it could be her urine is more on the clear side. Also, if she is on Lasix that can too contribute to leakage of pee.
It would be helpful to consult with your vet and report the leakage you are noticing to determine what it is and what can be done about it. There may be products that can help with this.
Your vet should also be able to give you a quality of life assessment so that you can see what else can be done to keep her comfortable.
Cheryl Harmon on February 07, 2020:
My 11 pd Chi has been diagnosed with CHF and is on medication, She has most of the signs that have been mentioned. She has secretions from her rectum will sleeping, it's a clear fluid, not urine. Is this normal? She doesn't even know she's doing it. She can be sitting in my lap and when she gets up that a large wet spot. Is this normal for her at this stage? Is the end getting near?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 27, 2020:
In a dog's first aid class, we were taught that every second counts when a dog stops breathing. With a failed heart, one thing to consider is that one loses a 7 to 10 percent chance of recovery every minute that goes by without administering CPR.
Unlike what TV shows demonstrate, success of CPR is rather low. In humans, the rate of survival that leads to hospital discharge using CPR in a case of cardiac arrest is a mere 10.6 percent. Lousy numbers. In dogs, the numbers are even lower.
According to Dr. David Theuerkauf "Unfortunately, even in the hands of well-trained veterinary health professionals, the overall chance for success with resuscitation is low at a 4% for dogs and 4-9% for cats."
In general, unless the dog is being attended by a veterinarian who can do CPR and use a device to shock and restart the heart at the time of the heart stopping, it will be quite difficult for the dog to recover.
Wanna vaughn on January 26, 2020:
How long after the heart stops is there possibility of regaining life. What are they signs that this may be happening.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 15, 2020:
Donna, so sorry you are going through this. You can try to look for some local animal welfare organizations, rescue groups and shelters who offer low-cost care. VCA animal hospitals often offer a free coupon for a first vet visit, but they will likely charge for medications or any other tests, but it may be worth a try.
Donna on January 14, 2020:
All this information was so very helpful. I do not know if my dog is dying. I am a 72 year old female and live alone and have no one to go through this with me. I am so scared. I have no money to go to vet or pay for my dogs disposal.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 25, 2019:
Rachel, black gums in a dog can be caused by a variety of reasons. If you haven't looked at the gums for a while, they could have turned black from simple aging. Black gums though in a dog who just previously had pink gums can also be a sign of poor oxygenation so this is something you want to have checked out considering your dog's history. If you notice any difficulty breathing on top of the black gums, then get your dog to the vet ASAP. My dog's gums turned dark black in a matter of days when she developed anemia from a very aggressive cancer.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 25, 2019:
MomofBelle, you would notice the signs listed under imminent signs. But not all dogs show the same signs or follow them in the order listed.
One common sign is a change in breathing pattern, much heavier and with pronounced rising of abdominal muscles.
Our dog was considerably weaker the morning of. She still accepted a sip of water, had a bit trouble lifting her head so she was telling me that she wanted to be pet more by moving her eyes in my direction.
Then, she got a bit restless, lifting her wobbly head around. I wasn't with her at this point, but hubby said she started looking around her as if she was hearing or seeing something that wasn't there. I like to think that she was hearing/ seeing some loved ones who passed who were greeting her, as it happens with people.
Then she did several gasps (agonal breathing) which we were prepared for (this happens too with euthanasia) and she was gone.
For some reason, it's as if she was waiting for me to leave the room. I think she didn't want to make me upset. I was always there with her 24/7 and she decided to go in the 10 minutes I left the room to answer the phone.
The goal of hospice care in dogs and humans is neither to prolong life nor hasten death, but to make sure the individual is comfortable and not in pain. Unlike hospice care in humans though, euthanasia is always an option when the dog for one reason or another is unable to transition gently. You can always have a hospice vet come to assess your dog and provide some insights if you have any specific questions or concerns.
Rachael on November 25, 2019:
I have a 10 year old Chihuahua he's 5 lb. He was diagnosed a few months ago with a Stage 5 heart murmur and has been on medication ever since. I just noticed last night that his gums and the roof of his mouth have turned entirely black! Not pale or bluish like I've been reading on the internet from lack of oxygen but completely black. Very very few spots anywhere in his mouth where it used to be pink. I'm going to call his vet in the morning and the emergency hospital told me if he's breathing okay and acting normal he should be fine until Monday morning. He is eating and drinking and acting completely normal . Could this be the cause of the heart murmur or heart disease? Could it be a very Advanced stage of gum disease? I just had his teeth cleaned less than a year ago.
MomOfBelle on November 24, 2019:
Sorry for so many questions. How will I know that she is going to pass soon rather than maybe linger for a few more days. I thought the bloody diarrhea with no food in her was a sign, but she has been doing this for 4 days now.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 24, 2019:
Hi, this is difficult to determine as it's something you should discuss with the vet who is following you based on individual factors.
You can ask your hospice vet for help on this and you might be able to get some support (albeit not veterinary advice) by contacting this helpful website which helped me when my dog was receiving hospice care. Please note though that they emphasize that collaboration with a local veterinarian is important to ensure the comfort of your animal.: https://spiritsintransition.org/find-support/
MomOfBelle on November 24, 2019:
Am I prolonging the dying phase by giving her sub-q fluids?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 24, 2019:
I wished there was an answer for this. The dying process is an individual experience and there are no rules set in stone. How long the active dying phase lasts may vary based on several factors.
For example, an old, frail or ill dog who stops taking in calories and doesn't drink may just linger a few days, while a dog who is stronger and drinking, may live longer.
Ultimately, one must remember that a dog or person is not dying because he or she is not eating, but rather, he or he has stopped eating because she or he is dying.
Having owned two dogs who died at home naturally (one planned hospice with the help of a vet, the other passed unexpectedly), I can attest though that both of them passed within 24 hours of passing stools when laying down. These were dogs who were always perfectly potty trained and appeared worried in their final moments for pooping in the home. They had to be reassured that it was perfectly fine and not to worry, bless their hearts. The words seemed to comfort them.
I am so sorry you are going through this. It is not an easy journey, bur those last moments can be very precious, especially if your dog can be kept comfortable until the very end. Our dog wanted to be caressed until the end. Hoping a peaceful passing.
MomOfBelle on November 23, 2019:
My 15 1/2 year old 70 pound mix breed stopped eating 10 days ago. She hasn't moved in 5 days. I rotate her every couple of hours so she doesn't get sores. She takes some water from a dropper and I am still giving her sub-q fluids because of her kidney disease. Her gums still look the normal shade of pink. During the last 2 days, she has passed a bloody looking diarrhea. I am staying by her side so she's not alone. I want her to die at home (I have experienced this before). My husband wants to know how long this can go on. I have pain meds in case she gets pain. Her heart rate is staying at it's normal 60bpm. How long can the actively dying phase last?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 08, 2019:
Rhonda, I think you should have your sweet basset hound see the vet to gain a better understanding of what may be afflicting her. There are chances this might be something that can be treatable, such as old dog vestibular disease which causes dogs to become dizzy, nauseous and lose their balance. Of course, many other things can be going on such a bout of pancreatitis, stroke, brain tumors, liver failure etc to just name a few. Many possibilities. Please have her checked out. Best wishes.
Rhonda on November 07, 2019:
My dog is a 13 year old Bassett hound. She has a lot of these symptoms. She had a really good day yesterday. But this morning she had thrown up and solid all in her cage. Today she will not eat or drink and has stayed in her cage most of the day. This morning her pupils were very large. She has a glazed look, and when you call for her she looks everywhere but where I am. She has been walking funny (loss of rear end function) puking and diarrhea. She had eaten rice and hamburger for a couple of days. But she will not touch anything now. Is she nearing death?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 05, 2019:
I am so sorry for your loss. Parvo can cause bloody poopbd dogs to go downhill fairly fast, but so can other things like ingesting rat poison, human medications or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis to just name a few. Short of an autopsy, the real cause cannot be found. Has your vet provided any ideas based on your dog's history? Was he vaccinated against parvo? Please understand that feeling guilt, regret etc are all emotions that are parts of the grieving process. "What ifs" are a daily burden as we mourn. You can read more about this in this article on the stages of grief when losing a dog, https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/The-Stages-of...
Cole Lowthian on October 31, 2019:
My dog is puking
FROIDELYN Docallas on October 31, 2019:
Our 6month old Jack Russell terrier did not want to eat on Sunday
By Monday, he was being lethargic, and he poops a reddish liquid. I tried to make him eat but he wouldn't so i used syringe to make him drink water with sugar, antibiotics and syrup vitamins. When my husband came home, he made a mixture of water and activated charcoal and fed it to our dog. Our dog then appeared to be fighting- he walks and moves around- so we thought maybe it will not be so much of an emergency and we will bring him to the vet the next day.. But the next morning, he wouldn't get up.. He wouldn't open his eyes and wouldn't move at all.. He was breathing very weakly though, but when my husband dropped some liquid in his mouth, he was still able to swallow it. Few minutes later, he pooped a reddish liquid while he is unconscious. My husband was uncertain if it's still wise to bring him to the vet, he says, "he's dying, we will just be wasting money and time". I stil forced him though, but on their way to the vet, he called and told me the dog is already dead. Eventually, he burried him. Until now, i still can't move on.. Was our dog really already dead at that time? Or is it possible he was just on a very serious health condition but we could have saved him? My husband gets angry when i tell him he just gave up on our dog just because he doesn't want to waste money (I really hoped he brought the dog to the vet and let them declare if it's really already dead).. What could have really happened to our dog? We suspect it's parvo virus, but we're just so shocked by how things went so fast.. Please enlighten me for me to settle my mind.. And so i could become more aware with what to do with his mother who was always with him in the cage... Thank you very much in advance for your response..
Judy Weikum on October 30, 2019:
A year ago my dog started showing signs of her dying. Some days she seemed totally fine. 3 months ago I could have sworn she was going to dies by the next morning. She had not eaten for two days. That morning she wanted to eat and wanted to play fetch. Things have been back to normal until last week. All signs came back. I feel like a 24 hour care giver.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 27, 2019:
Blossoms momm, I am very sorry your dog is dying. Providing hospice care to our dogs is a very trying time and it can very emotionally draining to endure. I hope you have emotional support from family and friends.
To answer your question based on the courses I took on hospice care, there is no set time-frame. Dying is a very personal, individual process with no rules set in stone. The goal of hospice care in dogs and humans is neither to prolong life nor hasten death, but to make sure the individual is comfortable and not in pain.
Something to point out is that, sometimes when an animal or person is dying, they go through a sort of recharging effect, responsible for altering body chemistry and producing a mild sense of euphoria. Many take this as the person or animal getting better, but this is only temporary and often occurs when death is around the corner. Shortly, after the dog may get cold, start breathing heavily and sometimes gasping (not trouble breathing, agonal breathing which is the body's normal response to shutting down).
As mentioned in the article, hospice care is important to ensure the dog is not in any pain and comfortable. It sounds like you do not have any hospice care helpers in your area. You may look for a mobile vet or ask your vet to see your dog (expect them to suggest euthanasia), or if you desired support for hospice care, you can see if you have a Lap of Love hospice veterinarian in your area or you can contact the Spirits in Transition helpline, but they emphasize that collaboration with a local veterinarian is important to ensure the comfort of your animal. : https://spiritsintransition.org/find-support/
Blossoms Momm on October 27, 2019:
Hi. My best dog ever is actively dying for a week now. How long might this take? I don't think she is in pain, but she might just be stoic? She is almost 12, a Rottie mix. Her breath was ice cold two days ago, but now its warm again, the breast tumor seems to have vanished (it was 1.2 cm a week ago) which is odd. Vets couldn't biopsy given her age, but assume tumor may have infiltrated kidney? (Can't take her to vet, accross the street, because she weighs 75 pounds). She hasn't eaten since Tuesday, but still drinks water whenever she raises her head (laying on pads). There is no hospice care around here, but I'm honestly confused. She has had the twitches, incontinence, can't stand etc but she has warmed up and can still wag her tail and give me kisses. Any advice on how long this will take, and pain signs would help. She doesn't cough, vomit, and her breathing is still coming easy. No panting which would be a sign of pain (are there any other signs?). Gums/tongue still bubble gum pink.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 30, 2019:
Hi Vickie, you comment got cut off. Can you please post again? Are you asking if your dog had a bowel blockage?
Vickie c kent on September 30, 2019:
My dog dyed he started to caughting breathing heavily
His breath smell. Like poop loop not eating not pooping in the end poop was bubbles out of the nose and mouth.did he have a bowel
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 28, 2019:
I would suggest seeing the vet sooner or see another vet altogether. I see no reason to wait and monitor for 5 days when bloodwork can be done right away to get some hints of what may be going on. Nose bleeds can be serious in some cases as they can be triggered by ingestion of rat poison and autoimmune diseases. Of course, there are also nosebleeds occurring from less serious issues (like a foreign body in the nose or an injury) but in those cases, usually the nose bleed comes from only one nostril.
Lucky on July 25, 2019:
my shih tzu suddenly got his nose bleed. what does it mean? please help me. already visited a vet, and advise us to monitor it for 5 days.. if there is still blood on nose we have to have him a cbc.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 15, 2019:
Tauler, unfortunately only your vet can answer this based on your dog's medical history and physiological signs. If you cannot go to a vet anymore due to financial issues,consider that Care Credit can help out dog owners at difficult times with no interest for several months.
tauler on July 15, 2019:
I can't go to a vet anymore so I hope someone can help me. My Yorkie has diabetes and is on insulin. This is the second day of her having a fever, shivering, weakness. I've been trying to keep her comfortable by cooling her down and keeping her hydrated. She still eats and drinks but that's all she does. Do you think she is dying and what can I do to make things easier for her.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 12, 2019:
Ash, so sorry you are going through such a tough time. Preparing is always a good idea as we never know when we may lose them.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 12, 2019:
Dear Candy, it is difficult to say. A vet should assess your dog. There are appetite stimulants that can turn helpful. Prednisone helped both my dogs when they started getting picky eating.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 12, 2019:
Dear Michelle, many dog owners feel this way and this emotional state is called "anticipatory grief." Here is my article on it. https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/Anticipatory-...
Ash on July 11, 2019:
My 13 year old boxer is at home palliative with heart failure, his breathing has changed where he is breathing from his hind quarters, his behaviour has also begun to change he went out to our garden and went and lay behind a very small space behind his kennel, we have a young family who adore him should we be preparing them
Candy Thomas on June 25, 2019:
My 11 yr old rottie has been diagnosed w/ bone cancer in November 2018. He's now refusing food, only wanting to eat hot dogs. He's recently developed a 'hot spot' on his upper leg which isn't getting better or any worse on the cephalexon. Is it safe to assume he's succumbing to the cancer?
Michelle on June 21, 2019:
I got Ginger, a beagle mix, in 2003. She was believed to be 1 or 2 then, so she is now 17 or 18 years old. She cannot walk down the stairs, but can still walk up them. She has a limp and we give her doggy ibuprofen. She loves to eat and drinks well. We have covered the carpeted portion of the hallway upstairs with pee pads, because she can't always wait until we carry her outside. I love this dog beyond all reason, and I can't stop worrying about losing her. Our beagle-sheltie mix died several years ago and we still miss her. I'm grateful Ginger is still with us, but I cry when I realize our time with her is without a doubt limited. I feel like every day is a gift and I just can't stop thinking about losing her. Anybody else feel grief before they even lose their doggo?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 20, 2019:
Teresa, so sorry to hear your dog has cancer. Cancer cachexia is what causes dogs with cancer to get thin despite eating.
It is hard to say whether the eye changes you are seeing is related to the cancer advancing or other changes in the eyes seen in older dogs and known for causing haziness such as lenticular sclerosis or cataracts.
Sometimes, a side effect of cataracts takes place and it's known as uveitis. Uveitis causes inflammation of the iris and can sometimes make blue eyes appear brown.
Another possibility is that redness of bleeding within the eye may cause blue eyes to look brown due to the red overlapping the blue.
Seeing your vet may be your best bet to get an idea of how she is doing overall and what may be causing this eye change.
Teresa on June 19, 2019:
My Great Dane is 12 years old with stag 4 mass cancer, she is terribly thin but eats ok not great but ok. She has become very weak, and is having a hard time walking and staying standing. But her eyes are crystal blue and she is deaf, but in the last 2 days her eyes have become foggy And now a brown color. Is she getting close to leaving me?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 18, 2019:
Jeff flowers, there can be a variety of problems that may be causing the signs you are seeing. A common cause for dogs to have paws that feel cold to the touch and weak and not eating is some type of cancer that causes internal bleeding (spleen rupture, liver rupture), but so can a variety of disorders known to cause reduced blood flow such as it may happen with circulation issue due to heart problems. Only your vet can truly help find out what's going on. Some dogs recover from this others keep worsening and decline. Pale gums and pale tongue often accompany these signs.
Jeff Flowers on June 11, 2019:
We have a German Shepard who will be 14 on July 17th, Her hind legs are slowing down and hard for her to get up on sofa and up steps, we spoon feed her since she was born out of a can, thats the only way she can eat or everything comes back up, Lately she has not been eating or drinking anything, her front paws are cool to the touch, and just lays around Just wanted to know what this means
jason from home on June 11, 2019:
thanks for the information and I am very sorry to hear that.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 28, 2019:
Annie, your story is bittersweet and very touching.Thanks for sharing. She woke you up to say goodbye and stay in the comfort of your lap one very last time. You must have had a very strong connection.So sorry for your loss.
Annie Wiswall on May 21, 2019:
My 12 yr old dog Soffee an English Springer Spaniel woke me up at 12:10 am , then i asked her if she wants to go out to pee, instead, she lay down on my lap and she was breathing hard, in just 5 mins.she passed away :( it was a very long night...but so thankful she woke me up and i was with her when she took her last breath..
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 12, 2019:
So sorry for your loss. Alex was very lucky to have you. Cherish all the great memories. He was wonderful dog.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 12, 2019:
Abbie, sounds like something that needs investigation with a vet. Perhaps your dog has severe arthritis or intervertebral disc disease or some sort of degeneration of the nerves. Please see your vet.
My. on May 12, 2019:
I am going to use the beautiful theme Remember. Me. It brings tears to my. Eyes and with the passing. Of my dog Alex. This suits him Alex was 14 yrs old and sadly he pass while I was there. People tend to say he,s healthy & happy in Heaven but I want to see him with me it may sound selfish but That,s how much I love this dog and I haven’t Shed tears in a long time but Alex is my heart when it beats it,s Alex there,s. A space in my heart that only. Alec could fill
I will always love Alex on May 11, 2019:
Last night I loss my best friend my love Alex. this is the first time I witness my dog”s Passing. now I realize what all Alex went thu I had read about we knew the end was near so we went to the hospital and there is when he pass and it has been countless tears because I Loss my very best friend
Abbie on May 11, 2019:
Hi, West highland terrier is 15 years old, a few months ago he had a bad turn which has made his back legs stiff and he is now unable to get up the stairs, also he seems to be soiling himself in his bed during the night, what do you think this is? Thanks
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 10, 2019:
Fonzie, so sorry for your loss. It's so tough losing them. Sending you my deepest condolences.
Fonzie on May 10, 2019:
Hello dog peoples, my dog angel is gone she's really gone. It happened so within 3 days of her not eating nor drinking. It's so so sad
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 16, 2019:
Paulette, so sorry you are in this situation. It's tough deciding what is best for our dogs, but we must remember that no decision is ever wrong as we make it out of love and what we think is best for our dogs.
Paulette Risher on April 13, 2019:
Thank you for this compassionate and informative post. I believe that the chemo we are giving one of my rescue dogs is having only marginal benefits and she is not long for this world. It is good to have some concrete information because I need both heart and head at this time.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 19, 2019:
Ksyusha, so sorry about your loss. I too witnessed the effect of vaccines on the body with my senior Rottweiler who compelled me to write this article about the dying process in dogs.
She got her rabies vaccine at the age of 10 and then 3 months later was diagnosed with cancer. I tried to fight against having her vaccinated but no vet would give me a waiver and here it's the law. Didn't make it better that that year there were several cases of rabies from skunks and bats. I tried very hard, with no result. And this is something I would always feel guilty about. It just seems that when we lose our dogs there's always something we blame ourselves for.
If it helps, please note that dying with eyes open is normal in dogs and it happens in euthanasia too. It's due to lack of nerve signals requesting the muscles to keep the eyes open. My dog died too with eyes open as she looked up and took several gasps (very normal, happens in humans too) prior to dying.
My husband was with her, petting her lovingly and I think she just wanted to look at him for a very last time before going. Again, so sorry for your loss. May Fluffy's loving memories help you during this hard time. Your love for him was very strong and I am sure he felt it until his very last breath.
ksyusha2 on March 13, 2019:
I lost my dog my beloved shih tzu boy Fluffy on Valentine’s this year. We had ups and downs healthwise for the last two years since he turned 9 years old and his immune system started acting up after vaccinations, dewormers or antibiotics. I pulled him out of that twice in 2017 and 2018. This year we last the battle. Didn’t want to eat or drink in the morning and couldn’t stand. I checked his gums they were pale white vs pink the previous evening. I rushed him to the vet and she said he won’t survive.. severe anemia.. red blood cell count got way too low and I should consider euthanasia soon may be tomorrow. Now thinking back a month later I really wish I’d have change that day but it’s too late..
She gave him prednisone shot and antibiotic shot and I took him home and scheduled inhome euthanasia for the next day. My husband was flying in early morning to be with us. What happened next I wish I’d never experienced but it was the absolutely worst day of my life. I understand now how stupid I was to plan for something that we have no control of..
Fluffy started rapidly getting worse around 8 pm.. he started having trouble breathing I can’t even describe how much I loved that dog and may be because of that I was in such a shock just concentrating on having him put to sleep in the morning instead of acting immediately.. He couldn’t breathe, his lungs collapsing I literally heard it and finally his heart almost jumped out of his chest in the end.. And then 5 or 6 gurgling sounds, looked up and he was gone.. with eyes open.. I’ll never forget it.. It wasn’t peaceful at all.. What’s more I realized on the next day that there were probably vets on call who could’ve come to our house and it didn’t have to end this way.. I was just so shocked on that day and nobody guided me really.. The only thing I’m not feeling guilty about is that I decided not to put him to sleep at the vet’s office it would be even worse.. baby Fluffy always hated vets..
As someone who just experienced this horrible death.. dear pet owners.. make a plan of action ahead.. write down numbers and play different scenarios before this happens.. I wasn’t ready and I feel guilty for letting both of us go through this on his last day..
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2019:
Beth Cross, so sorry for your loss. Having lost my dog last August, I wanted to share my personal experience along with what helped in the last days. I attended two wonderful courses on hospice care which prepared me to a higher level on all the possible outcomes and that to me was a tremendous help.
I wanted to share about the process whether dog owners decide to do euthanasia or hospice. After working for a vet, I have seen my fair share of euthanasia appointments but also natural deaths when dealing with emergencies. In any cases, forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes.
Going through losing one dog and then possibly another one later on is devastating. We made the mistake of getting two littermates. So much joy when they are young, so many heartaches as they get older.
All we can hope is that we are given a little break in between at least to recover. Six months have passed and I hope to have my other dog for at least another year because I feel I haven't recovered yet. But I think we are really never ready to take another loss. All we can do is cherish each day.
Beth Cross on January 31, 2019:
I am so sorry for all of your losses. It is extremely hard to deal with, and like Trisha and Rodric said, not everyone understands or realizes what kind of loss it is. They are not "just pets" or "animals"...They are a part of your life and FAMILY. We love and take care of them the best we can and they love us and take care of us too. I have already lost several pets over my life. 1st was our dog Maggie when I was about 6 years old. My dad had her since she was a pup before I was born and she was the 1st pet I ever knew, loved, and lost. I was very young and at that age you don't fully understand death but it still hurts. I still have a framed picture of her. When I was about 9, we moved and started a small farm with the usual ducks, chickens, 2 horses, and sheep. We grew a little bit but stayed small for the most part. We got a ram so that he could breed with our female sheep. His name was Thor. He liked to headbutt people and me at 1st as well. But over time, he stopped trying to headbutt me. Probably because I was the 1 that fed all the animals and cleaned their stalls. When the females were pregnant and about to deliver, we would have to take Thor to a different pen on the other side of our farm. At 1st, I would use a bucket of grain to get him out of the ewes pen and have him follow me to the other pen. Eventually, I didnt need the grain bucket anymore. He would just follow me. I would actually open the gate and he would come thru and then stand there waiting for me to lock it up. Then we would take our walk down to the other pen. We had 2 other gates to go thru and every time he would go thru 1 and then just stand there waiting for me to lock it. He was such a sweetheart. It was funny to me because if my Dad, Step-mom, or sister went around him, he would try to headbutt them still...unless they had grain. During the summer, we had fruit trees and i would sometimes feed him plums and he was so cute the way he took the whole plum in his mouth and could eat it and then spit the pit out. My sister and I always got a kick out of that. I still remember when he passed away, like it was yesterday even though it was 23yrs ago. It was so sudden and unexpected!! I went to feed him and I didnt see him out waiting for me like usual and I got a real sick feeling in my stomach. I knew something wasnt right...and then I found him. I dont think my dad n step-mom ever understood why I was so hurt. I still miss Thor. When I was 16, I went across the U.S. to live with my mom. She had a dog named Abby. Such a big Sweetie!!! I grew so attached to her and several years later, she got really sick and passed away. It was really hard to watch, especially because the Vet had given her some medication that counter-acted with something else and was deadly. It took her so fast...but not before making her so very ill. Abby was so gentle. Dont get me wrong, if someone would've tried to hurt 1 of us, she would've protected us. Otherwise, she was just a big sweetie baby. 1 time she had a false pregnancy n actually tried stealing a few kittens from 1 of the outside cats, and she was trying to care for them. We couldnt let her keep them of course n returned them to their mom without incident. Then after I had children and got together with my husband, we bought a yellow lab named Cali. Weve had her now since she was 6wks old and she is 12 n 1/2 yrs old now. She has some tumors and she's not as quick as she used to be. Im trying to prepare myself, and thats how I came across this article. I wish I would've seen it several years ago though. When Cali was just past 1 yrs old, I found and brought home a stray dog. He was big and beautiful and after looking into those big brown eyes, i couldn't just leave him. I knew he needed to be a part of our family. I didnt always bring strays home, but something was different with him. Maybe it was the story in his eyes, or maybe it was the pregnancy hormones getting the best of me, considering I was 8 months pregnant!! Either way, i had connected with him and couldnt resist. My husband almost freaked when he 1st saw him, because he was so big n black n fluffy and almost scary looking at 1st glance. He was a Newfoundland n Black Lab mix. He looked like a black bear!! Which is why we named him Bear Bear. But within a few mins, my husband had fallen in love with our beautiful Bear too. We brought him in cautiously to meet our kids and Cali, and he got along great!!! He even slept in the kids room on their bedroom floor that 1st nite. After our daughter was born, he started spending most nites in our room next to her bassinet. When she would be in the living room in her baby swing, he would be laying right next to it. We noticed that Bear seemed like he was older because of how he had a harder time getting up fast from laying down. So when we took him to the vet for the 1st time, we were shocked to find out that he was only 2 or 3 yrs old!! But then came the news that he had 2 different types of Lyme Disease. We got the medication n treated him for it, but the effects never go away completely. We did notice a major change in him though. He was able to move a lot better and acted more his age. He would follow the kids around when they were outside playing, and never let them out of his sight. We loved him so very much and still do. He and Cali would go out and play and run around on the 16 acres we lived on at the time. When we moved, they would go out and play with the 1 neighbor dog. It was so cute. I could watch out the kitchen window and see the 3 of them meet up, sniff eachother for a minute, n then off they all went to go play and run in the field and the woods. As they got older though, I noticed he would still play with Cali and the neighbor dog Lucy...but he couldnt keep up with them as much. Then we slowly started noticing he was in pain more and more n started getting grumpy and snippy when the kids walked too close while he was laying down resting. He was fine with them any other time, but he was just in pain. I dreaded so when it came time to "make the decision". N it was 1 of the hardest things I ever had to go thru and watch. Thats why I wish I couldve seen this article before that. Then maybe I wouldve been more prepared for what happened after they gave him the meds to put him to sleep. I had his head on my lap the whole time, and we talked with him n cried n pet him so he wasnt alone. But theres certain things that i may have been better prepared for had I read this article. That was a sad, sad day. I knew he wasnt in pain anymore though. Your article also talks about other pets noticing when a pet has passed away, and I found out from how Cali acted. I had a feeling she would notice, because dogs definitely notice change. I could tell she was depressed for a while after Bear passed. She didnt eat as much and her whole demeanor changed. She was sad and missed him too. There was also a certain area in the yard that she absolutely refused to go. It was 1 of the spots that her n Bear would play together. She would not come across it for anything!!! Even if i was standing there with a treat...she wouldnt come. It was like an invisible line she wouldnt cross. She would go the whole way around. Eventually, she started doing ok with it n could walk around there again. But it took several months!!! Now, Cali is older and has little tumors, and just doesnt move around as quickly as she used to. I hate going thru this part, but all the years of companionship and love are so worth it. I just dont like to see them in pain. Its really hard when you have to decide if their quality of life is still good and outweighs the bad days. I still see moments of happiness and some excitement here and there...but i can also see she's tired too. She did give us a litter of pups a few years ago and we found homes with family and friends for all the pups except 1. His name is Zeus, and he stayed with us. So now i not only dread having to decide when its Cali's time, but also how Zeus is going to take it. I just want to say Thank you for writing the article and thank you to everyone who shared something. Im so sorry for your losses.
Michele on January 31, 2019:
Thank you so much for writing this article. It has really clarified for me what to look out for as my old geezer dog ages more. (He’s an Aussie Cattle Dog who will be seventeen at the end of May, so he’s about 100 in dog years already.) I know his death is coming, but he still seems to enjoy life, so I’m just here to make sure he has what he needs. He sleeps a lot, often looks like he’s off in outer space, has urinary incontinence (he also drinks a lot, despite having “the bloodwork of a puppy”—the vet’s words, so that contributes to it in large part, I think), and it takes him awhile to get up when he’s lying down. On the flip side, he still eats, he enjoys attention and treats, and he likes to go on walks and frolic outside. So I’m trying some Senilife as well as some Deramaxx on him to see if that gives him an even better quality of life. But I will be keeping this article and the related resources handy so that I know ahead of time how to help my dog as he declines and in his final days and hours. The ability to discern how and when my dog will die, and how to respond, means a lot to me.
Peggy on January 26, 2019:
My sweet Bella died on January 8th 2019. She was a beautiful 13 year old Golden Retriever that we rescued from an army post pound at 6 weeks old. I am totally devastated. I cant stop crying. I prayed to God that when her time came he would take her at home quickly and thats how it happened. I miss her all the time.
Maria Sol on January 25, 2019:
When a beloved family pet passes away due to age or extended illness, it is very difficult emotionally. After all, they are a member of the family, a part of your inner circle.
However, when death arrives in that way you have time to prepare — to begin to make peace with it and that will help you cope with the emotional pain when it actually happens.
What is more difficult to deal with is when a pet passes away suddenly. A sudden illness that was not diagnosed in time, an encounter with a poisonous animal, being run over, etc.
I had a cat that was poisoned by a heartless individual. I did not recognize the symptoms early enough and by the time that I got her veterinary care the damage to her renal system was extensive.
I was told that if within 24 hours she did not show signs of improvement that I should consider putting her to sleep to prevent her from suffering needlessly as she would get progressively worse. Sadly, my beloved kitty did not survive those 24 hours. She died at home, next to me.
Her final moment of life involved a meow — one similar to the ones she use to make when she was trying to alert me. As I petted her to try and comfort her I was looking straight into her eyes. I saw the moment when her body went limp and her pupils dilated. I knew my kitty was gone — that she no longer had to suffer with the pain.
With my cat going from perfectly healthy 4 days prior, to showing signs of what I thought was a cat cold a day after that, and less than 36 hours from when it became evident that it was much more serious, I did not have time to prepare myself for losing her — much less to literally witness life leaving her body.
Make the time with your furry friend count. If age is creeping up on the, be conscious that your time with time is running short. Give the both of you a chance to say your farewells to each other. Cherish them.
John Hilliard on January 24, 2019:
I am disappointed you speak of homeopathic pain control. Homeopathy is simply the equivalent of sugar pills. It may work on susceptible humans, but days need real medicine from a licensed vet. Anything that has a label saying “not intended to” is bs.
Jade on January 20, 2019:
I just want to say thank you Adrienne for this informative article. My pup Violet recently passed away naturally and peacefully at home with our family. She had been sick for a few months, but still in good spirits. A couple days before she passed, I was sensing something was different and spoke with our doctor about what signs to look out for, how will I know it’s time, and what the dying process is like. I wasn’t fully satisfied with the information I was given which made me turn to the internet. I read a few articles, but found yours to be the most informative. The next day, Violet made the decision to leave this world and because of this article I knew the signs, I didn’t panic, I didn’t question, and I knew exactly what to expect. Had I just went off the information from the vet or the other articles I had read, I don’t think I would’ve handled things the same way. I felt honored to be a part of such a beautiful experience; thank you for giving me confidence and peace of mind