Do Dogs Know When They Are Dying? What Are The Signs You Should Look Out For?

It’s the thing that dog owners dread the most. However, it’s inevitable. We’re talking about the day their dogs cross the rainbow bridge.

Now, as sad as it can be, one of your most important responsibilities as a dog owner is to take good care of your pet in its final days.

And to help you with that, in this article, we discuss if a dog can know about its own impending death and the signs that a dog is soon going to die.

Do Dogs Know When They are Dying?

Experts agree that we can only speculate on the answer to this question.

For one, dogs show certain behaviors when they are close to death.

However, since dogs can’t talk, we can’t be sure if they show these behaviors because of a general feeling of sickness or because they know it’s time to go.

At the end of the day, everything that matters is for us to know the signs that a dog may be in its final days and take good care of it.

15 Signs of a Dying Dog

These are some telltale signs that a dog can be nearing its death:

Becoming More Affectionate

As their days come to an end, you will realize that dogs will become more affectionate and clingy. They will require a lot of attention and want to spend as much time with their owners as possible.

In addition, many dog owners report that their dogs give them that ‘special look,’ as if to say that they are ready to say goodbye.

Distancing From Everything

While most dogs crave more attention, other dogs will start distancing themselves from everything and everyone. They become more disinterested and less curious and will start sleeping more.

This also includes not wanting to eat their favorite food or play with their best toy anymore.


Lethargy can be attributed to pets becoming weak because of old age. When about to die, dogs have the lowest amount of energy they have had in their lifetime.

Furthermore, a dog’s senses of sight and smell aren’t as strong when it’s old, making it less interested in staying active.

Irregular Breathing Patterns

Sometimes, dogs can show strange and irregular breathing patterns before dying. This includes heavy or irregular breathing and sometimes even struggling to breathe.

However, since breathing difficulties are relatively common in canines, it’s always a good idea to take your pet to the vet to rule out other health problems.

Decreased Appetite

The unwillingness to eat can is apparent in many dogs before death. They will want fewer portions and may even start gagging and vomiting when fed. Some will also become pickier than before, only wanting to eat certain types of foods.

However, you may not need to panic because even healthy dogs sometimes give their digestive system a rest for two to three days.

Temperature Changes

Due to the hormonal imbalances in your dog’s body, you will notice that it may get hotter or colder than before. The canine will also get fever and chills, which means it may require specialized attention from the vet.

Decrease in Weight

A rapid weight loss will soon follow the decrease in appetite. The weight loss is also because of the dog’s weaker metabolism in its final days. In other words, its body can’t convert a lot of food into nutrition, making it unable to maintain healthy body weight.

Weak Digestive System

Tummy aches and digestive issues are common in a senior dog and more so in a dog in its last moments. Some indications of a weak digestive system include nausea, regular vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal problems.

But again, since digestive issues are common, you should get veterinary advice.

Decreased Thirst

Decreased thirst tends to be a huge concern in dogs, given that these animals show signs of dehydration within 24 hours of not drinking fluids.

The disinterest in water will be more common if your dog already has bladder and urinary tract infections on top of being old.

Inability to Hold in Pee

Incontinence is very likely to happen to an older dog. Especially before death, the dog will start losing control of its bladder.

Due to this, the leakages will be in the form of complete emptying of the bladder rather than some sprays here and there.

Loss of Coordination

With weaker muscles and muscle control, you will notice that dying dogs will lack coordination while doing even the normal day-to-day tasks like walking, eating, or sleeping.

Some common symptoms are unsteadiness, shivering while standing, and inability to balance itself while walking.

Interest from Other Dogs

Did you know that dogs have about 300 million receptors in their nose? In contrast, humans only have 6 million receptors. The sense of smell is so strong in these animals that they can even sense certain types of cancer.

Dogs are known to use their smell to analyze other animals’ skin, breath, urine, feces, and sweat. Now, a dying dog will certainly have some changes in all of these, which may be noticed by other dogs.

Thus, if the dying pet’s animal friends are always in the same room and giving it special attention, then it may mean you’ll need to prepare for its departure.

Poor Grooming

This one is more apparent in breeds with long hair like the cocker spaniel and golden retriever. The dog won’t have the energy or coordination to groom itself, which will make its coat turn dull or overly long.

Furthermore, your dog won’t be willing to bathe as much, which only contributes to the lack of hygiene.

Change in the Color of the Gum

One of a dying dog’s symptoms is breaking down of its body’s muscles and tissues. Due to this, its gum will become pale and bluish.

Also, when you press the gum, the color will fade away from the place you press but won’t return as in healthy dogs. This means that the blood circulation is poor; in other words, the heart isn’t strong enough to pump blood into every part of the body.

The Final Liveliness

This phase is also known as the rally or the final hurrah.

Some dogs wander in and outside the house, getting a sudden surge of energy on their final day. It could be kind of confusing for the dog sitter; it almost feels like the dog somehow miraculously got cured of all its ailments.

But alas! The next day, it won’t wake up from its sleep.


Unfortunately, passing away doesn’t happen smoothly for everyone.

Some dogs will experience seizures and discomfort at the end. This may be because of kidney failures, problems in the brain, or other metabolic changes.

When your dog has seizures, the best thing you can do is hold its head and comfort it as it passes. Don’t forget to keep it away from sharp edges or objects that can hurt it.

End of Life Care Tips for Dog Owners

Being prepared for the death of your own dog is something you wish would never happen. But well, none of us could change how nature does its deeds.

Here are some ways you can better prepare yourself and your dog for its death and make its final moments easier:

First, Accept that Death is a Part of Life

Saying goodbye to a pet is no less painful than saying goodbye to a family member. Despite this, you must remember that death is natural and will eventually catch up to all of us.

Since you’re reading this article, we are sure you have always been a responsible dog owner. You may be sad, but you shouldn’t regret since you’ve always given 100% in caring for your dog.

And the best thing you can do for your pet in its final moments is to stay reserved and take good care of it.

Feed on Time

Ensure that your dog has access to plenty of nutrition and water.

In case of food, feed your friend very soft and watery dishes like chicken soup, shredded chicken, or chicken broth.

If it’s able to eat, this time, you get a free pass to spoil your dog with the most delicious treats.

Also, if your pet hasn’t been able to drink so for a long time, you can use a turkey blaster to squeeze water into its mouth.

Stay By Its Side

As you can see, dogs are known to be highly anxious during their final phases. Thus, you will need to do everything to make them calm, and the presence of their owner is the best way to do so.

Even if your dog is reluctant to play with you, you should stay on its side and let it know that it’s being loved as always.

As we are talking about stress, make sure its surroundings are peaceful. This may mean keeping it away from kids and noisy rooms.

Manage Pain

While it’s not recommended to change a dog’s routine drastically, you’ll still need to stop doing things that cause it pain.

For example, if your dog struggles to stand up properly, you shouldn’t take it out for a walk too often.

You can also try medications to decrease the amount of pain your dog feels.

Discuss Euthanasia

Euthanasia, also known as assisted death, is the administration of drugs by a health professional to kill an animal. It may sound cruel at first, but it’s a way of making death less painful for those that are going through chronic pain.

You will need to talk to a vet and go through this process if it turns out that your dog will be in extreme physical discomfort in its last days.

FAQs Related to Do Dogs Know When They’re Dying

How to Manage Your Grief After the Death of a Dog?

Here are some things you can do to feel less sad:

  • Create a photo album for memories
  • Join a pet support group
  • Talk to your family and friends about how you feel

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