Signs Of A Dog Dying

If you are a pet owner, you will know that an early warning sign of a dog dying is something you don’t want to do anything about. Because dogs aren’t meant to live forever, but there isn’t really anything you can do to prevent it from happening.

It’s one of the most heartbreaking things in life. You might have seen it coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Your dog is dying, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The signs of a dog dying can be hard to spot.

It’s important to know what they are, so you can get your dog the help they need as soon as possible.

It’s also important to know them because dogs have a way of hiding their symptoms, and you might not realize something is wrong until it’s too late.

The most common sign is weight loss, but there are others.

If your dog is dying, you may notice some telltale signs.

The first thing to look for is a change in eating habits. If your dog has always been an eater, but suddenly goes off food, or eats a lot less than usual, that could be a sign of illness.

Another potential sign is if your dog appears to be weak or lethargic. If they are moving slowly and seem like they just can’t get up the energy to do anything, that could be another indicator that something is wrong.

Excessive panting or breathing should also raise flags; if your dog is breathing heavily and seems unable to catch their breath, that’s something that needs to be addressed immediately because it indicates that there’s something going on inside their body that’s preventing them from getting enough oxygen (which can lead to organ failure).

Signs Of A Dog Dying

Recognizing the signs a dog is dying is a subject that is difficult for every dog owner, but it is important to learn how to recognize the common signs that an aging dog, or one with a terminal illness, is dying.

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.)
  • Signs of dying (early, end-stage, and beyond).
  • Do dogs know when another dog dies?
  • The 5 stages of grief.
  • Processing death.

Pet loss is not easy to discuss, but being aware of the various stages of natural death will help you through the grieving process.

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.

Unless their dog’s death is sudden—as might be the case with poisoning or an acute infection—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).

A Good Death

Although not an easy decision, euthanasia is often a humane option for helping your dog to transition. “Eu” literally means “goodly or well” and “thanatos” means “death”.


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

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Social Detachment

End-Stage Signs a Dog Is Dying

  • Decreased Thirst
  • Incontinence
  • Restlessness
  • Pain
  • 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

LethargySleeping more, apathy towards the usual activities, poor hygiene, seeking solitudeProvide your dog with comfortable places to rest and assist with gentle grooming.
Decreased AppetiteShowing disinterest in food, eating small portions, eating less regularly, demonstrating a preference for certain foodsProvide smaller meals at appropriate frequencies; be sure to offer proper nutrition, but also feed what your dog takes interest in.
Weight LossGradual or rapid reduction in weight accompanied by wastingYour vet might prescribe an appetite stimulant or diet for weight management.
Social DetachmentIsolation—physical and social distancingRespect your dog’s desire for solitude. Approach and speak to him or her calmly when engaging.
Reduced MobilityDifficulty getting up and effortful movementsOffer skid-proof flooring and consider using slings and harnesses to assist with mobility.
Decreased ThirstDisinterest in water and foodMake the water bowl easily available. Do not force your dog to consume water. Consult with your vet if your dog is on medication.
IncontinenceSoiled beddingHygienic pads can be placed underneath your dog and should be changed out frequently.
RestlessnessVisible discomfortHelp your dog to get comfortable by repositioning them to prevent bed sores. Offer them warmth or cooling as needed.
PainOften accompanied by labored breathing, restlessness, and inappetenceConsult with your vet to offer pain meds or homeopathic remedies.
Labored BreathingIrregular breathing patternsMake an appointment with your vet.
Change in Gum ColorRather than bubble-gum pink, gums appear pale, blue, or whiteA dry mouth can be remedied with assistance, but gum-color change is often a result of systemic failure.
Cool BodyBody temperature drops and is cooler to the touchProvide your dog with a light blanket.
Post-Death ReflexesThese are normal body contractionsConsider that your dog has died and is not aware of any of this
Bladder/Bowel EmptyingMuscles relax allowing bladder/bowel emptyingKeep a urinary incontinence sheet under your dog
Lack of HeartbeatThe ultimate proof of deathCheck for lack of heart beat and other signs of sure death

Each of these signs and symptoms is explored in more depth below. I hope these explanations and suggestions help you support your dog through the end stages of their life.

Lethargy is an early indication of an aging dog.

Lethargy is an early indication of an aging dog.

Early Signs a Dog Is Dying or Unwell

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.

1. Lethargy

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 that some behaviors and activities may start to lessen or disappear from the dog’s usual 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.

Inappetence is a common side effect of terminal or chronic illness and old age.

Inappetence is a common side effect of terminal or chronic illness and old age.

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 illnesses.

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 also 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

Weight loss may be a result of old age or a common side effect of terminal and chronic illness.

Weight loss may be a result of old age or a common side effect of terminal and chronic illness.

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.

It is natural for older dogs to seek out solitude when death is near.

It is natural for older dogs to seek out solitude when death is near.

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.

Many dog owners think that their dogs known when they’re dying. Indeed, many owners report their dogs want to go outside to find a hiding spot to die. More about this is covered in depth here: do dogs know when they’re dying?

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 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 as 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.

Several signs may indicate the later stages of natural death in dogs.

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.

7. Incontinence

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 incontinence 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.

8. Restlessness

Dog owners may notice their dog becoming restless. It’s important to determine whether 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 bedsores 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

9. Pain

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.

Gum color is a good indication of overall health or illness in dogs.

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 PCV (a hematocrit level) to assess 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

What to Expect After Your Dog Dies

Once a dog has passed away, there are a few last changes that will occur. It is good to be aware of these changes beforehand so that you can prepare accordingly.

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 and/or Bowel Emptying

Shortly before or 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 that 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 Heartbeat and Breathing

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 heartbeat.

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 heartbeat for a period of more than 5 minutes proves that death has occurred.

Another sign of death is a lack of respiratory movement 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. Conscious dogs will blink when the eyeball 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 perking up may be, 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.

Many studies reveal that animals experience grief when another animal family member passes.

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. More about this is discussed in depth in “do dogs understand death?”

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Anticipatory grief is common when dealing with terminal illness.

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 the injection of euthanasia solution by a 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 as comfortable as possible throughout the process.

Death is quite a journey. It is part of life, and sadly it’s something 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.

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