Near-Term Death Symptoms in a Dog

A time comes when man's best friend is unable to enjoy life as before. Ageing is a natural process and so is death, but it is never easy to deal with. If your dog appears comfortable and the vet has confirmed that its time is nearing, then you may decide to let the process unfold naturally in the comfort of your home. Being aware of the signs of impending death will help ensure you will be close to your loyal friend at the end.

Lack of Appetite

One of the first signs suggesting a dog is going downhill is lack of appetite. Even foods that your dog once craved are no longer appetizing. Food remains untouched. When you attempt to handfeed it, your dog turns its head away. You may also notice that your dog drinks less than before. Keep a water bowl close if it is no longer able to walk around. If it is unable to drink, squirt water in its mouth regularly to help keep it moist.

Decreased Mobility

Your dog becomes sluggish and less active. Play is no longer interesting. A house-trained dog no longer gets up to show you it has to go outside to potty. While a healthy dog will do as much as it can not to soil where it sleeps, a dog nearing death will not be able to do so. Cleaning its sleeping area and ensuring the dog remains dry and clean are two of the kindest things dog owners can do for their dying pets. The use of dog diapers may make this easier.


When the end is nearing, dogs become weak. This is a natural process that takes place in all animals. While energy and vitality are signs of life, weakness and lethargy are symptoms of the body shutting down. Your dog may no longer be able to get up and will rest for most of the day. Respect your dog's desire to lie around and be inactive.

Other Signs

As death nears, a dog's senses begin to fail, first the sense of smell, followed by taste and sight, and lastly, hearing. Most dogs seek out quiet areas of the home, away from hallways or busy rooms, like kitchens. Shortly before passing, the body temperature will fall and breathing may become spasmodic and gasping. In the last moments, the pupils will dilate and the dog may stretch out or pass urine. During this time, many dogs seem to find comfort in blankets, gentle stroking and soothing talk. Try not to let your emotions upset it. Your calm presence at its side will be most comforting during your dog's final moments.

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About the Author

Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.