What Are Symptoms of a Dying Dog?

Updated March 23, 2017

Dogs have a shorter lifespan than humans, and as a result dog owners usually outlive their pets. Preparing for a pet's death can ease the sense of loss, especially with an older dog that has lived a long and happy life. Sometimes owners need to make the choice to humanely end their dog's suffering. Knowing when a dog is actually dying, as opposed to simply exhibiting signs of old age or disease, makes the euthanasia decision easier for pet owners.


Older dogs become less active as part of the normal ageing process. Some illnesses or conditions can also limit a dog's mobility and energy, but are not necessarily signs of dying. A dog that shows little or no desire to move and that sleeps most of the day may be in the process of dying.

Lack of Appetite

A decreased appetite is common in older and ill dogs, but a dog that refuses to eat may be severely ill or dying. Inability to keep down food or water may also be a symptom of dying. Frequent vomiting, even without a recent meal, and loose stool or diarrhoea can be indicators of dying, but can also be the result of an illness.

Lack of Interest

Dog owners often say they know the time has come to say goodbye to their pet when the "spark" is gone from their dog's eyes. Older dogs may experience cognitive dysfunction and act depressed or confused. Dying dogs are generally no longer interested in food, toys, walks, barking at squirrels or other favourite activities.

Pain and Decreased Organ Function

Depending on the dog's health, pain management may be an end-of-life issue. Although this is not itself a symptom of dying, a dog that is in constant pain with no relief may be a candidate for humane euthanasia. Organs begin to shut down in a dying dog, so the dog may experience urinary problems, a slow or irregular heartbeat or shallow, laboured breathing.

More Bad Days Than Good

Old and ill dogs will have both good days and bad days, which can make it difficult to determine whether they are in the process of dying or simply showing signs of their age or disease. When a dog has more bad days than good, however, it might indicate he is dying. Keeping a daily journal that records the dog's activity, appetite and attitude can help track changes in symptoms and determine the ratio of good to bad days.

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