It's the time we all dread: the day when we have to say goodbye to our sweet furry friend.
Unfortunately, it is part of life and we all have to believe in it.
But some dogs live to be 10 years old, others 15, and some can hit 20. You may be wondering, “How to know if my dog is dying of old age?”.
You can recognize the symptoms of a dying old dog as follows:
- Difficult breathing
- No more appetite and thirst
- Tired and no energy
- Difficulty moving
- Weight loss
- Cold body
- Color of gums changes
How to Know if My Dog is Dying of Old Age
From about 7 years old your dog is considered a senior. From this moment on, the signs of aging slowly start to become visible and your dog becomes less vital.
The fact that your dog is old and has more difficulty moving and such does not mean that he will die. When your dog is approaching its end of life, you can recognize it by the following symptoms:
- Difficult breathing – Breathing changes. Your dog may have trouble breathing. He breathes fast, short or very deep, and every breath seems to take a lot of effort and energy. It could also be that your dog's breathing is suddenly a lot louder.
- Pain – Dogs that are dying can experience a lot of pain at some point. For example, they shun away when you want to pet them, because this can hurt. They will also whine a bit more, or maybe bite themselves if the pain is very unpleasant. Consult your vet if there is the possibility of medication that can relieve the pain.
- Reclusive – As your dog approaches his final day, he may become more distant and withdraw more often to a quiet place where he normally does not lie. For the most part, respect this, but if you still want to give some attention, approach him slowly and calmly.
- No more appetite and thirst – Dogs are very fond of food and will be wagging in front of you when it is feeding time. However, an older dog nearing the end is less enthusiastic. He eats a lot less, if not at all. Your vet can give him medication to help get his appetite back, but if he really doesn't want to eat anymore, you know it won't be long.
- Restlessness – Your dog may become restless, because of pain or because he can't really get comfortable. Your dog may also develop dementia in old age, which can also make him confused and restless.
- Tired and no energy – All your dog does is lie down and sleep. They simply don't have the energy to get up anymore. A walk to his food and water bowl takes effort and a game is no longer possible. Put his food and drink a little closer to the place where he lies, so that he no longer has to walk so much.
- Difficulty moving – Especially with large dogs, the movement quickly deteriorates. Often these dogs have to contend with things like osteoarthritis and other joint problems. Large dogs cannot even get up at some point, and small dogs are more likely to fall over. The quality of life has almost disappeared, so you have to ask yourself whether falling asleep at such a moment is the best.
- Incontinence – Because old dogs sometimes suffer from dementia, have trouble getting up or because their body stops working, they may urinate all over themselves. The same goes for pooping. Especially if they have painful joints and have difficulty squatting while defecating, they may relieve themselves while lying on the floor.
- Weight loss – When dogs have less appetite and eat less as a result, it is understandable that they will lose weight and get leaner. Your vet can prescribe medication or provide other nutrition to help with this.
- Cold body – Because the body is turning off slowly and the blood is pumped around less quickly, the body temperature drops and your dog's body and breath feel cold.
- Color of gums changes – Instead of the gums having the normal pink color, it is now pale, blue or white.
Is My Dog Dying or Just Sick?
If your dog starts to behave differently than usual, then this is at least a sign that something is wrong.
Age plays an important role in determining this. Is your dog older? Then it could indeed be that the end is near.
Is your dog still relatively young? Then there may be something else going on.
Whatever the problem is, if you notice that your dog's behavior is not what it used to be, an official diagnosis from the vet is needed.
He can also immediately discuss the plan of action with you, and how much further if it indeed turns out to be the final phase of your dog's life.
Does a Dog Feel Death Coming?
We already knew that dogs and animals in general are aware of death.
Just think of wildlife losing their young, or our dogs losing their buddy. But does a dog also feel that it is going to die itself?
While we can never be sure what is going on in their minds, there have been a lot of cases of dogs who seemed to have an idea that the end was coming.
Just take a look at some of these stories. The fact that a dog seeks isolation also indicates that he has the idea that something is coming, but whether he is really aware of the concept of ‘dying', we are of course not sure.
Let the Dog Die Naturally or Put it to Sleep?
This is probably a burning question you have probably already asked yourself, and certainly one worth thinking about in advance.
Do you let your dog die of natural causes, or do you lend him a hand?
Ultimately, it is up to you as the owner to make this choice. What is best for your dog depends on the situation.
If your dog is barely able to get up, all the energy has been drained from his body, and he is clearly in pain, then the only logical step is to let him be euthanized, however difficult that may be.
If he can still walk around a bit, eat and drink reasonably, and is not in pain, then there is still some quality of life, so it is more attractive to let nature take its course.
To determine what's best for you and your dog, it's a good idea to get him checked out by your vet so you can come to a decision together.
How to Make a Dying Dog Comfortable
In the last moments of our dog, we want to do everything we can to make it as pleasant as possible for our buddy.
There are a number of things you can do to reassure your dog and make him comfortable.
If your dog is on medication, just keep on giving it during this time. If he has been given extra medication for the pain or to stimulate an appetite, it is certainly important to keep on giving it.
Make sure the place where they lie a lot is nice and comfortable. Lay out enough soft blankets or a fluffy bed. And, if they want to, keep giving them enough attention and love, which they desperately need right now.
Keep an eye on them and check with them now and then how they are doing. If your dog can't get up and soiled themselves, put some puppy training pads down for easy cleaning and wipe their backs with a warm cloth.
If necessary, you can also remove some fur around that area, so that not all of the feces lingers in it and dries up.
When you are sure that the final hours have arrived, give him his favorite (human) food that he really likes, to spoil him for a while. (Not too much, otherwise his stomach will get upset at the last minute, and you want to make it as comfortable as possible for him.)
Have Your Dog Cremated or Buried
Before your dog takes his last breath, it is a good idea to think about whether you want to have your dog cremated or buried. Several options are possible, such as an individual cremation, a group cremation, or a funeral.
If you decide to cremate your dog individually, an urn is of course a nice place to keep your dog's ashes.
Take your time to find a nice urn that is worthy of your dog as a final resting place.
Grieving After Your Dog Dies
When you've had so many beautiful moments with that sweet beast of yours, and he suddenly passes away, then you need time to accept that and give it some time.
Clear a nice spot in your house with a nice photo of your dog and possibly the urn, so that you are also reminded of the beautiful moments.
Give time to grieving and try not to cover up the grief by buying a new dog right away. A new dog cannot replace the old one, and you shouldn't want to. Give yourself the time to fully accept it, and only when you are really ready for it again can you bring in a new buddy to share the next phase of your life with.
The death of your best furry friend that you have spent so many years with is always a difficult time.
Fortunately, if you recognize the symptoms in time, you can still do a number of things to make this last phase of their life run as smoothly as possible.
Know that it is important to grieve and to give it some time.
Important: This article is for informational purposes only. We always recommend that you go to a trusted vet with your pet first.