Most modern dogs have lives that are longer, more comfortable, and far healthier than their canine ancestors could have hoped for.
People are more aware of dog care issues and how to prevent them; veterinarians have more tools and more effective medications for treating and diagnosing dogs’ health problems; and disease prevention is better.
Of course, there are always going to be things that can go wrong, no matter how hard you try to prevent them. (If you’re a dog owner, it’s better to be prepared.)
Have you ever wondered what to do when your dog is dying? Dogs are creatures of habit who rely on us for everything, and when they are dying, they may become desperately ill.
If you see any of the following symptoms in your dog, ask yourself if it could be his last days:
- He refuses to eat or drinks less than usual
- Vomiting, whether or not bile is present
- Diarrhea, with or without blood or mucus
- Growls at you instead of wagging his tail
- Low energy, lethargic, or sleeps more than usual
This can be very distressing, but having a look at the dog’s behavior, and being aware of certain early warning signs, will help you identify when to seek help.
It’s never a good idea to ignore the signs that your dog is sick or injured, since many dog illnesses and injuries can be treated, or at least managed when caught early.
But one of the most common mistakes that owners of pets make is that they assume that their pet is just getting older when the animal begins to slow down, stop playing, or even lose its appetite.
These are all signs that your dog might be dying, and you should take them seriously. If you think your dog might be dying, pay attention to the following signs.
Loss of Coordination
When your dog is old, he can be a little unsteady on his feet, but you may notice that he’s really having more trouble than usual walking or getting up.
The loss of coordination that comes with old age can be scary—your dog may seem like he’s falling over, or he may have trouble standing up.
Losing coordination can be a sign that your dog is in pain, which can be especially worrisome if your dog isn’t a puppy or a young adult.
Every year, thousands of dogs are diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy (DM). This incurable disease causes your dog to lose coordination and control of his legs. (The disease also affects humans, but is most common among large breeds of dogs, especially German Shepherds.)
It usually starts with a hind limb weakness, but can progress to total paralysis, if it is not caught early enough.
The gastrointestinal tract of a dog is not unlike the human GI tract. It runs from the mouth to the anus and passes through the stomach, intestines, and rectum.
Just as humans, dogs can suffer from a variety of gastrointestinal problems that can make them sick, uncomfortable, and even lead to their death.
While some of these problems can be caused by a dog eating the wrong food or even poison, some of the most common ones are stress-related or the result of an infectious disease.
A dog suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms can be a terrifying thing to see. It can easily be assumed that something is seriously wrong with your dog and that they’re definitely going to die.
The symptoms can be quite frightening, but it’s important to remember that there are many things that can cause these signs.
The dog may have a hard time breathing, urinating, or even walking. The dog may be unwilling to eat or drink at this point, or if they do, they may be vomiting.
Loss of Appetite
You know that you have a fat dog on your hands when your beloved pet has gained so much weight that you begin to suspect that he might have a tumor — or worse, cancer.
However, while you might think your dog is actually dying, he may just be slowing down as the years go by. If your dog is a senior, he is more likely to experience health problems that lead to weight gain.
Dog owners are often unaware of the warning signs of a dog in danger of dying of starvation. The first thing a dog owner notices is weight loss, but it is often a loss of muscle mass rather than a loss of fat.
Muscle loss results in a loss of energy, which makes the dog lethargic. This is a good time to take the dog to the vet and get it checked out.
Mental or brain-related symptoms
It’s not always easy to tell when a dog is sick, and many pet owners miss the signs that their dog is sick until it is too late. According to Dr. Peter Dobias, many of the most common dog illnesses are often first observed as symptoms of mental illness.
A change in your dog’s behavior is a sign that your dog is sick, and it can be a symptom of many different illnesses, including liver disease, kidney disease, urinary infection, cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.
The good news is that most mental-health symptoms are relatively easy to recognize once you know what to look for. By knowing what to look for, you or your veterinarian can make a timely diagnosis, which increases your dog’s chance of living.
Cardiac or respiratory symptoms
Knowing the signs that your dog is dying early on can save his life, and the lives of other dogs. For this reason, it is important to know what is normal breathing and heart rate with your dog, just like it is important to know how much your dog should weigh.
Dog’s normal breathing is usually about 15-30 breaths per minute. When sleeping, a dog’s breathing may become more shallow with only 6-8 breaths taken per minute. A dog’s normal heart rate is usually between 80-120 beats per minute.
When your pet experiences cardiac symptoms, it is usually a sign that something is wrong. If left untreated, it could lead to further complications or even death. Cardiac symptoms could include rapid breathing, coughing, or even diarrhea.
Can a dying dog still protect their owner?
Many pet owners are unaware of the symptoms of their pets’ impending death, and this unawareness can result in the loss of a beloved dog. In fact, in 80% of the cases, an owner will not know his dog is dying until he collapses and dies. Therefore, it is important to learn the warning signs of death in dogs.