Can Dogs Tell When They Are Dying? (And How To Tell When It Is Time)

Having a canine companion is one of life’s greatest joys. At this point, I couldn’t be happy without my furry friend.

But, one of the hardest things you will ever have to do is say goodbye to your dog when their time is up. 

We all wish dogs could live forever, and boy, do they deserve to. But it’s just the way it is. There comes a time where our pets grow old, tired and life gets too hard for them.

This is the point where it is time to say goodbye. 

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Although, as owners, we try to cling on to them as long as possible, and we don’t want to make that final call.

Sometimes, our dogs will let us know that they are ready with certain behaviors, looks and actions. This begs the question; does a dog know when it is dying

Does A Dog Know When It Is Dying?

Many dog owners will swear that their previous dog knew it was time to go. My first dog, Millie, was a 14 year old Labrador, and she started to decline very quickly.

One day she seemed like the normal, affectionate and lovely dog that I had known for years, and the next, she didn’t want to get out of her bed anymore. 

I’ll never forget the look she gave me in those final days, where she lay comfortably in her bed, and I just knew that she knew these were her last moments.

The truth is that there are so many signs that a dog knows when it’s living on borrowed time, and they just gracefully accept it.

There are countless stories of dogs seeming to have a sixth sense about when they are going to die.

Their behavior changes, and they just have that look in their eyes.

Some dogs will see a decline in their health, and then one day, make the climb up the stairs to be with their humans again, or get out of bed to have one last walk in the fresh air.

All of a sudden, you think they’re better, and then the next day they’re gone. It’s happened to many of us. It’s like a final, bittersweet goodbye from your furry friend. 

On the other hand, some dogs choose to die in peace and alone. They may disappear all of a sudden, or choose a quiet, enclosed space in the home to pass away peacefully.

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Many scientists attribute this behavior to dog’s wolf like ancestors, where sick and old dogs would separate themselves from the pack so that they do not infect them or slow them down. 

Whether a pet draws inward in its final days, or seeks more affection and attention from their owners are signs that their health is declining and that they are dying.

But does this mean that they know they are dying?

It is hard to say, as we cannot talk to dogs to understand their feelings about mortality or their impending death. 

We will never be able to definitively answer whether dogs know they are about to die, but we can understand their body language, their behaviors and support them in those final moments. 

Telltale Signs Your Dog Is Dying

Dogs are funny little creatures. In the case of my dog, she seemed to be her normal self even in old age, then one day her legs started getting weaker, and that was it. All of a sudden, we had an old dog. 

It happens so quickly with dogs. You feel like you’ve only had them a couple of years, but then one day you notice the gray hairs around their muzzles, and the fact that they cannot walk as far as you used to. 

There are a few signs that you can look out for as your dog ages, such as incontinence, weakened muscles and other signs of old age. However, there are also signs that your dog is nearing its final days with you.

For instance, dogs may become very lethargic, and seem disinterested in things that they used to love. For example, they may not want to play with you, catch a ball, and may completely ignore their favorite toys.

Towards the end of their lives, dogs may even want to ignore human contact from their owners, and will simply want to be left alone. 

Dying dogs will also lose interest in eating and drinking. They may not want to get out of bed for food, and may refuse it even if you try to hand feed them in bed.

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As their organs begin shutting down, they will not feel hungry or thirsty, and will have no motivation for food. Whilst this can be a sign of a health problem in many dogs, it is also a sign that they are dying.

Other dogs may lose coordination, and may struggle to control their limbs. They can become imbalanced and can lose motor control, making it hard for them to walk and move around.

They can look wobbly, or disorientated, and will prefer to lie down somewhere comfortable.

You have to create a soft, safe space for them to do so if this is the case, and provide them with whatever they need to feel secure. 

A big telltale sign is incontinence. As your dog approaches its final days, it will struggle to control all aspects of its body, including its bladder and bowels.

It is vital that you do not chastise them, and you make them comfortable, keeping their bed and the area around them clean, so that they feel safe. 

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Ready To Go

I cannot tell you how hard it is to lose a dog.

Some people say it is even harder than losing a distant family member, as sometimes you spend more time with the dog, seeing them every single day of your life. 

The important thing is doing what is best for them, not for you.

When a dog is ready to go, you will be able to tell, and it is sometimes more humane for them to be put to sleep rather than suffer in pain any longer. 

You will be able to tell when your dog is ready, you just can. They will look to you for comfort. They will tell you with their eyes, and they will seek affection.

In those last moments, it is so important that you are with them, reassuring them, and making them feel safe and comfortable. Do not let them go through it alone, as hard as it is. 

They have been there for you as your closest companion, and they need you to be there for them as they pass over the rainbow bridge. 

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