Dog Behaviour Before Death – Spot the Signs and Help Your Pet


Did you know there is a specific set of dog behaviour before death?

If you’re a pet owner, especially if you have an old or ill dog, there’s a moment when you have to accept that, unfortunately, your fur friend won’t live forever.

As devastating as it can be, it’s important to recognize your dog’s end-of-life to make the right moves and keep him comfortable.

Read on for the signs to look out for, ways to make their final moments easier, and facts about natural death and euthanasia to help you decide what’s the best option for your dog.

Dog Behaviour Before Death

As a dog owner, you have to make sure to spot every change in your dog’s condition or behavior, regardless of his age.

The signs that your dog is approaching the end of his life may in some cases be symptoms of treatable illnesses, so make sure to take him for a veterinary visit to determine what exactly is causing the change.

In order to determine your next steps, pay attention if you spot some of the following behavioral signs a dog is dying:

  • Unable to Settle or Get Comfortable or Abnormally Still and Unresponsive

Although it’s often one of the first symptoms of treatable illnesses, losing their usual playfulness could also be a bad sign for pets.

Some dogs at the end of their lives can’t seem to find a spot or get comfortable, so they tend to wander around looking for a place to relax.

  • Need Encouragement to Eat Their Favorite Food

Unfortunately, an old or ill dog will no longer enjoy the things he once loved. As a dog’s desire to eat decreases, you may have to encourage him to eat even the food he enjoys the most.

  • Seek Out the Comfort and Company of Their Humans or Become More Solitary and Seek Quiet Corners to Be Alone

Often, old dog behavior before death may include looking for solitary corners and wanting to be left alone.

On the other hand, there are some dogs with increased demand for attention that just want to be near you in their final moments.

  • Confusion

Aging and sick dogs can experience a state similar to human dementia, prompting them to pace at night, get confused, or get lost in the house or the yard. The symptoms of this condition, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), may include irritability and fussiness, and sometimes your dog won’t even be able to recognize who you are.

As devastating as this can be for pet parents, make sure to be extra careful, especially when waking your dog up, as they can get irritated or scared due to disorientation.

  • Lethargy and Fatigue

While getting older, a dog’s sleeping patterns change. Your dog will probably sleep more and more, and when awake he won’t be interested in the things he used to love, like walks or playing with his favorite toy.

  • Dull Eyes

At the end of a dog’s life, you might spot a change in your dog’s eyes. Although dull or glassy eyes can be a sign of sickness or an eye problem, in conjunction with other symptoms in an old or ill dog, it can be one of the signs when a dog is dying.

  • Poor Appetite and Dehydration

Dog’s interest in food and water will decrease as he gets older or his illness progresses. Sometimes, certain medications can influence the sense of taste and smell, making the food unappealing.

If this happens, treat your pet with more flavored food, warm it up, or ask your veterinarian for appetite stimulants that may positively affect the dog’s desire to eat. Also, make sure the bowl is within his reach at all times.

  • Depression

Sick or senior dogs lose their interest in the things they used to enjoy, like favorite food, toys, walks, welcoming you home, etc., which can cause frustration and even depression with some dogs.

Signs Your Dog Is Dying

Other than the possible changes in behavior, there are many physical symptoms to indicate that the dog’s end-of-life may be approaching.

  • Poor Temperature Regulation

For a dying dog’s body, regulating temperature can be a challenge, so make sure to adjust the thermal conditions for your dog’s comfort by providing blankets or shaded spaces, depending on the climate of your area.

  • Extreme Weight Loss

Senior dogs commonly experience a loss of muscle mass due to natural processes in the dog’s body which lead to a decreased capability to digest protein, but weight loss can also be common with a dog with cancer or a sick dog who loses appetite due to discomfort as the illness progresses.

  • Poor Coordination

One of the signs that a dog is dying is loss of coordination. Your pet may have difficulty walking and placing his paws on the ground, or he may slip or have difficulty finding objects, while some dogs may even experience involuntary muscle twitching.

  • Incontinence

Although a urinary infection as one of the symptoms of treatable illnesses may cause incontinence, bladder and sometimes bowel control loss is also common with senior dogs.

If this happens, make sure not to make your dog feel worse for not following the rules since he just can’t help it, and look into incontinence pads as a practical way of handling the situation.

  • Decreased Mobility

Gradually developing difficulty moving, getting up, or even standing are usual symptoms for dogs at the end of their lives.

It’s a sad sight for pet parents, but there’s just so much a pet owner can do. Make sure his food and water are within his reach, give him a little push when he needs it, and use a sling to help him out. As these symptoms can often be related to arthritis, you can also include some of the top joint supplements for dogs to ease the discomfort.

  • Poor Response to Treatments

Another one of the physical signs a dog is dying is that his usual therapy is not as effective as it used to be. As the usual dosage of a medication is no longer enough, the dog’s health can rapidly deteriorate, or, if it’s a dog with cancer, he will continue to lose weight as the illness progresses, despite the treatment.

  • Strange Odor

Due to the metabolic changes and the processes that a dying dog’s body can’t handle like it used to, your dog can smell differently. Depending on the cause, the odor will have some specific characteristics.

  • Breathing Problems

Inconsistent breathing can be another warning sign a dog is dying. If your dog’s breathing rate changes rapidly, he moves his abdomen as he breathes, or breathes with his mouth open, make sure to call a veterinarian.

  • Seizures

Some dogs may experience seizures that can have different causes, like organ failure or brain changes, and that may require a veterinary visit, even though they can sometimes get so strong or frequent that they don’t respond to treatment.

DID YOU KNOW? Listed signs are not definitive, as every dog’s end-of-life is different. Some pet owners even reported a spike in energy or appetite in their pets just before they passed away.

How to Make Your Dog’s Last Days Comfortable

Once the signs when a dog is dying start to appear, there are still things you can do as a pet owner to ensure your dog’s comfort:

  • Make His Bed Cozy for Rest

Your dog will probably spend most of his time in his bed or in his favorite spot where he can rest, so make sure he has a blanket to feel warm and other things for support and comfort.

  • Provide Him With Appropriate Food and Water Within His Reach

Give him food that’s easy to chew and digest, but also his favorite food, especially if he’s been on a diet he didn’t like, as he should now be able to enjoy it regardless of the long-term consequences.

  • Try to Keep Your Daily Routine as Much as Possible

Even with dogs at the end of their lives, it’s important to keep their usual rhythm as much as their condition allows it. If you enjoy long walks together in the afternoons, try to continue the routine with shorter walks, or just with spending time together.

  • Keep Him Company or Leave Him Alone

Dog behavior before death may be very different from his ways when he was young and healthy. Keep that in mind and respect his needs. If your dog needs you close, spend as much time as possible keeping him company. On the other hand, if he wants to be left alone, respect that too, but always be close by in case of emergency.

  • Alleviate His Symptoms

Talk to your veterinarian and give your dog a treatment to alleviate his symptoms, pain, or improve his appetite. Some of the quality CBD oils for pets may be just what you need to provide your dog’s comfort.
This could be the right time to ignore some of the harmful long-term side effects of certain medications and focus on the short-term benefit.

DID YOU KNOW? Approximately 50% of households in the US have a dog, so recognizing dog behavior just before death may be important for many pet owners who consider them to be family members.

Is It Better to Put Your Dog Down or Let Him Die

Both choices have their pros and cons, and this is not an easy call to make. While some dogs pass away quickly, others have longer illnesses, so make sure to choose what you feel is best for you and your dog, considering his condition and personality, but also the specific dog’s strange behavior before death.

We listed some of the facts related to both natural passing and euthanasia to help you make the right choice:

Natural death

If your elderly dog isn’t suffering, but resting comfortably in appropriate hospice care, this is a good option that will allow your dog to die quietly at a safe place, surrounded by the people that love him.

However, note that watching your pet die may be overwhelming for you or your family members, so try to keep everyone’s best interest in mind.


Opting for euthanasia can be a tough decision, but in some cases, the best option is to spare your dog from suffering, especially if the signs your dog is dying are intense and painful.

When deciding, one of the best criteria is to determine the proportion of a dog’s good days and bad days. If there are fewer good days and your dog is suffering most of the time, euthanasia may be a compassionate choice.

The advantages of euthanasia include peaceful and quick passing, which in some cases can be done in the comfort of your dog’s home by a veterinarian who does house calls. The cost of putting your dog down will also depend on the option you choose.

Regardless of your choice, make time to properly say goodbye to your dog if possible, because this is an important part of the process, for both the pet and pet parents.

DID YOU KNOW? According to World Atlas, more than half of the owners choose to stay in the room with their pets as they’re being euthanized, as a way of honoring their life. Others feel that they would be too emotional and upset their pet, so they prefer to leave the room.

What to Do When Your Dog Dies?

For every pet owner, losing a pet is very stressful, but ultimately inevitable. When that time comes, you can take some of the following steps that will help you through the process:

Give Yourself Time to Grieve

We’re all different when it comes to the time we need to process our feelings and heal after a painful experience, so grieve your loss at your own pace.

This doesn’t mean you should forget your dog. Quite the opposite, be grateful for all the great moments you shared and enjoy his memory.

Find Support

Talk to your family, friends, and other pet parents about how you feel. Some of them may have already lived through the experience, including the strange dog behavior before death, and may give you helpful insights. Also, some veterinarian offices may have resources or offer to counsel.

Honor Your Pal

Honor your dog and decide on what to do with his remains the way you see fit. If you have permission, you can bury your dog on your property. Other options include a pet cemetery or having your pet cremated. Before making the decision, make sure to talk to your veterinarian about the options, including the costs of cremating your pet before making the decision.

DID YOU KNOW? If you choose to have your pet cremated, you can decide whether you want it to be with other pets or individually, and even have your pet’s ashes delivered to you in an urn.

Wrap Up

Regardless of the sadness, you may feel, aging and sick dogs passing away is a natural process. Note that dog behavior just before death can be different for every pet and pet owner.

The signs listed in this article can have different timing and intensity, so observe your dog and try to address your pet’s final needs in the best possible way. This also applies when deciding between natural death and euthanasia.

And finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself by taking your time and asking for help during the grieving process and while looking for ways to honor your dog.


How long do dogs live?

The life expectancy of a dog depends on many factors like breed, life conditions, and general health, but dogs usually live between 10 and 13 years.

When to euthanize a dog with hemangiosarcoma?

Given that hemangiosarcoma is a disease that can fly under the radar for quite some time, when your dog with cancer starts experiencing symptoms, euthanasia should be considered. The timing depends on many things, but let the main criteria be the proportion of the dog’s good days and bad days and the overall quality of your dog’s life.

Do dogs know when they are dying?

No one knows for sure. Understanding dog behavior before death and their ability to comprehend that they’re about to pass away is not that simple. Different dogs act and feel differently, and their capability to understand things around them varies, which is why some dogs seem aware of their upcoming death, while others don’t give such an impression.


When she couldn’t decide between being a nurse, a psychotherapist, and a financial genius, Ofelia decided to do all three. Her interests run far and wide, and she loves researching about everything you get to read on our website. Credit cards or top-notch software, she’s here to tell it all like it is.

Latest from Ofelia

How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau in 6 Steps? Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much and Other Sleep-Related Q&A When to Start Using an Exercise Ball in Pregnancy? How to Avoid Loose Skin After Weight Loss in 7 Steps

Leave a Reply