5 signs your dog is dying and how to help them

A lot of people would say they saw signs their dog was dying. If I think back on the 6 months before Wes died, there were signs. Unfortunately, not one sign can spotlight how or when your dog is going to die exactly. But there are 5 signs that might make you want to bring your dog to the vet for an extra check-up. For another term, signs also mean symptoms.

Sometimes knowing these signs or symptoms will help you prepare for your dog’s last days. 

cute bull dog

Always reach out to your veterinarian

Many of the ways to help your dog who has signs of dying are of course to have you reach out to your vet for a professional opinion. I know the flashes of dollar signs sometimes pop up when you think you need to take your dog to the vet. But, the cost of worrying is much more than the vet bill. 

You know your dog better than anyone else. It’s likely that your dog will show some of these signs or a combination that will lead you to think that your dog is acting out of character. In these instances, it’s always best to have a professional opinion so you can make the best choice and decide on the best next steps for your dog. 

5 signs your dog is dying and how to help them

Sign 1: Pain

Pain in dogs can be difficult to understand or even notice. Dogs are strong animals and they can’t use words to tell us that something hurts. That’s why it’s important as dog owners to be aware of signs that their dog may be in pain. I remember when Wes was in pain, he would shake and it was usually his back which meant we needed to get him to the vet for pain meds. 

What are the symptoms if your dog is experiencing pain?


-Heavy Breathing

-Limited movement or less movement or walking around than they used to 



How to help your dog in pain?

Remember, dogs can’t have human meds so please don’t try to look in your medicine cabinet for Tylenol. The best option is to reach out to your vet so they can examine your dog and decide on the best route for pain management. They can also rule out any life-threatening pain that your dog may be experiencing. It will be best to keep your dog as comfortable as possible. This may mean keeping them in your bed or their bed, limiting their walks and movement until they can be evaluated, or even carrying them out to use the restroom. 

Sign 2: Loss of Appetite

Most dogs will eat just about anything. Wes would sit under the kitchen table just waiting for scraps of food to be dropped by the kiddos. I also knew that when Wes didn’t eat a treat or his food that usually meant he had a little tummy bug or something was going on. A dog’s digestion can change near the end of its life. So if it’s a tummy bug then it will usually subside and your dog will be begging for scraps sooner rather than later. If it’s something more serious, like the end of life, your dog likely won’t want to eat as they used to or bed for leftovers like they used to.

What are the symptoms of my dog losing its appetite? 

-Not eating treats

-Less water drinking – full water bowl each day 

-eating half their meal or not eating it at all for multiple days

How to help your dog who is not eating?

If your dog goes more than 24-48 hours without eating, best to get them to the vet. Especially, if your dog is not drinking water either. You don’t want your dog to become dehydrated. You can also try chicken and rice if it’s a tummy bug to try and settle their stomach. But, if they still are not eating or drinking anything, it’s time to take them in to make sure it’s not life threatening.

happy dog

Sign 3: Lethargic

This is a difficult one since most dogs sleep a lot. And if you have an older dog, then they likely sleep away most of the day. But, if the sleeping and movement of your dog change, your dog might be lethargic. If your dog usually goes for a walk and doesn’t want to go anymore, that might be a sign that something else is going on if it happens consistently. You might also notice that your dog is having more accidents in the house because they can’t make it outside because they are so tired. Remember, you know the common traits of your dog and its daily routine. If you notice that a few days or a few weeks have gone by and they have lower energy than normal, it would be good to call your t vet.

what are the signs of a dog feeling lethargic?

-ignoring invitations to play

-Not getting up when you ask if they want to go for a walk

-not moving or you have to carry him or her up the stairs or even carry them outside to use the bathroom

How can you help your lethargic dog?

Think about the last few days and if your dog might have eaten something bad or maybe they are having an off day. But if your furry friend suddenly doesn’t want to walk for multiple days in a row when they usually love their walk, it might be time to call the vet. Allow your dog to rest and not push them to go outside. Even if nothing serious is going on, everybody deserves a few Netflix and chill days. 

Sign 4: Seizures

Toward the end of a dog’s life, it may experience seizures. They could be from many different reasons but obviously also very scary for you as their owner. You might notice them frequently or just a one-off seizure. It might also be hard to know if they have had one before, as most of us are not right next to our dog every second of the day. 

what are the signs of a seizure in a dog?

-Falling immediately to the floor vs laying down as usual 

-Twitching movement in the body 

-Looking confused and/or unable to have eye movement 

How to help a dog who is having a seizure?

Make sure your dog is in a safe place when it happens. They should be on a low surface to ensure they don’t fall off of anything. Also, make sure they are not near anything sharp like a table edge where they could injure themselves further from the seizure. Be sure to call your vet immediately to have your pup examined. If possible, it’s always good to time the seizure and notice any other symptoms to relay back to your vet so they understand what happened to diagnose appropriately. 

Sign 5: Body Odor

A dog may start to smell towards the end of their life. We know that all dogs can sometimes smell but this odor will be different and you will notice it being stronger. This could happen for various reasons such as kidney failure or metabolism changes. 

Symptoms of a dog with body odor

-unusual smell – different than normal 

-Sometimes it may smell like ammonia or a very potent smell 

-lingering smell on bedding or furniture that won’t go away

How to help a dog who has body odor?

Provide more gentle warm baths if your dog can tolerate the water. Also, wash all of their bedding or your bedding and toys to keep the smell from lingering. Be mindful of sprays or scented shampoos as your dog’s skin might not be able to tolerate those products. You can always talk to your vet about safe and appropriate over-the-counter options to reduce the smell of your dog.

How do you really know if your dog is dying or just sick?

This is a hard question to answer and one that I personally struggled with every time Wes acted out of character. You start questioning if you should wait 24 hours or you should call the vet or schedule an appointment. Sometimes the cost of worrying is more than the cost of just taking your dog to the vet and finding professional answers. 

No matter the diagnosis of your dog’s symptoms, your vet can help you through the next steps. We all hope that the signs and symptoms above don’t mean death is near for your doggy. But, if it is, difficult decisions will have to be made. 

How do you choose to euthanize your dog or allow them to pass on its own?

Veterinarians usually recommend euthanizing your dog when their quality of life has diminished so greatly and it has no signs of improving. This might make the most sense if your dog is in pain and allowing them to hang on is not in their best interest.

If your dog’s pain can be managed and they have some quality of life still left, passing on their own time might make sense for you and them.

This is a hard question to ask yourself because you truly have to be selfless. Your dog wants to stay with you and you want to stay with your dog. Unfortunately, you have to decide alongside your vet and other family members if your dog is hurting. 

When I took Wes to the vet in the middle of the night, I knew deep down he wasn’t going to make it. He was barely breathing and he wasn’t making eye movements. They performed CPR 3x to bring him back and the vet came rushing in to tell me I needed to make a call and it was in Wes’s best interest to euthanize him. She could continue to do CPR one more time and hook him up to a breathing machine, but he’d never come off of it. It was terrible to make that decision. In all honesty, I wanted to keep him and be able to say goodbye to him properly. I think the vet could see my pain as I cried hysterically not wanting to believe her. I remember her looking me in the eyes and saying that I needed to let him go for him to die comfortably. So I told her to go forward with putting Wes down. I didn’t have time to properly say goodbye and. it all happened so fast.

dog in ocean

Grieving the death of your dog

I blamed myself for not seeing the signs earlier with Wes. He had been eating less but he was a grazer so it was hard to measure. He was lethargic some days but I chalked it up to it being old age. Blaming myself was a way to explain the blood clot or how he died. Ultimately though, it was a tragic and unknowing event that caused his death. He likely had cancer and I wish I would have taken him in a month earlier to know that. It took me a while to accept that even if I had brought him in months earlier, there is no way I could have prevented a blood clot from going to his brain. It all felt unfair and still does. Even though I had 12 great years with him, I really thought I had many years left with him.

I hope that reading some of these signs allows you to have more time with your dog and to properly say goodbye. If there were other signs your saw or wish you would have seen before your dog went to doggy heaven, please email them to me at mydogwes@mydogwes.com.

If you are having trouble coping with the loss of your dog, here is a resource to help you to stop crying.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and have compiled the information below via research and personal experience. Always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns with your dog to ensure they are treated properly and appropriately.

One Comment

  1. So sorry about your dog, but you couldn’t know what would happen. There are things I would change if I could, but we are human beings and make decisions based on our knowledge at that time. We just have to accept it, however hard it is. Sending hugs!

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