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Pet Health

How Do I Tell if My Dog is Dying?

As a dog approaches the end of their life they may show signs of the dying process. Here we will discuss 10 signs you may see in your dog's final days. It is important to note that these signs must be evaluated along with your dog for a full picture and that these signs are not always present before a dog's passing.

Dr. Bethany Hsia

February 19, 2024

10 Signs A Dying Dog May Exhibit

Losing a beloved pet can be an incredibly difficult experience. As responsible pet parents, it’s important to be aware of signs that our dogs may be nearing the end of their lives. While it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and medical care, there are some common indicators that may suggest your dog is approaching the end of their life. Below are 10 signs that may indicate your dog has begun the dying process.

Decreased appetite and weight loss

One of the first signs that your dog may be nearing the end of their life is a decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss. Dogs who are terminally ill often lose interest in food due to various reasons such as pain, nausea, or organ failure. If your dog consistently refuses to eat or shows a significant decrease in appetite, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention for him or her.

Lethargy and Weakness

As dogs age or become seriously ill, they often experience a decline in energy levels and generalized weakness. If you notice that your once-active and lively dog has become increasingly lethargic, lacks interest in activities they previously enjoyed, or struggles to perform routine bodily functions, it may be a sign that their health is deteriorating.

10 signs my dog is dying

Difficulty Breathing

Respiratory problems can be indicative of serious and urgent health issues in dogs. Labored breathing, coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath may suggest heart failure, lung disease, or other underlying conditions. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Changes In Bathroom Habits

Changes in your dog’s bathroom habits can provide insights into their overall health. Dogs nearing the end of their lives may experience urinary or fecal incontinence or have difficulty eliminating waste altogether. Additionally, blood in urine or stool can also be a cause for concern, however these may also be signs of manageable illness and should be addressed by a veterinarian for a diagnostic investigation.

Persistent Vomiting or Diarrhea

While occasional bouts of vomiting or diarrhea are common in dogs, persistent and uncontrollable episodes can be a sign of a more serious underlying issue. Chronic gastrointestinal problems can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, which may hasten the decline of your dog’s health. Seeking veterinary attention is crucial if these symptoms persist.

Noticeable Pain or Discomfort

Dogs, like humans, can experience pain and discomfort as they age or become seriously ill. They may exhibit signs such as whimpering, restlessness, aggression, or reluctance to move. It’s important to monitor your dog closely for any indications of pain and consult with a veterinarian for appropriate pain management strategies.

Cognitive Decline

In the later stages of life, some dogs may experience cognitive decline, commonly referred to as canine cognitive dysfunction sydrome (CCDS) or “doggie dementia”. Symptoms include disorientation, confusion, changes in sleep patterns, decreased responsiveness, and altered social behavior. While CCD is not directly life-threatening, it can significantly impact your dog’s quality of life as well as your own.

Loss of Coordination and Mobility

As dogs age or suffer from debilitating illnesses, they may experience a loss of coordination and mobility. They may struggle to walk, stumble frequently, or have difficulty getting up from lying down positions. These physical impairments can significantly impact their overall well-being and indicate that their overall health is declining.

Changes in Appearance

Physical changes in your dog’s appearance can also be an indication that they are nearing the end of their life. These changes may include a dull coat, skin lesions or tumors, swelling in different parts of the body, or noticeable unexplained weight loss. Regularly inspecting your dog’s body for any abnormalities can help you identify potential health concerns.

Withdrawal and Decreased Interaction

Dogs are typically social animals, so a significant change in their behavior, such as withdrawal or decreased interaction with family members or other pets, can be a sign of distress or declining health. It’s important to provide comfort and support during this time and consult with a veterinarian for guidance.

Overall Health Assessments

While no one symptom will indicate that your dog is suffering from a life threatening illness, these factors are helpful when assessing the dogs overall condition To investigate your dog’s overall physical and mental well being have them examined by your veterinarian. For additional insight, you may wish to use this Quality of Life Scale which can provide a snapshot assessment or may be repeated regularly to track potential changes.


Dr. Bethany graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After graduation, she moved west. Dr. Bethany spent a year at a small animal exclusive practice in Washington state, where she was first introduced to in-home euthanasia.  Read More

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