Due to advancements in veterinary medicine and more educated owners, it’s quite rare for a dog to die suddenly. Most domestic dogs live long into their old age. It means we get to spend more time with them, but we also have to acknowledge the fact that they won't be here forever
It's important to recognise the signs that your dog is dying from old age. It will help you make some difficult, but very important, decisions. Some owners prefer to let their dogs die at home, while others opt for euthanasia. Either way, the severity of their symptoms will play a big part in any decisions you make. Here's are a few things you need to look out for:
Signs an old dog is dying
Sign #1 - Extreme fatigue
As dogs get older, it's natural for them to lose some of their youthful vigour. They won’t have as much energy as they once did and some dogs will become much less sociable. Don't worry too much if this is happening to your ageing dog - it's perfectly normal. But extreme fatigue could be a sign that a dog is approaching the end of his/her life. A dying dog will likely stay in the same spot for long periods of time. They will also struggle to lift their heads and will appear to lose interest in food and company.
Sign #2 - Loss of appetite
A hungry dog is usually a healthy dog so any loss of appetite should be taken seriously. In younger or otherwise healthy dogs, it's probably a symptom of a minor illness or ailment. But if your dog is much older, or has been living with a terminal disease, a complete lack of interest in food is another sign that your dog may be dying.
Sign #3 - Incontinence
As a dog approaches death, it begins to lose control of its muscles and bodily functions. This can cause incontinence and, unfortunately, it's one of the final stages of a dog's life. Just make sure you keep them comfortable and clean - any prolonged contact with urine or faeces can lead to painful sores.
Sign #4 - Twitching A dying dog may twitch and shake.
A very old or sick dog lose control of their bodily functions, but their temperature will also drop. Again, just make them as comfortable as possible. Cover them in a blanket or invest in heating pads for extra warmth.
Symptoms that your dog is dying from old age
Symptom #1 - Vomiting
Vomiting is a symptom of many different medical conditions, and not all of them are serious or fatal. Your dog may just have an upset stomach or a bit of a bug. But if your dog is very old or very sick, vomiting is not a good sign. Just do your best to keep the dog hydrated.
Symptom #2 - Respiratory problems
In the days leading up to death, a dog's breathing will become noticeably shallower. They'll be a much longer pause between each breath. They’ll also have a very weak pulse and their resting heart rate will decrease to 60-80 beats a minute.
How to comfort your dying pet
You may decide to let your dog die at home. This will be difficult for everyone involved, but some owners prefer to stay with their dog until the end. If this is something you're thinking about, then it's really important to make your dog feel as comfortable as possible. Some dogs prefer to be alone and may hide away in quiet parts of the house. You can still check up on them, but it's also important to give them the time and space they need. Other things you can do include:
- Set up a warm, quiet place for your dog.
- Make sure they have water and food but don't force anything into them
- Reassure your pet. Give them lots of comfort and love. Talk to them softly. They won't understand your words, but they'll understand your emotions.
- If your dog is suffering from incontinence, put waterproof pads close to your dog to soak up any liquid. You can also try pet diapers.
Facing up to the end
Euthanisa is another option. Putting your pet to sleep is a humane way to end the life of a suffering dog. A vet will inject a high dose of anaesthetic, which will gradually slow a dog's heart until it finally stops. It has three main objectives: to relieve pain and suffering, minimize any fear or anxiety in the dog, and bring about a painless and peaceful end to their life. It goes without saying that this is a very serious decision to make. So take your time, and speak to your vet for more advice.