We adore our dogs, and we truly enjoy the time we get to spend playing with them and loving on them. So, when one of us suddenly sees a change in our dog’s behavior and he no longer seems interested in playing or affection, it’s devastating, and this is just what can happen when a dog is close to dying.
Not only will a dog’s demeanor change, but you may notice him keeping a distance from you, hiding, or running off. Especially if your dog is old or if he has been ill, know that this is normal and instinctual when a dog is in his last days. Does this mean that dogs know when they are dying? Well, let’s see.
Do dogs run away to die?
There are those who say that old or sickly pack animals wander off alone before they die to keep from endangering the rest of the pack. Further, the same people say that domesticated dogs, the descendants of wolves, have this so deeply ingrained into them that it has simply become instinct to run away and die alone.
In Psychology Today, however, Dr. Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. states that this is no more than a myth that has persisted. He answers this question with a resounding no and states that there is no credible evidence that this was standard for either wild or domesticated animals. He said that in his groups more than 4,500 hours of observation of wild coyotes, they never saw one instance in which they could say such a thing occurred.
Do dogs hide to die?
The truth is that we are not sure what dogs are thinking, but it is thought that dogs don’t actually hide with it in mind to die in their new hiding spot. There are a couple of reasons why dogs look for hiding places before they die.
They hide because they are weak and cannot fend off predators.
Sometimes a dog hides because he is sickly or weak and knows he cannot fight to defend himself. In these instances, a dog will find a spot to use as a fortress against predators. This is an instinctual act.
They hide because they are confused or sick and cannot get home.
Other times, a dog may be so anxious or confused that they wander off. If he remains confused and can’t find his way home or gets sick and can’t make it home, he will find a hiding place, again instinctively, to keep safe from predators.
Do dogs prefer to die alone?
There are also those who say that dogs prefer to die alone, but this is yet another myth that came about because of the myth that dogs run away to die. The main reason that dogs become withdrawn and seclude themselves is fatigue, which causes lack of interest. Your dog may not feel like doing anything but sleeping all day long.
Vets who have done dog euthanizations report that dogs look for their owners during this time. Dogs are actually comforted by the presence of their owners when they are nearing death.
Is euthanasia more humane for my dog than a natural death?
Euthanasia is more humane than a natual death only when your dog is suffering tremendously and needlessly. Dogs need to be euthanized when they have conditions so severe that nothing can be done for them to give them any quality of life. If something else can be done, euthanasia is not the answer.
Many sick dogs can die an entirely natural death with you at home. It may require many visits to the vet and to the pharmacy and a lot of patience, but it can be done. Elderly dogs that have crippling arthritis can take medicines for inflammation and pain and also for nausea from the medications, if necessary.
However, if your dog’s pain medicine isn’t doing the trick, and you can tell he is miserable, or if your dog’s cognitive function has declined so that he is terrified of every sound and vibration, it may be time to think of talking to your veterinarian about euthanization.
Never, under any circumstances, try to euthanize your own dog. If you cannot afford to have your dog euthanized at the vet, check the AVMA organization website under “Euthanasia,” and it will list for you the laws regarding euthanasia for every states in the U.S. For instance, in Florida, if you don’t have the money to have your dog euthanized, all you have to do is surrender your pet to an animal shelter. It costs you nothing and there are no legal penalties.
What do I do with my dog’s body after he dies?
Whether your dog dies at home or at the vet’s office, it’s a sad time and a bad time to be trying to think of what to do with your dog’s body, so make all those plans now and save yourself from having to do it through the grief. There are essentially two options when it comes to caring for your dog’s body after he is passed on, and the decision is all yours. You know what you like, what your dog is like, and what he would like, and so there is no one better than you to make these decisions.
You can bury him.
The first option is to bury him. He can have a burial in your backyard if you live out in the country, and your dog can live on there forever. If you live inside the city limits, though, this may be taboo, so you may have to consider a pet cemetary. The good thing about a pet cemetary is that, no matter how many times you move, you can go and see him.
You can cremate him.
Your other option is to cremate him. You can do this through your vet or you may already have a plan set up with a pet crematorium. If you already have a plan set up, you have already made some choices, like whether they should return your dog’s ashes to you, and if so, whether they will be in a cardboard box or a fancy urn.
Will you keep his ashes close by your side, or will you let them fly into the wind onto some ground that he loved visiting with you? If he dies at the vet, they may offer an ink stamp or a mold of their paw print as a memorial, and some companies make artwork or jewelry with some of the ash for you to hang on your wall or wear around your neck or wrist. How will you memorialize your pet? Think of all this now. Plan, so you won’t have to do it through the grief.
Do dogs know they are dying?
While it cannot be proven, it is thought, at least by some in the scientific community, that dogs do have a sense when their time to die is drawing near. Even more of them believe that they know when others are getting ready to die, but back to the issue at hand.
From the way dogs act before they die, one could deduce that they do know death is near, but is this just the way the chips fall? There seems to be at least one explanation to dispel every myth so far. Not in this instance. We just don’t know if they know or not.
What are some signs my dog is dying?
The average overall life span for dogs is 11 years, but the length of life is affected by breed, weight, and health. Some small breed dogs, like the Chinese Crested, can live up to 17 years, while some large breed dogs, like the Bernese Mountain Dog, may die as young as 8 years old. A medium breed dog, like the Puli, lives between 10 and 15 years.
Generally, small breed dogs live longer than larger breeds, however, a Belgian Malinois is a large breed dog that lives between 14 and 16 years. One sign that your dog is dying is that he is nearing the upper edge of his breed’s life expectancy. Elderly dogs are more apt to have kidney failure, cancer, heart disease, and more.
There are many other signs to look for. Some are easier to spot than others. Look for changes in routine and sleeping habits, loss of interest in activities, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, whining or whimpering, panting, pacing, or loss of control of urinary and bowel control. Also, look for less obvious symptoms, like twitching muscles, weakness, clumsiness, lethargy, changes in breathing, or restlessness at night.
When you begin noticing changes in your dog’s health or behavior, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with his veterinarian for a thorough examination. This will enable you to get her help assessing what the problem is, how severe it is, whether there is any remedy, and if not, what you can do to make your dog as comfortable as humanly possible.
What can I do for my dog in his last days?
In your dog’s last days, the most important thing is to put yourself in his place. It’s not the time to be wounded because you feel abandoned by him or get upset because he soiled the carpet. This is the time to be empathetic and care for and be there for him.
Think of whatever you can do to make his last days easier. If he is having lots of trouble maneuvering the steps, get a ramp. Is he in an enormous amount of pain? Consider warm compresses and having the vet prescribe some opiates to make it more bearable. Will he not eat at all? Try some extra tasty food. What are you having tonight? Is it something that is all right for dogs to eat? Fix him a plate. Do whatever you can to make his last days as happy as possible. Make sure he dies knowing how much he was loved.