They can understand quite a bit. Dogs can understand human emotions and words and they are able to learn how to be service animals or emotional support dogs. Do dogs have the ability to recognize when their time is up?
As a veterinarian and pet owner, I’ve seen many of the moments that lead up to death. Although I have been a part of these events, it is impossible to tell what a dog was thinking in the final minutes.
The changes in the body are a good indicator that their death is close.
Do dogs sense death?
There’s evidence that shows dogs can detect a variety of health issues. These include cancer or upcoming medical crises ( like seizures) and anxiety. there is evidence to suggest that dogs are also able to sense death. However, how they perceive and process this information remains a mystery.
The dogs’ strong sense of scent allows them to detect changes in a person. According to research, dogs are able to smell stress and anxiety in people. Death-related changes can occur up to months in advance. The changes in smell can be subtle and indicate that the death of an animal or person is close.
They are aware of the fact that they may be sick or unwell when they consider their own mortality. Also, they can sense when we are stressed and recognize that there is something wrong. Canine companions do not have the same self-assessment as humans when it comes to death. It’s not a complex emotion or a meaning to them; they just accept it as if it were ‘fact’.
What do dogs act like when they are near death?
Dogs will show different behaviors and symptoms at each stage of the death process. Euthanasia can be performed by a veterinarian at different stages of illness or during death.
As soon as you notice that your pet is losing quality of life, it’s important to start a conversation with a vet about euthanasia so that you are prepared to make if necessary. It is best to do this before the pet gets to stage three or four of dying. This way, you can avoid any discomfort and pain.
The first phase of death usually occurs three months before death. You may see any or all of the following signs during this period:
- Pickier eating
- Grooming is less important than before
- Diarrhea or nausea
- Reduced energy
- Random vocalizations
- Sleep schedules can be altered.
- You want to be alone more
- If you drink more or less, it is not normal.
- Changing their routine daily
Three weeks before death, the second phase of death can begin. Some of the signs you may notice include:
- Muscle loss increases
- Grooming less
- Not as “aware” or out of the loop
You may need to make a decision about euthanasia during this stage. Your pet may have a significantly reduced quality of life due to significant changes in their appetite and incontinence. You might notice a change in your pet’s quality of life, such as increased activity, increased appetite, or a desire to be loved by others.
Enjoy this moment before the dying process of your dog progresses. Remember that your dog isn’t getting any better, and the process of dying will continue.
Three days before death, the third phase of death can begin. It’s time for you to talk to your veterinarian about whether or not it is time to put down your pet. Your pet could be suffering from:
- Rattling sounds like congestion
- Cold limbs
- Increased mucus from the nose, eyes or mouth
- Problems swallowing
- Increased risk of falling
It is possible that your dog may not understand what’s going on inside of them and be prepping themselves to die. Your dog may visit the food bowl but refuse to eat.
This stage can begin 3-4 hours before death. This stage is when your dog will:
- They will not be able track sounds or movements with their eyes
- Some people may have body twitching
- You may have breathing irregularities
- You may have paler gums
It is best to not wait for this point to decide to euthanize your pet, as there will be no time left to take it to the vet or to have a team come to you. You can also call your vet or mobile service to get help. Chat with a licensed veterinarian online or make a video call to get help using Connect with a Vet.
The Decision to Euthanize
The decision to stop the suffering of our dog companions can be difficult. They don’t want their dogs to suffer and neither do they want their life to be cut short because one day was bad.
Use the Quality of Life tools developed by veterinarians to help you create a plan. Work with your veterinarian to see if you have more bad than good days.
- Lap of Love Scale of Quality of Life
- Interactive Quality of Life Assessment and Daily Diary
Your vet will be able to give you a more objective opinion on the pain levels and treatment options for your pet. Although a Quality of Life Scale isn’t an exact science it can give you confidence to take the difficult decision of letting go.
What to do when your dog is dying?
I’ve seen dogs with families who didn’t want them around for the last moments. I’ve also seen many dogs who had family present at the end.
You may choose to stay or leave during the euthanasia procedure for a number of different reasons.
It can help your dog companion and also give you a feeling of closure. It is common for canines to seek their family members during euthanasia.
It can comfort your dog if euthanasia is scheduled. This can include a familiar stuffed toy or blanket. Home euthanasia by a vet can be comforting for your dog if possible.
Euthanasia is a scary thought for many pet owners. Nobody wants to watch their dog companions suffer.
It’s OK if some pet owners do not wish to have their pets die as a result of a medical procedure.
Euthanasia is a decision made out of love when your animal is suffering and can’t be saved. It is not an isolated experience. The veterinary team is also involved. A veterinary team’s actions are guided by the age-old goal to “do as little harm as possible”.
You can reduce some negative emotions and thoughts by talking to the veterinarian team. They will explain the process, what options are available (at-home or office euthanasia), as well as the arrangements for after the euthanasia.