My Dog is Dying – #1 Thing You Need to Know When Your Dog is Dying!

One of the saddest days we experience is when we lose one of our beloved pets. Coping with the loss is one of the toughest things a pet parent has to handle.  It’s truly heart-breaking!

Whether your pet is nearing the sunset years of their life…. or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness….you, as the pack leader…. must be the one to direct the end-of-life experience.  At the end of this article I will tell you the #1 think you need to know when your dog is dying.

You’ll need to be strong and ready, so your dog can transition as comfortably and stress-free as possible.

Sometimes Your Pet Dies Naturally

How long do dogs live?

Here’s the fantasy that all of us want to believe. The myth is that our dogs can have a nice long life and then as she gradually ages, she’ll pass comfortably, peacefully, and naturally in the home where she lived with “her pack”.

All of us pray for this kind of transition… because we love them. This is similar to how many of us would like it to be… when our human family members pass after a long and vibrant life.

Sadly, this outcome is very unlikely. Yes there are times when a pet “closes his eyes” and doesn’t wake up- but that is a rarity.

Unfortunately, some pets are left to experience an agonizing end to their life due to family members wishing to keep them home.   Without supervision and direction from your vet… your dying dog may be subjected to unnecessary pain. Your family may have to witness a living nightmare as your pet suffers greatly at the end.

Sick and dying animals in nature do not experience a prolonged decline in health. As they give in to their maladies they become the weak ones in nature and turn into prey.

If your pet is elderly or ill and you opt for a natural death at home instead of euthanasia be sure to consult your veterinarian on administering adequate pain medication and prepare for the process.

Also, be sure to formulate a backup plan should your pet take a turn for the worse and he slips into a suffering death. You’ll need something in place for a 24/7 crisis should your pet need mercy euthanasia.

Hospice Care – palliative care for your dog

Pet hospice care, known as palliative medicine is a philosophical form of care where the shift in the treament of your pet moves from curative measures to comfort. Hospice care usually last a few days to a few weeks.

In other words you are no longer treating your dog for her incurable conditions.  Instead, you are in full mode of giving her quality of life for her remaining time.

Typically, with hospice care you are your pets primary nurse and caregiver. There are companies for hire who can assist with in-home hospice care for your pet… but it can be expensive and it doesn’t change the outcome. There also are veterinary practices who do in-home euthanasia as well. Check with your vet if this an option.

Handling Hospice for Your Dog Yourself

Most of us do not realize how much work is involved in caring for a terminal pet until we’re doing it. In addition to providing food, water, and medication… you’ll need to have a plan for their waste elimination.

If they are able to go outside with your assistance do they need to navigate stairs?

Will you be able to help them if they have trouble keeping balance while the squat? You’ll need a sling or large towel under the hips to help.

Who will care for your pet while you are at work?

These are questions to ask yourself before you are dealing deal with them

If they are unable to go outside then you will need diapers, pads, and wraps… to keep a handle on sanitation.

Also there is the pain management aspect that can be difficult to witness.

Sadly, many older dogs also slip into doggy dementia… and have spells where they do not recognize you or their surroundings. As you can imagine, this adds to their fear and stress.

Comfy and Cozy at the End

It’s a top priority to minimize your pet’s distress and pain at the end.

  • Surround him with his favorite things like toys or a blanket
  • Make sure their sleeping spot is warm, free from drafts, and with a very thick cushion  to prevent sores.
  • Treat any health problems that pop up (with your vet’s supervision)…. to prevent rapid deterioration and discomfort
  • At the end your pet will have incontinence and loss of bladder control. You’ll need to check her often for wetness or soiling. Using pads and wraps are helpful.  Keep bedding dry by using extra pads.

The Final Journey Home

So for this article, I purposely didn’t spend a ton of time discussing euthanasia. Whatever your opinion is on that topic I believe that at times it is a necessary thing to ensure that there is no suffering.

I’ve had to put quite a few of my pets to sleep over the years and it’s just awful. So this brings me to…..

When Your Pet is Dying here’s the #1 thing to know!

Many of my veterinarian colleagues have shared with me the worst part of their job.  It ISN’T the euthanasia procedure itself.

The thing that really breaks their hearts is when a family resigns that euthanasia is necessary for their dog… and they do not go to be with their beloved pet in the final moments.

Seemingly, they are too devastated to watch the process so they let their pets pass on… with strangers.

I’ve heard too many stories of frightened animals… looking around the examination room searching for a familiar face. They are stricken with fear and confusion. Their whole world —YOU—is gone.

When it’s time for your pet to take her final journey- don’t you want to be there to let her know “it’s alright”?

She knows your face, recognizes your voice, and is comforted by your smell. She can feel your love…and experience your sense of calm. Most importantly, she can know peace.

Your biggest goal will be minimizing pain, distress, and fear for your dog at the end.

This will be your ultimate test.

No matter how hard it may seem at the time- please be with your pet… when they transition from this world.

This truly is when they need you the most.

A New Beginning

When we say goodbye to a pet is a heartbreaking event.

It delivers such a blow that we usually will tell ourselves “never again”.…meaning — we swear we won’t allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable again, to such a loss.

And then….life goes on and find ourselves in a situation… to meet and commit to another furry face looking for love.

We adopt a new bundle of energy and welcome them to the family fully aware,that most likely, we will outlive them.

Thanks for reading and please share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the “Comments” area below.


41 Comments on “My Dog is Dying – #1 Thing You Need to Know When Your Dog is Dying!”

  1. I’m almost crying Tim
    I have 2 girls, Libby who is coming up 12 and Madeline who is 9 and they are my family.
    Reading this is so great as I know one day I will face this process and you have outlined some really great points
    Thank you

    1. Hi Vicki,
      Thank you so much for sharing your pet family – they give so much to life. This article was very difficult for me to write. My oldest dog Ellie Mae is slowly declining. She has a laundry list of ailments and I know one day soon I will have lead her to that final moment. All the best!

  2. I have a ten year old golden retriever. She is still very healthy but I know she’s getting into her golden years. Reading your article made me tear up a little bit. I can hardly stand to think about this stuff but I know it will be necessary.

    1. Hi Mariah,
      Thank you for checking out this article. You still have lots of quality time with your “golden girl”. Continue to show her you love her everyday. Tim

  3. This really tugs at my heart! This is great help that is so useful for anyone that owns a dog. Thank you for sharing, loosing your a dog is like loosing a family member and its hard to deal with the emotion and move on. I remember my child hood dog that passed away when i was 15 and i will never forget all the moments we shared together. She grew up with me and she will never be forgotten, its so sad that dog do not have a long lifespan but the time we have with them are so precious!

    Thank you for the great content!

    1. Hey Spencer,
      Thanks for visiting and sharing…I agree, our dogs truly give us fulfilling lives. They don’t expect much and always loves us…no matter what. I too have so many found memories of lost companions. It’s always tough at the end which is why some people try to avoid it. You have to embrace it…for their sake. Thanks again…Tim

  4. Hello Tim that was a great article I’ve been through this 4 times myself the last one 3 yrs ago and this last one was the hardest and when I saw the picture of the Dane it brought an instant smile to my face and great memories. Thanks

    1. Hi Mark,

      I’m sure you miss your big regal friend a lot. Our dogs certainly stay with us long after they’re gone. Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you got to reflect on some awesome memories. I appreciate you sharing. Best – Tim

  5. True and sad story but this is inevitable in life. What has a start it has an end too. I have friends that don’t want to have a pet anymore after this emotional breakdown. It’s something that goes into your brain and you are afraid to have that experience again. Maybe this could be a topic for your next article, Tim. Be strong and enjoy life with goods and bads.

    1. Hi Bogdan,
      The joy and love that pets bring to our lives is one the big reasons that it is so hard to say goodbye to them. I believe the reason many people adopt another dog after they lose one is because there are so many unwanted animals looking for a home. All they want is a chance. Thanks for visiting and for sharing. Best- Tim

  6. Hi, Tim. I have family members who are crazy mad about their pets and are in denial that their older pets are suffering. So they do everything in the power to keep their suffering, unwell, sad looking pet alive. This is very sad for the animals. As you say, this cannot happen in nature where they would naturally be recycled.
    I’m surprised to learn that many people will not support their pet when they are finally put down. I know it is heartbreaking, but this is a very natural and important part of being responsible for another life.
    Thanks for a great article,

    1. Andrew-
      Thank you for sharing such a personal story. People sometimes tell themselves that they are doing the right thing – when in reality they are being selfish and are not honoring the animal. All living creatures should be treated with dignity in life especially near the end… at the time of their transition. Thanks again! Tim

  7. Hi Tim,
    This is difficult to read…
    I lost one years ago and my family mourned for days. She brought 10 years of happiness to us.
    After that we didn’t have any pets at all.

    Your article made me look back. Thanks.


  8. This is information that is good to know. I have a dog that is getting upwards in years. You have given me a lot to think about when the time comes to lay her to rest. Thank you.

    1. Hey Karla,
      Sounds like you have had many wonderful years together. Saying goodbye is always hard…but it can’t be avoided. I thing the animal needs to be respected all the way to end. Thanks for visiting and sharing!

  9. I didn’t know that there was a pet hospice.  We had hospice for my grandma when she passed.  But, when our dog passed he was in so much pain, we opted for the euthanasia.  Ya, watching a pet have to go through the ends of his life is difficult.  You love those little guys so much you don’t want to see them go through pain.  You don’t want to lose them. 

    Thank you for letting us know about the pet hospice!  I’m so glad there are people out there who do this kind of thing 🙂

  10. aw this is terribly sad, but its good to know what to look out for when your dog is an older dog. Do you know what the oldest age is for a dog to live to? is there a record because I know I would love my dog to outlive the records. I agree we should let our dogs pass in the most comfy way. 

  11. Tim, this is one of the most heart-warming, loving articles I’ve read in a long time concerning care for an older pet.  

    Attitudes toward pets have changed dramatically in my 65 years of life.  In my younger days living far outside the city, animals were just animals – they may have been pets, but they were animals and as such were relegated to free-range the outdoors or locked in kennels.  I can often remember an older pet just disappearing and being told “they went away to die”, and thinking even back then how sad that must have been.

    Flash forward to the present where I live with a service dog and I know that I will long remember your words and experiences of vets about the end of life for a pet. Just as many of make plans for end of life care for parents and other loved ones, it’s just as important we are to provide that experience for our pets.

    Thank you for an informative and caring look into planning for the comfort of our older pets.

    1. Sharon- your words really hit home for me. I too remember growing up where many people I knew just kept their dogs tied up outside or in a pen. Unfortunately, where I live I still see that happen at times in my area (hunting dogs). I think of how our views as a society in the last 20 years have changed regarding child-rearing (for the most part) and like to think most folks have changed their views on pet care as well.

      Sadly, there are many neglected, hoarded, or abused animals. Many more in shelters waiting for their fate. All the more reason to love those we welcome into our lives and take care of them all the way.

  12. As heartbreaking as this topic is to discuss, it is incredibly important. When my childhood dog needed to be put to sleep, I was too young to be there, but both of my parents made sure to be in there with her. I can’t imagine her having to be alone in that moment.

    All of the care and preparation for the end of life is important, nut you’re right, being there with them, no matter how hard it is, is the most important part.

    1. You are so right Taylor.  Sometimes people want to just avoid painful situations…that’s human nature.  Like you said though…we owe it to our beloved pets to be with them all the way to the end.

    2. We love them so much…it’s hard to handle but we owe them the respect up to when they transition. In our disposable society its easy to make excuses and let the doctors handle it. Live in the moment and love those little guys while you can…hold them at the end and send them off with a hug.

  13. Hi Tim… I was very pleased to see this website, as I know how important it is for pet owners to know end of life procedures.  When my Hank died a while back, we knew he was starting to suffer, so we planed a day for the vet to put him down. 

    We were all there, and we had a kind of an end of life party to show Hank how much we all loved him.  When he closed his eyes for the last time, we were all there.  He had been a devoted friend for so many years… How could we not be there in the end?  The last thing ol’ Hank saw was the faces of all his beloved family members.  

    Thank you for this website… it is important.    Clay 

  14. Oh my Tim, this made me tear up, because I was remembering the times I had to go through the end of a beloved pet’s life. And also because I know that day will come again.

    I think what you said about the #1 thing when your dog is dying is very important. They depend on us for so much, and need our guidance and support in so many situations. It’s only right that we are there at the end, too. Making them comfortable physically matters, but also mentally, and so many have a natural fear of the vet office anyway. Our presence might be their only comfort at that moment.

    Thank-you for this thoughtful post. Stella

    1. It’s so important – as it is in many areas of life – to enjoy our family, friends, and pets today and life in the moment. The day comes for all of us…when we’ll have to move on…so share your love now and savor every day.

  15. This article really came close to my heart. My first dog, Nina, started to get seizures after she had puppies. We learned that her brain was swollen. I was at work when I got a phone call from my mom telling me that she had to put her down. I remember just crying because I couldn’t be there but I’m grateful that my mom stayed with her. My dog, Rocco, had to be put down 4 years ago. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make. He was such a great dog, he had so much energy and would be running everywhere. Last year, we had to put Rocco’s mom down, her name was Preciosa. She was my sister’s dog. My sister loved her so much, she brought her here to the U.S. from Peru. She was getting old and we could tell that it was her time to go. It’s such a bittersweet moment because we are sad to see them go but know that they won’t be suffering anymore. 

    1. Victor- Thank you for sharing your memories of your loved companions. It never is easy to face those tough decisions in life. The fact is though- our pets are counting on us to make those decisions for them. We put them to sleep when there are no other options because we love them. Glad that you have such fond loving memories. Best- Tim

  16. Hola Tim,

    Not long ago I said goodbye to my beloved dog his name “Goyo”. A veterinarian had to do the euthanasia. It was an animal when this happened not old but yes adult. Always very sociable and friend of all. Suddenly one day, he attacked me the truth scared me a lot did not bite me but only showed me his teeth. He also started to get aggressive with people he knew and also with strangers. I did not have an alternative, I had to call the vet. That moment I was with was very heartbreaking to me.I never knew why the change in their behavior. Do you have any idea what could have happened to him? I have had many dogs, from this experience I feel a certain fear. I hope that over time the fear disappears. I congratulate you and thank you for the love we feel for our animals. Regards!


    1. Hi Claudio,
      So sorry to hear about the loss of your companion Goyo. Many things could have contributed to the change in his behavior. A common ailment with these symptoms is dog dementia (or canine cognitive dysfunction). It’s similar to Alzheimer’s Disease. Just like humans- dogs can suffer from the same symptoms. They may not recognize people or remember how to interact with others. They also have a high degree of anxiety and/or aggression because in their mind – things are always changing.

      Vets usually can help diagnose CCD but here is a general checklist:

      Pacing back and forth or in circles (usually in one direction)
      Getting lost in familiar places
      Staring off into space or at walls
      Walking into corners or behind furniture and staying there
      Appearing lost or confused
      Failing to remember routines, or forgetting midway through an activity

  17. What a beautiful and heartbreaking article. I am a dog owner and they are my life. The thought of losing them one day is just to heartbreaking. The fact the it will happened regardless whether I want it or not, its what’s so sad. You give us great points on how to deal with this pain  and how to move on. Nicely done. Thank you so much! 

  18. Hi Tim,

    Our dog is really just a puppy at the moment – 9 months old – so he has many fun and family loving years ahead of him however it was good to read this and know what to do when the time comes.  As we all know, they don’t last as long as we do which is such a shame!

    We have a cat that is 17 years old and she is pretty much at the stage where she will need to be put down.  She basically sleeps most of the time, so I make it so comfortable for her, her food and litter trays are close and always clean etc.  It is sad, but the thing that you really pointed out is to be present when the time comes as I know how animals can be scared in other people’s presence.

    Thanks for a great article Tim, even if it is highlighting something we don’t want to ever happen!Sharon

  19. Hi Tim,
    Our dog is really just a puppy at the moment – 9 months old – so he has many fun and family loving years ahead of him however it was good to read this and know what to do when the time comes. As we all know, they don’t last as long as we do which is such a shame!

    We have a cat that is 17 years old and she is pretty much at the stage where she will need to be put down. She basically sleeps most of the time, so I make it so comfortable for her, her food and litter trays are close and always clean etc. It is sad, but the thing that you really pointed out is to be present when the time comes as I know how animals can be scared in other people’s presence.

    Thanks for a great article Tim, even if it is highlighting something we don’t want to ever happen!

    1. You really are experiencing both ends of the spectrum with your pets. One youngster full of energy and vibrant fun and your elder statesman who is in his golden years. You are wonderful pet parents and they are lucky to share their lives with such a loving family. I know you that you can feel how grateful they are for your care and attention. Best regards…Tim

  20. Hello and Thanks for Writing this article, I want you to know that you put out alot of care about your dog’s well being at the end of their life. I want to tell you that I know exactly how this process goes, we had a female dog in our family, she was abused as a pup and was taken from the previous owner and we got her through the humane society.. Her name was Angel!

    She first took to us kids like chocolate on ice cream..feared Dad at first must of been the beatings she got before our home, she was awesome my best friend, I personally trained her, put a lot of effort in her growth and she loved cheese…lol..

    As time went on and we all moved out of the house Angel was always a staple in the family..always expected to be there, always waiting for us to show up, and probably missed us when we where gone… Unfortunately time creeps up on all of us and as well as Angel,,,, we had to go through a very rough time with her,,,, she wasn’t breathing through her snout,,,could hear here gasping…It was heart breaking.

    We had to do the right thing for her and let her go, the whole family went to see her go… all 5 of us… we were not the same people after Angel was gone… and I hope she is having a good time where ever she is. It is a very hard process to go through,,,,people can be selfish and not remember these living beings hurt as well.

    I thank you for posting this, having a kind heart when it comes to your pets is not seen very often, and we should all take a chapter out of the humanitarian side of life for our pet, because they were such a good part in many chapters of our lives.

    What was some of the names for your pets

    We had Angel, Mr.Cocoa, Sam, Misty, Puppy and Jake

    Thanks Again for your Article it is very genuine and heart felt

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your loving stories about Angel.  I can tell that you and your family brought her a lot of happiness and joy in her life.   When dogs come from a rough situation like she did before you got her…they are grateful and never forget what you did for them.   To them it’s like hitting the “dog lottery”!

      I think it’s funny how she liked cheese.  My dog Ellie loves apples.  One year when we went apple picking I brought home a whole bushel.  I had them in the sun room and was going to preserve them in a few days.  I forgot to shut the door and Ellie got in and had a snack.  She ate about 20 apples!  I thought for sure she would get sick and at least get diarrhea…but she was fine. 

      Some of the pets I’ve had to say goodbye to are Sam (the girl dog with a boys name), Mario, Bosco, Sylvester, Lady, Jack, and Specs.

      Thanks again for sharing and I’m so happy that you have such wonderful memories of Angel!

  21. This is a one sad heart touching article. And this is a reality that everyone must face. Being a part of a family for a longer than you can remember, the happiest moment that your pet bring to your life is of course the reason why it’s a hard to say goodbye. I’ll know someday I’ll be  going to experience this kind of situation, and  I’ll be in a better position to handle  this unfortunate moments by following the option that you shared.

    1. So true….these days come to us all.  For now love and enjoy life with your companion.  No need to worry about tomorrow…that will take care of itself and you’ll be ready.

  22. Oh I absolutely agree that the people should stay with the sweet pet right through to the end, even though it can be difficult for them, it will make it so much easier for the animal.  Our pets are like our children, and to lose one is absolutely devastating.  I am so happy you wrote this article, although I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you to do.  You have probably lost a beloved pet yourself, so I appreciate you having the heart to present this information so people know how to behave at the end.  Thank you and God Bless.

  23. This is a very challenging topic. As someone who works in the medical field, I am well aware of working with hospice care for humans. As for animals, I can see many similar veins. Hospice/palliative care is a challenging subject for many pet owners because it may feel like they’re “giving up”. Unfortunately, continuing unsuccessful medical treatment is often more painful and more for the owner than it is for the pet. As pet owners, our job is to make sure we take of our animals. From adoption until the end. I view this part (the end) as something just as important. Making sure our furry loved ones are comfortable and well taken care of is an important (and heartbreaking) part of pet ownership.

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