Signs a Dog is Dying – When It Is Time to Cross The Rainbow Bridge

Saying goodbye to someone you have lived with for a couple of years is never easy. And it gets tougher when that someone is a man’s best friend.

The harsh truth is we have to accept that dogs have a shorter lifespan than humans. Most dogs live between 10 and 12 years. Some of us who are lucky, get to live with their furry friends for 15 or 16 years.

It is relatively rare for a dog to die without showing any symptoms. With that in mind, today we will talk about the signs a dog is dying, and what you can do to help your pet.

Recognizing the natural dying process

Each dog experiences dying differently. Some dogs might not even exhibit all of the signs a dog is dying. But it is important to recognize that the dying process always takes place for months, weeks, and days prior to the actual death.

Whether you opt for euthanasia, or care for your pet for as long as humanly possible, the signs are there. The owner often experiences anticipatory grief as their dog is preparing to cross the rainbow bridge.

The physical, behavioral, and psychological changes during the dying process are hard to swallow for humans. Here are all the signs.

Signs a dog is dying

Lack of coordination

When your dog is in its elder age, lack of coordination is to be expected. It is normal for your dog to become unsteady on his/her feed. But if you notice difficulty moving from one point to another, the physical weakness is now overwhelming.

Lack of coordination also manifests with impaired brain function. The weakness is more of the aftermath of the other symptoms because your dog might not be eating and sleeping well.

Loss of appetite

Your dog will not show any interest in food or water. Humans do this as well. When it is our calling moment, we often refuse to eat, as in a way we have accepted our fate.

When a dying dog is eating, he often cannot keep food down. Now, a loss of appetite is not always a sign of dying. It can be some illness.

Your dog might feel unwell. It is important that you consult with a veterinarian, and do the appropriate tests that will help you understand what is happening. And prepare you for what to expect next.

Extreme fatigue

When you are not eating, you do not have energy. It is as simple as that. Same as humans, dogs need food for energy. In addition, a dying dog will vomit constantly, further draining his energy.

You can expect an elder and vomiting dog to be less active, even if the condition is not serious. The extreme fatigue dying dogs manifest is like nothing you’ve seen before.

Your dog will likely lie in one spot without attempting to get up anymore. In some cases, dogs do not even have the strength to lift their head.

This is a slow decline and is linked with all of the other signs a dog is dying like loss of appetite and vomiting.


Speaking of vomit, it is one of the most common signs and symptoms of a serious decline. Just remember, vomiting can also be a general sign of motion sickness or infection.

If your dog has a terminal disease diagnosis, the digestive system begins shutting down. And all of that undigested food in the stomach makes your dog feel nauseated. In this case, dogs vomit simply for the urge to purge the contents of their stomach.

If your dog is elderly and starts refusing water, and becomes dehydrated, it might be time to say goodbye. However, if your dog is relatively well, and suddenly starts to vomit, it might be some illness you can take care of medications.

No interest in surroundings

Dogs begin to withdraw into themselves as they draw closer to death. They do not longer want to be around people. They also do not respond to what is happening around them.

Do not be offended, but your dog might stop responding to you as well. Simply put, their body is starting to shut down, and they want to keep it to themselves.

Bladder problems

This happens in humans as well. As we are nearing the end, our bladder functions began to fail. A dying dog progressively loses control over bodily functions.

Your dog might even have accidents where he sleeps and lies. Good nursing is crucial at this point, so that your dog does not develop sores secondary to urine or feces that come in contact with his skin.


Your dog will start twitching and shaking. It is an involuntary response. In addition, your dog will be chilled, because his body temperature begins to drop. At this point, it is nice to put your dog on a heating pad or provide extra warmth with blankets.

How to comfort your dying pet

Now that we know the signs a dog is dying, the question is what you can do? After all, your furry friend has been around for a while, and he has helped you through thick and thin.

It is now your time to care for your dog as much as possible. Some people opt for euthanasia as soon as they notice the early symptoms, as they do not want their dog to suffer anymore. But other people elect to let the dog pass away at home.

If you opt for the latter, here are a few things you can do to make your dog’s last hours more comfortable.

  • Provide a warm and quiet place for your pet to rest comfortably
  • Monitor any interactions with little children who do not understand the condition and situation completely
  • Do not force your dog into food or water. Offer and see if he is willing to take it, but do not force it. Your pet knows when food is no longer any use to them
  • Place waterproof pet pads close to or beneath your dog if he doesn’t have the strength to go outside
  • Be sure to keep your dog clean, as well as his surroundings. Good hygiene is crucial so your dog doesn’t develop any infection that will make his last days and hours more difficult
  • You can have your dog wear a pet diaper for toilet functions
  • Pet your dog softly, and talk to him. Offer some comfort and support, assure your dog everything is OK and that you love him. Try to be as calm and soothing as you can. Dogs pick up on our emotions, so you have to be their rock now
  • Respect your dog’s desire for solitude
  • Provide your dog with some light blankets to keep him warm
  • Help your dog sleep comfortably. Reposition him to prevent any bed sores
  • Consult with a veterinarian about any pain medications or homeopathic remedies that can ease the pain

Is it Time to Put your dog to sleep?

As mentioned previously, some dog owners opt for euthanasia when they notice the early signs a dog is dying. There is nothing wrong in that. Some say it is more humane, others say they cannot do it.

Nobody has the right answer “when it is time” for your best friend to cross the rainbow bridge and run freely. We cannot determine our dog’s life expectancy.

Veterinarians suggest counting the good and bad days. If your dog has more bad days than good, it might be time.

Whatever you decide, just know that your dog knows you’ve done everything you can. And he has already accepted his faith. That is why dogs look for solitude, they do not want you to feel their pain.

8 thoughts on “Signs a Dog is Dying – When It Is Time to Cross The Rainbow Bridge”

  1. Thank you this has helped me with a very hard decision. My Baby has had a good life,she is my service dog. I love her so much but she is in so much discomfort it is time.

  2. I love all animals, especially dogs. And I just wanted to throw this out there. If you are a Christian and wonder about your pets after GOD’S return. Feel joy. If you read Genesis GOD made and surrounded himself with the animals along with other similar water and flying types. And he did that FIRST! So I most definitely believe that they brought him happiness in the beginning and when this world of so many scum bags like trophy hunters and plain old cowards along with gutless pieces of sh*#, that have needlessly hurt the innocent animals of his, we will see countless animals especially dogs happy like all living saved in heaven.

  3. My heartfelt thanks for this wonderful article. Chester is only 7 and diagnosed with large cancerous tumor of the liver in January. We had some good days and I know the end is near now. I didn’t know that dogs turn inward away from their owners, so now know not to keep picking him up…it comforts me, not him. I was undecided about putting him to sleep, but you have helped me with my decision to let him remain home surrounded by our love and let God come for him when he crossed over.

  4. I took my lab chow for a ride to all his favorite places for one last ride and to McDonald’s for his hamburger. He vomited it back up but he was happy for one last day. The next day he refused to go to sleep and wanted me by his side. He was so anxious and paced constantly. The look in his eyes was fear. Finally I got a warm wash rag and massaged his sweet face and told him to go to sleep it was ok. He took his last breath as he relaxed.

    • My girl Sable exibited all the common symptoms you described. She loved to ride, and on that last trip to the vet, about a block away she laboriously lifted her sweet head and acknowledged with her beautiful brown eyes that she knew this was our final ride, and that it was ok. My heart still doesn’t know how to interpret “ok”.

  5. My buddy has crosed the rainbow bridge yesterday. It was a very hard decision to make and that was putting him to sleep. He’s been having problems for more than 6 months. He keeps pacing at night. He keeps peeing and pooping where he sleeps and there were times he can’t stand up because his rear legs cannot support his body anymore. I always wanted him to die peacefully in his own time but I dont want him to suffer anymore.

  6. These are beautiful and caring comments. I got a 1 1/2 year rescue from LA Dec 16 and on Dec 27 after 14 years, my 90 yr old mother lost her Joey to cancer, so I brought my little Gucci to keep her company while grieving This little Yorkie Terrier was the best medicine for an old lady and to this day my dog is still there as she just loves and cares for that dog. I go over to visit her often so I see my little one from time to time, so to those people who have cared for your pets and have been there for their last moments, I applaud you. It is not an easy thing to lose a loved one. I saw this in my mother but she has rebounded with the new puppy and if this makes my mother happy she can have Gucci and I will visit more often as she is getting older and one day, I will be without my mother but my pet will have had the best years of her life with her. Thanks all for your beautiful stories. God Bless

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