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.

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

    • My dog is 12 years old and he’s a bulldog. Everyone in my family says it’s time to put him down because he’s starting to pee in the house, he’s getting a bit unsteady, he’s not playing like he used too, and he barks a lot at night. I really think I’m the only one that is holding onto him I’ve had him my whole entire life since I was 6 months and he has the same birthday as me and I always buy him birthday gifts. He is my best friend and I can’t ever say goodbye to him, I think he’s in a lot of pain and I don’t want him to hurt anymore, but I don’t wanna say goodbye for my whole life, Because I know it’s gonna be hard for a year or five without him, because he always follows me around and I always look forward seeing him everyday, but if I don’t have him what do I have to look forward to everyday. I just know I could never let go of him and his time is coming. He’s also had 5 near death experiences and he stayed strong and fought it off, but it’s my time to say goodbye soon and I don’t wanna say goodbye Because that means forever. I’ve been crying so much about it lately and I know I have him now but my parents said they want to put him down soon because he’s just in too much pain. I don’t think I could ever get another dog again because it is just a blessing having him in my life he got me out of my thick’s and thins and is always there when I cry, but I never cry in front of him anymore If it’s about him because I don’t want him to think it’s his fault he’s dying. I don’t want god to take my dog away from me yet, I never thought this day would come.

      • Claire, you are not alone. Your pet is apart of you and when that time comes it’s better for you to prepare for that friend.
        I went on the Internet, before my pet expired and looked up cremation for pets. Cremation was the only way I knew my pet would be taken care of. I found three within 130 miles. I talked to the companies and talked to someone that had used one company. I scattered my pets ashes at a park I used to take her. I didn’t tell anyone, it was none of their business.

      • Reading your lovely story about your dog make me cry because I’m in the same situation. My Chihuahua is 15 years old and ge is so sweet. Recently he got arthritis in his back legs and he can’t walk anymore. To stend his live more enjoyable we bought a wheelchair and he loves it. So I will keeping him with medication until he last breath. He loves to eat and be around us.

      • I completely understand Claire…I have been at that crossroads several times without the comforting concept of Rainbow Bridge. I have also had the blessing of experiences that very few others have had. When I was in my early 30’s, I was a representative for a pharmaceutical company whose only products were for the treatment of cancer. When I was waiting to see the oncologists, I heard many stories from patients who knew their past was much longer than their future. Something which was not unusual at all was the concern about what will happen to their dog. There were stories of people wanting to take their dog with them so that it wouldn’t have to live the rest of its Life with a broken heart and unable to understand what had happened. That is beautifully portrayed in the true story movie starring Richard Gere (Hachi: A dog’s tale). I even remember several times someone relating that they had actually been a dog previously at one time or another, and wondered why it was acceptable/right thing to lovingly end their precious friend’s pain and suffering……but the same consideration not being given to fellow humans. Hospice is certainly a well-intended approach to a set of circumstances which is difficult at best, but doesn’t seem to be able to intelligently address the issue.
        It has been pretty-well established since the time of Egyptian Pharos that the only thing we will take with us when we leave here are our thoughts,memories, intentions,and the consequences of our actions. Unlike for most humans, it’s blessing to have crossed paths with you…..your dog will have only Love. I no longer believe that GOD will take my dog…..rather hold her in safe-keeping until it is my turn to continue the Journey.

      • I chose to put my Golden down when she couldn’t use the ramp to go outside to the bathroom. She would fall down when she tried to go. I know she was in pain and I didn’t want her to suffer anymore. We took her to the vet to be euthanized . When they gave her the injection for just an instant she looked at us and her tail began to wag and I knew she was no longer in pain. I took great comfort in that.

    • My my dog died at home of congestive heart failure and he was 16 years old it was very hard and I still haven’t moved his bed, he died November 17 3 am Sunday morning

  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

    • My little chihuhua was 17 years and I Just say goodbye. This past October.17.and still painfull.Thanks Im reading and learning more about x my 2 dogs to keep eye on them.

  7. A year ago this past February, my sweet 15 year old American Staffordshire Terrier, Gracie, my service dog of 7 years and PTSD support until for 11+ years, was diagnosed with an inoperable, cancerous tumor. She had CHF, for 5 years which responded well to medications, but also made her a poor risk for surgery. She was an abused rescue I adopted when she was about 4. She was the sweetest soul. Almost everyone who met her, immediately fell in love with her. She loved children and small animals, and changed a lot of people’s opinions on Pit Bulls and related breeds. She was the original, “nanny dog”! Her cancer, eventually, caused her to be incontinent of urine, which distressed her greatly as she’d never pottied in the house. I think her previous owner must have severely punished her if she had an, “accident”, as a pup. Making the decision to let her go was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I kept pee pee pads under her and got up several times at night to bathe her, to keep her skin clean and dry. Urinary inconvenience, and some fatigue were the only symptoms, but I think she was in pain, but refused to show it. I can see it, in her eyes, now, when I look at the last picture I took of her. I could not think of taking her to the vet, as she never liked the vet we went to, after moving back from Texas. I found a place, run by a local funeral home, that did pet euthanasias. The have 3 hospice vets that they work with, and a special room, set up just like a living room, where you and your pet can take as long as you need to say, “goodbye”. We had a little picnic, with her favorite foods that she could not have because of her heart. We played a couple of our games. I told her it was nap time, because we always took a short afternoonnap, together. I got her special blanket, laid down beside her, and said our bedtime prayers, then the vet gave her something that made her a little sleepy, as I talked to her, just like we always did at nap time, as she always shared my bed. She closed her eyes, and smiled, her big Staffordshire Terrier smile, so I knew she was happy. Then she passed, peacefully. It left me with a deep sadness, but no bad memories of her passing. No struggling, or fear. No cold steel table to die on. She died, smiling, peacefully, in my arms. For a long time, I felt guilty, because I thought that maybe I made the choice to take her life too soon. But now, I realize, it was the right time, before she had to suffer some of the other stages of dying, and I have a good memory, if there is such a thing, of her passing.

    • Thank you for your article. My baby girl Emma is having these symptoms and it is so hard to euthanize her and I am going to keep her as long as possible. When it’s time she will join her sisters Lily, Connie and Weezie who are waiting for her with open arms. Love you Brenda

  8. I truly appreciate these comments. We lost Tazo (Lhasa Apso) May 1st, 2019 : ( His diagnosis – cancer. The doctor said it did not look good. That I should bring him home to spend some time with him feed him a ” good steak” which he did eat and manage to keep down-small portions. So we tried to give him comfort, love before we decided to let him go. I knew I did not want see him suffer. He was cremated and I have his ashes in a beautiful box along with his little paw print and a photo that I had printed. Which sits in my curio stand. I read the passage that Mr. Deason mentioned and decided to post this passage that I found.

    Ecclesiastes 3:18-20
    I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

    This verse may be the most appropriate when attempting to ensure a grieving pet-parent that their pet is in Heaven, as it plainly states, “all go to one place.”

    I hope this brings comfort to anyone who has lost their family member & Best Friend!

  9. Thank You for sharing these ccomments. My 13 yo shepherd mix has been diagnosed with Mandible Osteoscarnoma. His handsome face has a huge tumor protruding his left side of his face. He is home with me on pain meds. His appetite is decreasing and his walks are shorter. I know the end is very near, but the smiles he gives me make me hesitate to make the big decision.
    I pray the Lord above will take him home while he’s still with me.

  10. Our Dogs, thank God are doing well, in spite of that, this article brought tears to my eyes. I say treat your furry family member as you would treat your humans.

  11. My dog was sick, I had called the doc, she had filiria, I had no idea that it was the last time I would see Lassie. As she was sick I stood by her side, a very well behaved sweet german shepard, as I turned to walk away, she bit my hand, she never bit me in her life, she was holding my whole palms in her mouth, not to hurt me, more like stay a while, which she never did before. And I sat down with her for a while, said everything will be alright, and put her in her bed and walked back home. The next morning the doctor visited and found she was very infected and put her to sleep. I woke up late, thankfully she was already burried, as I could not stand to see my pets put to sleep. But many dogs later I still remember, its like each special person in your life, that enriches your memories and you are still happy for the time you had them. I saw that look in her eyes I can still remember it was like she knew it was the last time we would hug. Another dog died in my wifes arms, it was a labradore a silly jovial immature mutt but an absolute sweetheart, she swore she would never have a pet again, so I got her a lhasa apso, now sleeping beside her, and sneaks into our bed. Now I can’t imagine loosing this one ever, but I was curious to read this article. Its worth the heartbreak you realize how much of you life you shared with them and your remember and pass on their stories to the next generation, I’m glad we always had pets, today a dog was running after a lady, and she threw a stone at him, and my son said, he was smiling and following her with love why did she do that? I’m so glad he could recognize an animals facial impressions at such a young age, you will be more compassionate person, and much better human being knowing that all God creatures are special.

  12. Reading these special articles brought tears to my eyes. I own comparatively young animals now but, I have lost several in the past. Very sad… I still mourn. But I have many, many happy memories also!

  13. Please don’t let your beloved pet suffer. Euthanasia is the best route. The vet will give a sedative and then when that has taken effect, they will give the last shot. You should be strong and reassure your pet that you are there for him/her. You can cry later. And you will.

  14. Thank you so much for the article, as well as all the comments.
    I have a little Shih Tzu furry baby that my mother in law handed her to me as the special gift for the first time we met together as family members. She was with her since she’s a puppy until about 5 years old, and then with me for 8 years so far. She’s the same age of one of our grand daughter, 13 years old. Starting by this year, she started having bladder problem, some urinary inconvenience, as same as Gracie the pet of Renee. Taking her to an animal clinic, they did tests on her, but didn’t find anything too bad, so the vet only gave her antibiotics. That helped her for the time. I don’t know until when she would be with us, but to me, she still looked healthy, eat less, but absolutely no any loss of appetite. Though we have pads for her, but she couldn’t hold it to run to the pads any more. Cleaning up after her accidents inside our home becomes normal to me every day. I hope she will stay with us a few years more.

  15. I read all your comments and cried through every One. My buffy is displaying many of the same symptoms and it is hard. But it’s good to know that we have a community of pet lovers and we are not alone. Thank you.

  16. My family lost our beloved Chloe, an English Cocker Spaniel, last year. She would have been 10 Christmas Day, but she passed, peacefully I hope, in her sleep on Nov 30. She did stop breathing on me after I gave her a bath at the beginning of the month. I thank God that my son was calm enough to feel her heart still beating. So I gave her a few breaths and she came to, but I should have known her time was near. She was was having trouble walking and had some bad incontinence issues, but I couldn’t put my baby girl to sleep. We had her from the time that she was 8 wks old. My son and I saw it coming so it wasn’t as hard for us, but my husband took it really hard. I had already begun looking into cremation as we live in a rental and won”t be staying here forever. Her ashes are in a beautiful carved box on a shelf over where she loved sit. There is a picture of her, a Cocker Spaniel angel ornament, and the Christmas Catus I bought right after she passed on the shelf in her memory. I believe she is still with us in spirit because certain things will pop up on my Pinterest feed about The Rainbow Bridge, and a lot of my FB memories are pics of her. A few nights ago, I swear I had a fleeting whiff of her scent. I was absolutely heartbroken without out her, so knowing another dog wouldn’t take her place, I went to the animal shelter to find a kitten. I found a little, sickly, black and white kitten, my girl was black and white, who just started licking my face and I knew my Chloe had sent her my way. She is still looking over us, sending her love if we know what to look for.

  17. Thank You for sharing this article. I had to put my Moose to sleep last year Sept.28. I was walking him and a dog jumped out of a car window and attacked my poor 95 pound rottielab who was a putty cat by nature so he just took it and I was trying to get the dog off finally his owner came out and got him off. She didn’t pay a dime and then the flue shot killed him.

  18. my grand dog howard is 17 1/2 ,he is a red weiner dog,bought him when he was a puppy for my daughter when we put to sleep our rescued weiner dog rusty,rusty was also 17+ howard is getting close and my daughter cannot help him cross that bridge and neither can I ,howard has had the best mom in the world and i am worried when he does go that she will have a very very hard time with it. i am having a hard time everytime i think about the pup i brought home in the palm of my hand,i am so soft hearted at the age of 60 i cry .my wife and i also have a 8 year old black and tan weiner who we bought when our previous weiner developed severe spinal problems at the age of 6 which was also devastating to us ,i cried for 3 months straight . i know of no easy coping skills for this at all just time , i wish the pain would subside but everyone grieving is different .they say your pets leave paw prints on your heart mine always take a piece with them. kevbo

  19. My little man Reedus Nathaniel Luke passed away this evening. He was a Chihuahua and the coolest one around. Although he was not an older dog ( he was 2 ) our entire family loved him so much. He was very protective us all. He played so much with our 3 kids , 12, 10, 5. He got sick 6 days before he passed, like the article stated we made his transition as comfortable as possible. Heating pads and warm blankets. Lots of love and kisses. We didn’t get enough time with this little guy. But what we did get we’ll cherish forever.

  20. Hi there I have a shitzu a very nice dog that always around me and waiting for me to comed home from work evryday he was taking a medication everyday for 3 years because of his heart failure that he had for 3 years but one day when i come home from wrok I saw him having a hard time of breathing I have to rush him into the hospital the doctor hook up the oxygen on him right away.Suddenly all his medications his taking everyday stop working, The doctor told me that they are trying to put an oxygen on him but is not working and they did an X-ray on him the doctor found a water on his lungs , heart and around his body plus the doctor told me his in critical condition its was really hard on me to accept the fact.Th e doctor advice me to put him to sleep cause he is suffering.The doctor didnt want me to take him home cause he will feel the pain on his heart if he died at home and it wooodbye tould be better for him to put him to sleep painless. The doctor adice nme to say goodbyr to my dog before they put him to sleep. Saying goodbye forever to my dog is reallly hard I coudnt say goodbye on front of him instead i cry so loud that evrybody heard me I coudnt breath the doctor has to put me inside the other room to help me breath saying
    to our best friend is one of the hardest part to accept.I cried everyday they put him to sleep on August 26,2019 this year.My dog was visiting me after life I feel his presence around me at out home I just talk to him and told him that Im no longer seeing him anymore cause they put him to sleep and he has to go into doggies heaven to eat his food and drink water in doggies heaven . One night while I was sitting beside my bed I see him sitting beside me I was so surprised seing him sitting beside comes and visit me every week I just talk to my dog when I know his visiting me and feel his presence around me.I love and miss my dog so much.All i want from told him that He will dessapear after one hour of visiting me and i know he goes back into doggies heaven.I just want informed that I love your artcles abut the signs of dying dogs and all the comments from eveybodys that lost theyre dog Our dogs is special angels in our life that never be forgotten when the day we lost them in our life that gives happiness in our life during the times they are alive and live with us.It hurts so much of losing them in our life we treat them like our own children and is not easy knowing that we dont see them around us when we come home from work and we dont see them around us cause theyre in doggie heaven with our almighty god in heaven.Thank you for your amazing articles about the signs dying dog., its a very nice articles.


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