The aging of a dog is surprisingly similar to humans. As your dog's age advances, it slows down, starts having gray hair and joint problems. Along with this, there is a significant change in a dog's behavior and activity levels. It is difficult to tell whether these behavioral changes are simply due to old age or a sign of impending death. While each dog acts differently before death, there are some unmistakable symptoms that can warn you about your dog's approaching death.
Common Behavioral Symptoms
Decrease in Movement
While slowing down of activities in dogs is associated with aging, it is more pronounced in their final days. An old dog may not show any enthusiasm to go for long walks, jump around, and play. But a dog that is nearing its end, may lie at the same spot for hours together. Alternately, it may sleep for most of the day or night. Even if it attempts to stand, the limbs are most likely to fail under the body's weight due to lack of energy.
What to Do: Allot a cool, quiet, and shaded corner of your home to your dog. Alternately, allot a space in your family room. This will enable your pet to take comfort from feeling surrounded by his/her family.
Loss of Bladder and Bowel Control
Another common observation is that dogs lose bladder and bowel control when their death is approaching. This may surprise you but it can even happen to dogs that have been potty-trained and almost never had any such 'accidents'. It is also common for dogs to have diarrhea towards the end of their lives. Such conditions most often lead to dehydration in your pet.
What to Do: Encourage your dog to have as much water as possible and get a prescription from your vet for an anti-diarrheal medication. Buy plenty of disinfecting and wet wipes to clean your home, and to maintain physical hygiene of your pet.
Change in Appetite
This is the most commonly observed trait in dogs which are close to their death. In the final stages of your pet's life, it may start losing appetite as a direct effect of reduced movement and lack of exercise. When offered some dog food, it may just lick whatever is held out to satisfy the owner. In the whole process, the dog's weight reduces drastically.
Loss of Muscle Control
While shakiness is a common aspect of dog behavior in old age, a dog who is dying may experience severe muscle twitching or mild convulsions. It may even lose its control on the tongue, which leads to heavy drooling.
What to Do: This is a normal occurrence. There is no particular medication to cure this problem. Take your pet to the vet for getting a temporary medication to control the problem.
Towards the end, many dogs find it really difficult to breathe. They may inhale and exhale after gaps of half a minute. Along with this, your pet may experience difficulty in gulping its saliva.
What to Do: There is nothing much that can be done about the breathing problem. However, owners need to check for signs of heartbeats from time to time.
This is one sign in dogs that most people provide testimony to. It has been observed that dogs can sense their approaching death. In such a situation, most of them seek out their masters for getting comfort. It might be their own special way of saying a last 'goodbye' to their masters. Most dogs die in their sleep and prefer to be close to their masters in their final moments.
What to Do: Pat and hug your dog as much as you can, if it gets clingy. Your pet is just trying to express its love for you and wants reassurance of your love in return. Try to spend as much time as you can by its side. Speak to your dog gently, if it is used to that.
For most animal lovers, losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. This can leave you grief-stricken and depressed. Therefore, it's best to get a new dog once you and your family get emotionally ready to accept one. Choose a different dog species and a totally new name for it to ensure that you start a new relationship with a new pet.