signs your dog is dying of old age

Signs Your Dog Is Dying of Old Age: 11 Vital Signs to Watch!

Our dogs, over time, turn into treasured members of our family, infusing our existence with happiness, fidelity, and pure love. But, similar to us, they are not exempt from the natural process of aging. Although it’s certainly challenging to address the subject of our adored dogs nearing their life’s end, it’s an inevitable component of their life cycle.

As responsible pet parents, it is crucial to be aware of the signs that may indicate our dogs are entering their twilight years. Understanding these subtle cues can help us offer the love, care, and support they need during this delicate phase.

 In this article, we will compassionately explore the signs your dog may display when it is aging, offering guidance on how to provide comfort and ensure this family member’s final days are filled with tenderness and dignity.

11 Signs Your Dog May Be Dying of Old Age – How Do You Know When a Senior Dog Is Dying?

It’s important to note that the signs an elderly dog is about to die can also be indicators of various age-related health conditions, and not all senior dogs will exhibit them. If you notice any concerning changes in your aging dog’s behavior or dog’s health declines, it’s crucial to seek advice from a veterinarian. 

While not all aging dogs will exhibit the same symptoms, the main signs that a dog may be dying of old age include:

Slower Movement and Stiffness

 Elderly dogs often experience reduced mobility and increased stiffness in their joints. They may struggle to get up, walk, or climb stairs.

Loss of Appetite And Weight Changes in Dying Dog

 A decline in appetite is common in aging dogs. They may eat less or show no interest in food at all. Some dogs may experience extreme weight loss due to reduced muscle mass, while others might gain weight due to a slower metabolism and decreased activity. It is vital to keep dog hydrated if it is not drinking.

Lethargy and Fatigue and Changes in Sleep Patterns

 Aging dogs may appear tired and spend more time sleeping or resting than before.  Dogs may have difficulty sleeping through the night or experience restlessness during sleep.


 Older dogs may have difficulty controlling their bladders or bowels, leading to accidents indoors.

Cognitive Decline and Decreased Interest in Activities

Canine cognitive dysfunction (similar to dementia in humans) can lead to disorientation, confusion, and changes in behavior.  A dog that once enjoyed playing and interacting may show disinterest in toys, games, or social interactions.  A dying dog may become unresponsive to its environment and the people around it.

Labored Breathing and Persistent Pain

 Elderly dogs may have difficulty breathing or exhibit rapid, shallow breathing.

Arthritis and other age-related health conditions may cause chronic pain and affect the dog’s quality of life in senior dogs.

How Can Pet Owners Know if Their Dog Is Suffering?

Dogs cannot verbally communicate their pain or discomfort, so it is up to the pet owner to observe their behavior and dog’s body language. Here are some key indicators that may suggest your furry family member is suffering:

Changes in Behavior of Beloved Pet

 Look for significant changes in your dog’s behavior. If it suddenly becomes more withdrawn, aggressive, or unusually clingy, it could be a sign of distress in beloved pets. If your dog suddenly loses interest in activities it once enjoyed, it may be due to pain or discomfort.

A significant decrease in appetite or refusal to eat or not drinking water can be an indication that your canine companion is not feeling well. If your dog is unusually tired and lacks energy, it could also be a sign of discomfort or pain.

Dogs in pain often have difficulty finding a comfortable position and may frequently change their posture. Pain or discomfort can also make dogs more irritable and sensitive to touch or handling. A dog in pain may neglect grooming dog’s coat or excessively lick, bite, or chew specific areas of their body. It may exhibit tense muscles, especially around the affected area.

Also Read: Why is My Dog Being Aggressive All of a Sudden

Excess Vocalization of Elderly or Sick Dog

 Whining, whimpering, or excessive barking without an apparent reason could be your dog’s way of expressing distress. Just before dog passes, it could also cry or whine.

Changes in Mobility

 Difficulty walking, limping, or reluctance to move can indicate pain or mobility issues. The dog may also have excessive panting or labored breathing. These signs could indicate pain or distress, especially if there is no apparent reason for pet passes to be overheated.

Changes in Elimination Habits

 Difficulty urinating or defecating, frequent accidents, or signs of straining are some dog’s symptoms that may suggest health issues.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is essential to seek veterinary attention promptly. A veterinarian can assess your pet’s health and determine the underlying cause of their discomfort. Remember that early detection and treatment of any health issues can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life. 

Your veterinarian can also provide guidance on pain management when dog is dying and offer support in making difficult decisions if your dog’s condition is severe or not treatable. As pet owners, our responsibility is to advocate for our dogs’ well-being and ensure they live a happy and pain-free life to the best of our abilities.

Do Dogs Know When an Older Dog Is Dying?

Many dogs have a remarkable ability to sense and perceive changes in their environment, including the emotional and physical states of other animals, including other pets. 

While they may not fully comprehend the concept of natural death in the same way humans do, other pets can exhibit behavior that suggests they are aware of an older dog’s declining health or imminent passing.

Here are some ways many dogs are known to react or respond when an older dog is dying:

  • Increased Attention: Dogs may become more attentive to the aging or ailing dog, showing concern by staying close to them or frequently checking on them.
  • Gentle Behavior: Some dogs may display gentler behavior around the older dog, being careful not to be too boisterous or disruptive.
  • licking and Nuzzling: Dogs may lick or nuzzle the older dog as a way to comfort them. Licking is known to be a common sign and has soothing properties for dogs.
  • Changes in Pack Dynamics: In a multi-dog household, the pack dynamics may shift as dogs sense the older dog’s vulnerability and may become more protective or accommodating.
  • Staying by Their Side: Dogs may choose to stay by the side of the dying dog, providing companionship and support.
  • Anxiety or Restlessness: Some dogs may become anxious or restless when they sense that something is amiss with the older dog.
  • Depression: Dogs can experience a sense of loss and sadness when a pack member is dying or has passed away.

It’s important to note that individual dogs may react differently based on their personalities, experiences, and the relationship they have with the older dog. Some dogs may be more sensitive and empathetic, while others might not show obvious signs of awareness.

How Do I Know It’s Time to Put My Dog Down?

Deciding when it’s time to euthanize a beloved family pet is one of the most challenging and emotional decisions a pet owner may face. It’s essential to prioritize your dog’s well-being and quality of life when making this decision. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, here are some factors to consider:

Quality of Life

 Assess your dog’s overall quality of life. Look for signs of pain, discomfort, and suffering. Is your dog able to enjoy activities they once loved, or have they lost interest in everything? Consider whether their daily life is enjoyable or if they are experiencing more bad days than good.

Pain and Suffering

 If your dog is in chronic pain or experiencing severe discomfort that cannot be managed effectively with medication or treatment, it may be a sign that their quality of life is significantly compromised.

Mobility and Functionality

 Assess your dog’s ability to move and perform essential functions such as walking, eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. If your dog is immobile or struggles to do these activities, it may impact their overall well-being.

Changes in Appetite, Hydration, and Bowel Movements

 A significant decline in appetite as dog ages and refusal to eat or drinking water can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, affecting your pet’s health and energy levels.  If your beloved dog is experiencing incontinence and is unable to control their bladder or bowels, it can lead to discomfort and frustration.

Also Read: How to Get a Dog to Drink More Water

Declining Cognitive Function and Lack of Enjoyment

 Dogs with severe cognitive decline or canine dementia may experience confusion, anxiety, and disorientation, impacting their mental well-being.  

If your dog no longer engages in activities, lose interest in exercising, they once loved and appears disinterested in their surroundings, it may indicate a diminished quality of life. Reflect on the bond you share with your beloved pet and consider if keeping it alive prolongs dog’s suffering or serves its best interests.

Response to Treatment

 Consider if your pet is not responding to treatment or if the treatment itself is causing distress and extreme weight loss. Consult with your veterinarian, as s/he can provide valuable insights into your dog’s health and well-being. They can help you assess your pets condition and discuss available options before dog pass.

What Is a Common Death for Old Dogs?

The most common cause of death for old dogs is typically related to age-related health issues and natural decline. 

As dog nears death or the end of their life, their bodies go through various changes, and their organs may become less efficient, leading to an increased susceptibility to certain conditions. While individual cases as they reach the end of their life can vary, some common causes of death in old dogs include:

  • Organ Failure: As dogs age, their organs, such as kidney failure, liver failure, and heart, may experience decreased function, leading to organ failure. This is the end of their life for most dogs as it results in extreme weight loss.
  • Cancer: Aging dogs have a higher risk of developing various types of cancer, which can be aggressive and difficult to treat. Many times it is terminal illness.
  • Heart Disease: Age-related changes in the heart’s structure and function can lead to heart conditions such as congestive heart failure. This can shorten dog’s time.
  • Kidney Failure: Chronic kidney disease is common in aging dogs and can progress slowly over time. Feed dog water if it does not drink much.
  • Arthritis and Mobility Issues: Degenerative joint diseases like arthritis are completely normal but can cause extreme pain and mobility problems in senior dogs.
  • Neurological Conditions: Some dogs may develop neurological issues like cognitive decline (doggie dementia) or other age-related brain disorders.
  • Respiratory Conditions: Senior dogs may experience respiratory problems, such as chronic bronchitis or pneumonia. Aging dogs may have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Aging dogs can develop gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Dehydration and Malnutrition: Reduced appetite and difficulty eating or drinking in aged dog can lead to dehydration and malnutrition in elderly or sick dog dying. Check to see if canned food can be enticing to your best friend.

It’s important to note that while these conditions are more common in older dogs, not all senior dogs will experience them. Regular veterinary check-ups and attentive monitoring of your dog’s health can help catch potential issues early on and improve their overall well-being in their golden years.

What Happens Before an Old Dog Dies?

In the weeks leading up to a dog’s passing due to old age or natural decline, you may observe some common symptoms and changes in behavior. Here’s a generalized overview:

Weeks Before

  • Reduced Activity: The dog may become less energetic and spend more time resting or sleeping. Dog’s interest is completely not there in food or exercise. This is a normal aging process.
  • Appetite Changes: Appetite may decrease, and the dog might show less interest in food or have difficulty eating. They may show weight loss.
  • Mobility Issues: Arthritis or age-related mobility problems or other signs may worsen, leading to difficulty getting up or walking.
  • Dog’s eyes -may be dull and not bright and alert.
  • Days Before End of Life
    • Further Decrease in Activity: The dog may become even less active and prefer to stay in one spot.
    • Refusal to Eat: The dog may stop eating or only consume minimal amounts of food and water. This causes extreme weight loss
    • Loss of bowel control may be seen
    • Body temperature – may be hot or cold.
    • Body odor- senior dog often displays a foul odor.
    • Weakness: Weakness and loss of muscle mass may become more evident.
  • Dog’s Final Days or End of Life
    • Extreme Lethargy: The dog may appear extremely tired and lethargic, moving very little. This is a common sign of end of life. Dog’s condition may worsen tremendously needing more frequent trips to the vet. Try to keep dog comfortable at the end of their life. Older dogs need space to rest so keep other dogs away. As vet to make house calls if possible.
    • Disorientation: This is a common sign of the end of life. Some dogs may become disoriented or confused.
    • Labored Breathing: This is another common sign of end of life. Dog’s breathing may become heavy and irregular. Abnormal breathing patterns may be seen. Odd breathing is a surefire sign of natural passing.
    • Unresponsiveness: The dog may be unresponsive or only minimally react to stimuli.
    • Incontinence: Loss of bladder or lose control may occur.
    • Body temperature is very cold indicating pet’s passing over the rainbow bridge.

It’s important to note that not all dogs will follow this precise timeline for end of life, and some may not exhibit all of these end of life symptoms. Additionally, some dogs may pass away suddenly without showing significant signs of decline. Some dog’s good days and some have several bad days in this end of life stage.

 If you have an elderly dog, it’s crucial to maintain regular check-ups with your veterinarian, as they can help monitor your dog’s health, suggest pain medication, appetite stimulant, and well-being during their senior years.

 If you notice any concerning changes in your dog’s behavior or health, seek veterinary attention promptly to ensure they receive the care and support they need.

What to Do When Your Dog Dies of Old Age?

When your dog dies from old age or terminal illness or other signs, it can be an incredibly emotional and challenging time. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Allow Yourself to Grieve: Take the time to process your emotions after natural passing or euthanasia and allow yourself to grieve the loss of your beloved companion.
  • Handle the Remains: Decide on the appropriate way to handle your dog’s remains, whether it’s burial, cremation, or other options. Consider creating a memorial or tribute to honor your dog’s life, such as planting a tree, making a scrapbook, or donating to an animal charity.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who understand the bond you had with your dog and can offer comfort during this time.
  • Remember the Good Times: Cherish the memories of the happy moments you shared with your dog and focus on the positive impact they had on your life. Instead of focusing on their passing, celebrate your dog’s life and love your dog brought into your life.
  • Care for Yourself: Take care of yourself physically and emotionally, ensuring you get enough rest, eat well, and practice self-compassion. Grieving is a personal process, and there’s no right or wrong timeline for healing. Give yourself the time you need to come to terms with the loss.
  • Consider Pet Loss Counseling: If you find it challenging to cope with the loss, consider seeking professional pet loss counseling to help you process your feelings.
  • Consider a New Companion (When You’re Ready): When you feel ready, consider giving another dog a loving home. A new pet cannot replace the one you lost, but it can bring joy and companionship into your life.

Remember that everyone grieves differently, so allow yourself to process your emotions in your own way. Losing a pet is never easy, but with time and support, the pain will gradually ease, leaving behind cherished memories of the love and happiness you shared with your dog.


Why is my 14 year old dog falling over?

A 14-year-old-pet falling over could be due to various reasons, such as vestibular disease, neurological issues, arthritis, or other age-related health conditions. It’s essential to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate care.

How do you know if your dog is suffering?

If your dog is suffering, it may exhibit signs of pain, discomfort, lethargy, loss of appetite, restlessness, whining, or changes in behavior. Observing any significant changes the dog begins in their normal behavior and seeking veterinary attention can help determine if they need medical care or support.

What are the behaviors of a dog before death?

Before death, a dog may exhibit behaviors such as extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, disorientation, unresponsiveness, and incontinence. These signs of dog pass  can vary based on the individual dog’s health condition and the cause of their decline.

Do dogs cry at end of life?

Dogs may not cry tears like humans, but they can exhibit behaviors that resemble crying, such as whimpering, vocalizations, or increased vocal expressions of distress, especially when they are experiencing pain or discomfort at the end of life care.

How do dogs act near death?

Near death, few dogs may display extreme lethargy, weakness, difficulty standing or walking, labored breathing, unresponsiveness, disorientation, and loss of appetite. These signs may vary depending on the pet’s health condition and the underlying cause of their decline in dying dog.

What to do if my dog dies at home?

If your dog passes away at home, it is essential to remain calm and composed. Contact your veterinarian to inform them of the situation. You can discuss options for handling your dog’s remains, such as arranging for a home burial or contacting a pet cremation service. Take the time to grieve and remember the cherished memories you shared with your beloved companion.


As our faithful canine companions age, it is essential for dog owners to be attuned to the subtle signs that may indicate they are approaching the end of their lives. Recognizing the signs a beloved dog is dying of old age allows us to provide the dying dog with the love, care, and support it deserves during this tender phase. 

While facing the inevitable farewell is never easy, being aware of a dying dog’s changing needs could empower us to ensure its final days are filled with dignity, comfort, and the lasting memories of a lifetime of companionship. As we honor the dying dog unwavering loyalty and devotion, we can find solace in knowing that our beloved dogs will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

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