Knowing what to do when your beloved four-legged friend is at the end of his or her life can be difficult, but we are here to help you find ways to comfort your pup.
As with any situation where death is involved, knowing that emotions are going to be high will help you as you navigate this stage. With a few key tricks such as keeping your normal routine as much as possible, you can get through this time a little bit easier.
While every situation is different and every dog’s needs vary across the board, there are a few very generic tricks and tips that will help both you and your dog to get through the hard days a little bit easier.
Providing comfort to your animal might be something completely foreign to you, so we have put together a list of some pretty simple, but a few difficult things that will do nothing but comfort your dying dog. As you go through the list, think of ways that you can apply these concepts to help create a peaceful place for your animal to drift off in his or her final moments.
10 Ways to Comfort a Dying Dog
When you first get a new puppy, you are more than likely so excited to add this animal to your family and look forward to all of the adventures that lie ahead. When the days get tough and your pup gets sick, it instantly becomes very difficult to imagine your life without your furry friend by your side.
One thing you can do as a dog-mom or dad, however, is to make the animal’s final moments as comfortable as possible. This will help keep you and your animal both at peace in those very challenging times.
We understand that losing a dog can sometimes be losing a very big part of you, too, so we advise that you pace yourself and make sure your emotions are where they need to be as you grieve and mourn the passing of your animal.
Gather a notebook and take some notes as we go through the 10 best ways we know of to help comfort a dying dog. We hope these tips and tricks will help bring you comfort during this time and make a peaceful passing for your special four-legged friend.
1. Proximity To Your Animal
While this might seem like a no-brainer tip, we suggest first and foremost that you stay as close as possible to your pet during this time. The idea behind staying close to your animal is that you can be there in the toughest of moments for both you and your pet. Most of the time, animals are going to need the comfort only you can provide as they are struggling and more than likely not feeling well. Staying close to your animal can look different for everyone, but here are a few ways to do this.
- Petting Your Dog: Most of us probably pet our animals frequently throughout the day and never think twice about it. When you pet your dog, they feel close to you and are instantly comforted by the touch of your hand and your attention. Stroking your pet’s head, tummy or back will help them to feel at peace.
- Talking to Your Dog: We know that dogs cannot talk back to you, but sometimes the sound of your soothing voice can be everything they need to stay calm and relaxed. When you tell them that everything is going to be okay, it will remind both you and him that you have done everything you could up until this point to provide your animal with a good and rich life.
- Keeping It Together: Dogs are very good at picking up on your emotions and it can sometimes make the situation worse. Think about this - when they think you are mad or upset with them, oftentimes they will tuck their tail and run away to another room. When they think you are sad, they probably will pick up on that too. Try as much as you possibly can to keep your emotions in check while you are staying in close proximity to your animal.
- Stay Calm: This is very similar to the previous point, but when you are calm and relaxed, your animal will pick up on these emotions and respond accordingly. Staying calm and relaxed will let your pet know that you love them and want to be there with them, even when it is not easy to do so.
Some dogs are not able to respond to your affection, but in these moments they will feel your comfort and in turn be more at peace.
2. Do Not Add Another Dog Just Yet
Some people feel the need to get a new puppy to help the pain of losing one you love so much, but this is not always a great idea as it takes your attention away from the animal that is dying right in front of you. It is also important to wait to add a new animal because it can be very difficult on the owner as well when a pet passes away.
Waiting to add a new dog to the family will allow your heart time to properly grieve as well. As with any situation where death is involved, grieving is crucial to the entire process, so make sure to give yourself space to do this. A new puppy only distracts from the situation at hand.
Your dog that is in his or her last days will feel your lack of attention if you are constantly distracted by a new animal. There will be plenty of time later to add a new animal to your household, so be sure to just pump the brakes and focus on your one animal who needs you.
3. Avoid New Places and People
Sensory overload is a real thing that affects both people and animals, so it is important when you know your animal is not doing well to avoid this as much as possible. The absolute best thing you can do is to keep your pet as comfortable as you can by staying home and resting either in his bed, kennel or other place he loves to lay around.
When you take a pet to a new location, it can be overwhelming to them and create more stress than necessary. Oftentimes, dogs that are dying do not have as much mental capacity as they used to, and doing this will make them confused and uneasy. If you can stay home, we recommend that you do so for the sake of your animal.
Having new people over to your house can do the same thing as going to a new location. If you have someone over whom the dog has never met, it can cause confusion and stress to them. When you do have familiar guests over, kindly ask them to be gentle and loving to your dog.
Children can often be a dangerous thing to bring around a dying dog because of the energy they bring to the table. If your dog is dying, they will get stressed out when a child tries to play with them in ways they can no longer do, as it might injure them. Telling your family and close friends what is going on will keep everyone on the same page and your dog at the forefront of your attention.
4. Know the Signs Of A Dying Dog
There are several situations where you might not realize what is going on with your dog since they are unable to verbally communicate with you. When you know what to look for, it can help you to process what is happening as well as get your pet the medical help they may need.
- Accidents: One of the first signs of a dog that is not doing well is the loss of bladder control. When an animal has an accident inside your home, it is a normal response to get mad at the pet. Take a step back and observe the situation prior to becoming too upset. If this is a new but frequent occurrence, know that it might not be the animal acting out but rather a loss of bladder or bowel control. Sometimes even well trained animals who never have accidents might not be able to get up to take care of their business. Staying patient and calm will help both you and your pet figure out what is going on and what to do next.
- Lack of Energy: Your once energetic dog no longer greets you when you come home from work. When you get a treat out, your pet does not move from his location and instead lays in one spot the majority of the day. These are signs of a dog that has little to no energy and does not feel well. Fatigue is something that is very easy to observe and something that needs to be addressed by a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Loss of Interest: This is very similar to the previous point of showing no energy. Dogs that no longer show interest in their favorite things - whether that might be a toy or a treat - might be trying to tell you something. There are a few situations where the animal completely stops responding to you and your family members altogether. The best thing for your animal is to seek medical attention to address what is going on.
- Change in Appetite: A dog that is reaching the end of his or her life will not want to eat as they once did. This lack of an appetite usually results in rapid weight loss, a sign that should be pretty easy for you to detect. The best thing you can do is keep your animal as hydrated as possible and continue offering food, even when they are not interested.
5. Continue Normal Activities As Much As Possible
Over time, your animal will not be able to do the things he did as when he was a puppy. This is normal in the aging process to slow down and not participate as they once did. One of the best things you can do as this happens is to try as much as possible to do the same things until they are completely unable.
If your pet loves going for daily walks, it is important to keep trying to push your animal as exercise is good for both you and your pet. When you notice a drastic decline in their abilities, it is best to take note and talk to your veterinarian to make sure you are not pushing them too much.
The best thing you can do is to stay aware of their declining health and make changes as you see necessary. Chances are that you know your dog and their habits better than just about anyone else, so trust your instinct and always talk to a doctor if you need help.
6. Get Needed Medication
In some situations, the only thing you can do as your dog dies is to make them as comfortable as possible and wait for their final moments to pass. There are some illnesses that create a lot of pain for your pup and can make them struggle as they drift away. Knowing when to give medication is something only a veterinarian can prescribe and do, so make sure you are in close communication with an animal health professional.
Medication can help control some of the symptoms they might be experiencing as well as reduce the pain they may have. Some of the most common symptoms a dying dog will experience are shaking uncontrollably and frequent vomiting, both of these are able to be controlled by the use of medication.
Always remember that giving your dog medicine in these times will not keep them from dying, but rather provide more comfort for them in their dying days. The inevitable is going to happen at some point, but if you have the opportunity to make it a little less painful for them, then that is definitely something we suggest you do.
7. Stay Patient
The act of staying patient can be something that is very difficult for dog owners, but something that is crucial in the final days of your animal’s life. Patience will give your dog just about more comfort than any of the other suggested methods.
When you are calm, your animal is going to respond in a similar way and also show calmness, even when they do not feel well at all. Remember all of those times when your pet was there for you to help you through a difficult time? Think of this as your time to repay them for always being there for you.
Providing a calm environment can sometimes be more than just staying patient, but also creating a quiet space for them to relax and feel at ease. Eliminate loud noises wherever you can and if possible, even find a temporary place for small children or other pets to stay while your dog’s life comes to a close.
8. Provide Comfortable Bedding
When your animal is older in life, they might have very painful joints or other body aches. By providing a comfortable bed for them to lay on, you are doing everything you can to relieve their pain and make it possible for them to relax as much as possible.
Extra cushioning on their bed provides relief from sore joints or muscles and will allow them to lay without as much pain. If your pet is experiencing frequent accidents, consider using bedding that can be easily washed or replaced. Always remember that these accidents are not on purpose and try to not get upset with your pet when this happens.
If your animal frequently gets cold or seems to be showing signs of shivering, consider putting a heater on them to keep them as warm and comfortable as possible. Staying as safe as possible is crucial when using a heater, so do not get it too close to your animal and follow all safety precautions on your heating element.
9. Always Have Water Available
Staying hydrated is something that everyone has to do every single day. When your dog is dying, he or she needs to have access to water at all times. If your pet is having trouble getting the water and drinking it, you can use a dropper to help them get the water in their body.
Keep the water bowl as close to the animal as possible so they do not have to get out of their comfortable location in order to get a drink. Having to jump on or off a bed can create more discomfort for their joints and muscles, so having easy access allows them to stay as comfortable as possible.
10. Consider Changing Foods
As a dog is dying, it might be hard for them to keep any of their food down, especially hard dog food. This can sometimes be difficult to digest and hard on their stomachs, but there are other types of dog foods on the market.
Ask your veterinarian if you are able to try feeding your dog soft dog food to help them keep it down when their bodies are struggling. There are some instances when you cannot get your pet to keep anything down, and just know that it is not your fault and just a natural part of the dying process.
When your pet passes away, give him or her one final hug as your way of saying goodbye. While this is very difficult to do, know that being emotional is completely normal. Spend a few moments to reflect on the rich and full life you and your pet had together and try to relax knowing that you did everything you could to help your pet.
Some dogs have been known to “move” after passing away, but this is just their nervous system closing down. This might give you false hope that they are okay, but knowing that this can happen will help you to understand what all is happening. Another thing to be aware of is that your dog can pass away with their eyes open. If this is discomforting to you, you can close their eyes as you hug them goodbye or use a blanket to cover him or her up.
In the end, knowing that you did everything within your power to make your dog’s final breaths comfortable and peaceful is the most important thing to help you through the process of losing a loved member of your family. Dogs will seek your comfort in these moments, and hope that you stay as patient as possible with them through these trying times. Cleaning up their messes can be stressful and exhausting, but staying calm through the process helps your dog to know that you truly love them and care for them.
As we lay our pets to rest, it can be very emotional and difficult for the entire family. Always be sure to take care of yourself and get the proper care you need to help you through these hard times. There are several support groups that can help you get through the difficult days without your pet by your side.
Your dog might prefer to have his or her favorite items close by in these trying times, so have their favorite toys, blankets, treats, etc. available at all times. Ultimately, the most comforting thing to your dying dog is going to be having you by their side. As much as possible, be there for your pet and always remember the good days you had together as you lie your animal to rest. The best thing you can do for your dog is to comfort them with your presence and attention during these very difficult times.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright