For many of us who have a dog, sooner or later the terrible day comes when we know that our beloved pet is about to die. Even when this event is expected, we can never be totally prepared.
We need to be there with the dog and how to comfort a dying dog at home is something that we may not have thought about there is a lot that we can do to ease the passage, allowing our pet to die without distress.
A Dog’s Life
Different breeds of dogs live long or short lives some for only ten years while other breeds live until seventeen years old. If you are lucky enough to have a sixteen-year-old dog, you will notice that he is starting to slow down. His joints may be stiff and he won’t want to take long walks with the family.
Sometimes the withdrawal needs to be carefully explained to young children who can’t have any understanding of old age and are probably about to experience their first death.
Behavior is one of the first changes that the family will notice, and often the dog will not be eating much anymore, and this is a good time to take him to the vet to get a check-up and advice on the aging pet.
The dog will sleep a lot, and sometimes appear confused, he may be dehydrated as he won’t be drinking enough water, and if the end is near don’t worry about the water and food. Ask the veterinarian to do a home visit, to talk you through how to manage end-of-life care.
When the vet is at your house he/she will be able to arrange for pain medication to ease the final hours. The vet is there to support you and many of us don’t want euthanasia, but we do want to know how to keep our dog comfortable. If you can bear to, it is a good time to ask the vet about cremation or burial for pets.
A law was passed in many countries preventing pets from being buried in the home garden, however, if you live in the country you can bury him at home.
How to Comfort a Dying Dog
Often, death is a slow process and if we know the time is coming we can prepare ourselves and our families for the inevitable.
Expert Tip: Once you know that death will come soon, it is time to make your dog comfortable. Choose a quiet room and place an old blanket on the floor for your pet to lie on, or place his dog bed in the kitchen where you can easily clean the floor and where you can check on him regularly.
At this stage, he will be incontinent, so an easy clean area is important. If you have other pets it is better to keep them away from the area, as they won’t understand what is happening and may try and disturb the dog or play with him.
- Take your cues from your dog, at this stage he won’t want food or water. His body is in the process of shutting down.
- Keep the mouth clean and moist using a washcloth.
- Bring young children in one at a time to allow them to say goodbye to their pets. Five to ten minutes should be enough to spend with the dog. Then allow him to rest, and bring them back, later on, to see him again
Ways to Comfort an Aging Dog
Just like an elderly relative an old dog can be diagnosed with dementia. At first, the changes will be subtle, like appearing disoriented in the house, trying to come in the wrong door when he has been outside, or even forgetting that he has just eaten and looking for more food.
Then he may start soiling in the house and have a reduced level of activity, not wanting to go outside and walk are all signs of deteriorating cognition in a pet.
How to Help a Dog with Dementia
Changes in sleep patterns could indicate more specific symptoms of sleep dysfunction. Like a dementia patient, the dog may walk around all night and sleep during the day. Familiarity is important, so leave him in the laundry or a confined space with his basket, rug, food, and water and he will settle down. Sometimes music or white noise can help.
The dog may not be keen to take his regular walks, and that is okay, just shorten them down a bit and don’t force the issue, if he is an older dog he may have joint pain or other reasons for not exercising associated with age decline. If any of these things are happening it is time to visit the vet and get a health check for your dog.
Changes that Indicate Dementia
- Repetitive movements, like head bobbing up and down.
- Changes to the sleep cycle, waking in the night.
- Soiling in the house instead of going outside.
- Problems with eating or drinking.
- Not wanting to go for walks.
- Disorientation in the house and forgetting how to go out.
- Sometimes shows aggression where he was once gentle.
Once you have had a diagnosis it is important to keep everything at home much the same, this will avoid further confusion for your pet.
Keep the food and water where it always was. and don’t introduce any new pets to this house. Some people think that this is the right time to get a new Puppy, but it isn’t as it would only cause stress to a demented old dog. The vet may have recommended a dietary supplement, and if this is the case give it to the dog every day with food.
If the dog is having trouble with soiling in the house, confine him during the night, this way he can’t roam around and keep soiling everywhere.
During the day keep the door open and encourage him to go out regularly. When you go out walking don’t go too far from home, just like an old person the dog will not want to walk for miles and probably won’t want to chase a ball anymore, just go for short walks and then let him rest in his basket for a while.
Be careful, as another sign of dementia is losing his sense of danger in traffic so you may need to keep him on a leash to prevent accidents.
Make sure that your dog is eating and drinking, fluid intake is very important, especially in the hot weather. If he is not eating that is a more specific problem that must be discussed with the vet.
Keep small children away from the dog, as dementia can cause a dog to become snappy, and a once gentle dog may become aggressive and bite the child, especially if his tail is pulled or he is constantly touched. The once sociable and friendly dog can totally change with age.
One of the signs of dementia is altered interactions with people they have known all their life, it is often hard to accept, and for those of us who have had a dog for many years, these symptoms are an indication that his life is nearing an end, and sadly we have to prepare for the inevitable.
Working Out How to Help a Dog with Dementia
Now that you have found that your dog has (CCD) Canine Cognitive Dysfunction it is a bit like Alzheimer’s in humans, and like this disorder, it will change the dog’s behavior. This condition occurs in about 15% of older dogs and it is best to manage it conservatively.
Usually, a dog diagnosed with dementia will only live for about two years. When you are at the vet and establishing a diagnosis it is important to rule out other causes. Have his teeth thoroughly checked and if you can. get the teeth cleaned, as it is important that he eats well and remains well nourished.
Ask your vet for a blood test, as it is important to rule out any parasitic infection. The vet may prescribe Anipryl (selegiline hydrochloride), or Zoetis which is a drug used to control clinical signs of dementia in dogs, and depending on the stage your dog is at the effects can vary.
Many dogs show strong improvement, especially those with early-stage dementia. Starting a therapeutic treatment early can help your dog to continue to function normally for longer. Sadly, dementia moves quite quickly in dogs, and they need to remain in a familiar place.
Expert Tip: Remember a dog with dementia will no longer be able to learn, so don’t stress him by trying to teach him tricks. You have to become prepared for the fact that he may even forget you in the end.
The same as a person, it is important that he lives out his life in comfort with his family around him for as long as possible. End-of-life decisions are tough to make, and while your dog is eating and content you should be able to keep him with you.
Is Your Dog in Pain?
10 Ways to Comfort a Dying Dog
- If your dog is in pain he may be whimpering or moaning, offer verbal support as he will want to hear your voice.
- If he can’t move by himself, reposition him for optimal comfort
- You may have noticed that your dog has been withdrawing from activities like walking and playing recently and lying down instead.
- Phone the vet and ask for pain relief, he won’t be able to sleep and rest if he is in pain.
- He may seem restless and be twitching
- If he is incontinent place old towels under him and use baby wipes to keep him clean.
- Take the time to spend with your dog, as he shouldn’t be alone at this time, designate a family member to be near at all times.
- How to comfort a dying dog is a bit like having a relative in a hospice, and it can be emotionally draining.
- Once the vet has prescribed the right pain relief your dog should remain comfortable until the end.
- Never give a dog human pain relief always seek advice from a vet
- Once your dog ceases to eat and drink, death is imminent and it is just a matter of being there and meeting his needs until the time comes.
Are Dogs in Pain When They are Dying?
The dog may not be in any pain and in fact, he may go to sleep and never wake up. Many dogs die just like that and it is often a shock to the family but much better for the dog. Especially if his eyesight is failing, or he has difficulty walking.
If the dog is in pain, you will know he may be showing signs of aggression where he was once gentle. This can often mean pain, and he just wants to be left in peace. On the other hand, the dog may be seeking reassurance from you. Either way, he needs to be assessed by a vet.
You may also find that he has lost weight recently and this could indicate cancer somewhere in his body, so any changes need to be investigated and treated to avoid pain and suffering later.
Having your dog at home with you and your family is usually the best thing for everyone, as you can give him all possible care, and you know him better than anyone else does.
The grief of losing a beloved dog is overwhelming, as they spend all their lives with us from being a puppy to old age. It is important to explain the process to children so that they have an understanding of what is happening to the dog and are given a chance to say goodbye to him.
How to comfort a dying dog is important for the whole family as we can all play a part in comforting him. Once he has gone you may want to hold a ceremony to celebrate his happy life with you.