Do Dogs Know When They Are Going To Die?

Mar 14, 2023 | Pet Health, Pets

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Do Dogs Know When They Are Going To Die?  This is not a happy topic but one that I wanted to write about.  I was looking at the calendar today and on April 6th almost 7 years ago, our sweet Bella passed away.  We had already lost our Bear to cancer and our Lady to a stroke.  Bella had become very depressed but on that morning something was different.  I was confused by her behavior and was doing everything I could think of to get her to snap out of it.  She loved walking around the neighborhood so I took her out and we walked down the driveway to the sidewalk only for her to stop and look at me.  She was telling me she did not want to go so I brought her back in the house.  She didn’t seem sick just different.  I decided to make a quick run to the store to get her some treats and when I came back, she had passed in the short time I was gone.
I still miss Bear, Bella, and Lady and wonder if they knew their time was near.  I sometimes beat myself up over things that I could have done differently.  I also believe animals know when they are dying and understand what is happening.  I also believe that their animal friends know as well.

Bear in our new house.

Please excuse the photos.  They are so old.  This is Bear in our entryway. Wow has this house changed since we’ve moved in!   

Haylee Bergeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, RBT, is the founder and executive director of the Iowa Human-Animal Bond Society and Daily Paws’ health and behavior expert. She says it’s tough to know how much a dog understands or is feeling near the end of their life, but some behaviors might be more apparent. “Many dogs appear to be more ‘clingy’ or attached, following you around consistently and remaining close,” Bergeland says. “Other dogs seem to distance themselves and want to be alone more than they normally would.”
She’s also noticed some dogs whining and barking more, along with moments of almost hyperactivity, “then suddenly becoming quiet and still, as if they have a desire to expend some energy, have a bit more fun, but just can’t quite do it.”

Bella after a bath 🙂

What Is Citizen Science:
Other researchers and veterinarians rely on “citizen science”, which is a collaborative effort between the general public and professional scientists to study the natural world, to determine how dogs know they’re dying. Naturally, as in-tuned as we are to our pups’ needs, this leads us to believe they comprehend what’s happening to them.
Your observations of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms are integral to making your furry best friend’s final days or weeks as stress-free as possible. Leslie Sinn, DVM, DACVB, CPDT-KA is a veterinary behaviorist at Behavior Solutions and a member of the Daily Paws Advisory Board. She says pay attention to these signals:
*Decreased interest in play or social interactions
*Loss of learned behaviors
*Lack of interest in previous activities they once enjoyed
*Poor appetite
*House soiling
*Changes in sleep/wake cycle
*Nighttime restlessness
*Increased time remaining stationary
*Additional signs of discomfort, such as crying, panting, and pacing

Princess Lady

This is Lady.  She was alway a little princess so it was only fitting to put a crown on her in the photo.  These came up in my memory photos just the other day.

Prince Lady
Crossing the Rainbow Bridge Together
What is the HHHHHMM Scale?
At what point do you have a serious conversation about your dog’s current state of being? Sinn suggests an assessment, known as the HHHHHMM Scale.
According to Merck Vet Manual, this scale refers to:
Hurt – Is your pet’s pain controlled?
Hunger – Can your pet still eat?
Hydration – Can your pet still drink enough water?
Hygiene – Can your pet be kept clean?
Happiness – Is your pet able to enjoy activities and/or mental stimulation?
Mobility – Can your pet move around on his own?
More good days than bad
“Reviewing one of these scales as a family and with your veterinarian will help in having a meaningful conversation about appropriate next steps,” she says. “While it’s hard to let go, holding on too long isn’t something we want to subject them to either. Using assessment scales help to track the pet’s status and inform us when things become too difficult for them.” Ultimately, she adds, it’s our responsibility as their caregivers and guardians to make sure they have a good quality of life for as long as practical and, if no longer comfortable, consider euthanasia.

Lady and her toys

Lady and her toys
At 14, our Bear was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given less than a week to live.  He had a tumor in his stomach that would rupture causing him great pain.   Our only choice was to euthanize him.  At age 15, Lady had a stroke at 3:00 am on a Monday night.  We rushed her to an emergency vet only to be told there was nothing we could do for her.  We could give her medication to keep her alive but this quality of life was not what we wanted for her.  At age 13, Bella was diagnosed with Diabetes and depression.  She was failing before my eyes. She passed away at home.  Both Lady and Bear were still mobile, wanting to eat, but slowing down at a rate that told me their time on earth was not long.  Bella was showing all the signs and I knew the end was near.  I think she knew it too.  I honestly believe all animals know when the time is near.  
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic.  Comment below and let me know.
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I’m Bobbi Jo, a lab-lover who took my passion for animals and dogs and turned it into something bigger.  When I adopted Jake and Maggie, my love for them became the driving force behind Two Adorable Labs, and my blog was born.  My hope is to not only share them with the world, but to help educate others on the importance of animal health and well-being. 

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  1. Sharon Crnko

    Seven years seems like only yesterday!❤️ Yes this is a sad topic for sure. Gus has his 12th birthday in just a few days. I just ordered his birthday cake from Treats Unleashed. His favorite with peanut butter topping!
    He has slowed down so much, but still enjoys eating,going for walks and being with the grandkids.
    We are happy for each day we have with him!

    • Two Adorable Labs

      Yes 7 years seems like only yesterday. I still miss Bella, Bear, and Lady. Wow Gus is 12! Happy birthday to the sweet boy. Enjoy his birthday and give him a kiss from all of us :-).

  2. Barbara Bolduc

    Such a sad topic but one we all must face. I lost Savannah 10 years ago and was only 6 mo without a fur baby when we got Milo. It’s hard to believe that he will be 9 on the 29th. It seems like only yesterday that he came into our lives and hearts. I don’t want to think about when he won’t be here anymore I just enjoy loving him each and every day…So sorry for all your loses too. ???? It never gets easier….????❤️????

    • Two Adorable Labs

      Thank you. Oh my gosh. Wow has time flown. I can’t believe Milo is 9! Yes, enjoy each day with them. Jake And Maggie will be 6 in June and have brought us so much joy.


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