Last Updated on July 12, 2021 by Dogs Vets
What do dogs do when they are about to die
The loss of a dog is never easy, irrespective of the circumstances. But losing one suddenly from an accident or serious medical event can be confusing, shocking, and terrifying.
These are the most common causes of sudden death in dogs, so you can be aware and do what you can to avoid affecting your canine companion.
If you ever observe that your dog is demonstrating changes in its behavior or health, the first step is to visit your dog’s veterinarian to determine the possible cause of the changes.
Your dog’s veterinarian can help you understand the severity of the condition and keep your dog comfortable.
Signs That Your Dog Is Near Death
1. Loss of appetite
While the body is shutting down, energy should be decreasing. Your dog may begin to refuse foods that are difficult to chew or digest like meat.
Reducing eating or simply snacking is common. This can be a very emotionally upsetting time for the family. Our natural response is to insist that our loved ones eat, but towards the end of life, this can cause more harm than good.
There are ways you can help:
- Allow more time to eat and never rush your loved one.
- Allow more time for your dog to eat and never rush him
2. Physical body weakness and loss of energy
Decreased food intake leads to less energy and simple activities such as sitting on the edge of the bed, lifting arms to change and a brief conversation become difficult.
One of the most common signs that a dog may be dying is a serious loss of energy.
Usually, in most cases, a dying dog will lie in one place without moving much. This spot may be a quiet corner of your home or somewhere secluded and may not be a place where they normally lie. Your dog may not even have enough energy to lift its head.
If your dog still moves from place to place around your home but does so more slowly, it may simply be a sign of old age. Especially if your dog has a chronic illness, it can show fatigue even if it’s not over.
If your dog is no longer lively but is showing no other signs that it may be reaching the end, talk to your vet to see if another factor is involved.
3. Loss of bladder and bowel control
When a dog is dying, they often lose control of their bladder and bowels when their organs begin to close. This can cause your dog to pee or test wherever they lie. Even if your dog is very well trained, he may not have the energy to get up to relieve himself.
If your dog cannot control his bladder anymore, be sure to practice good nursing to keep your dog as healthy as possible. Remember to change or wash your dog’s bed when soiled with urine, and keep your dog clean to help prevent sores.
Although it can be challenging to care for a dog that can’t control its bladder or bowels, know that this is a regular occurrence. Try to remain patient and calm, remembering that your dog cannot control his behavior at this stage.
How to comfort your dying dog
Stay close to them
In many cases, most dogs will seek comfort during this time and may want more attention and care.
Sit with your dog and pet them as much as you can. Talk to your dog in a nice and soothing voice and tell your dog that everything will be fine.
Dogs can be very sensitive to your emotions, so it can be upsetting to your dog if you show your sadness around them.
Try to remain calm and comforting as much as possible, showing them love and kindness.
Even if your dog does not respond to your love, they will feel and appreciate your comfort.
Do not introduce your dog to new people or places
Try to keep your dog in places where they are comfortable and avoid introducing them to new places. Visiting new areas can cause overstimulation and disturb a dog that is already experiencing mental confusion.
Avoid having new people around your dog as this can also disorientate them. When people interact with your dog, make sure they are kind and gentle.
Be especially careful with children and others who may not understand the situation. It may be helpful to explain to your friends and family that your dog is getting older and will not be able to play the same way.
Maintain your normal activities
As your dog gets older, continue to walk and play with them as long as they are able.
As your dog’s health declines, they may not be able to participate in these activities as much or as rigorously, but they will still enjoy their daily routine and have a normal life.
Monitor your dog’s behavior and never push them to do more than they can do. Adjust your normal habits to suit their abilities, but remain attentive and caring.
Discuss with your veterinarian if medication is required
If your dog has a terminal illness, medication may be helpful to control their symptoms or relieve their pain.
Dogs that are sick can often live for a long time with proper medication and care.
Give your dog some Medication
Medication can also relieve some symptoms that a dog experiences when dying, such as vomiting or shaking.
Talk to your veterinarian to see if medication or therapy can help your dog. However, keep in mind that medications and treatments cannot prevent your dog’s death, they can only make your pet more comfortable in their final days.
How long does it take for a dead dog to decompose?
There are many reasons why you may want to know about the decomposition times of dead dogs. You may have a dead dog in your home that you do not want to disturb. Maybe your pet has died and you want to bury them on your property.
Whatever the reason, I’ve created a handy guide that explains how long it will take dogs to decompose when buried in soil or left above ground. I’ve also included some tips on how to bury them to stop scavengers down the page.
When buried deep in the ground, a dog can take 6 months to 18 years to fully decompose. If left above ground, decomposition will be much faster. The speed of decomposition of a dead dog includes how deep, whether the body is wrapped, and the climate.
Here’s what to consider regarding decomposition after your dog passes away.
- Do you plan to leave them above ground or will you bury them?
- What kind of soil are you going to bury your dog in? Different types of soil will have different PH levels, which means that soil will play a major role in how quickly or slowly your dog’s body decomposes.
- How deep do you plan to bury your dog? Will their grave be deeper or shallower?
- What are the temperature, climate, and environment where you plan to bury them?
- Will, your dog be buried inside of a coffin? will your dog be wrapped in a blanket of some kind, or do you plan to bury them without anything?
- You really need to consider how big is your dog. This is important as larger dogs usually take much longer to time to decompose compared to their smaller counterparts.
5 Stages of Dog Decomposition
If the dog is left to decompose above ground, you will watch the 5 stages of decomposition as taken from Wikipedia.
Fresh Body: The body begins to cool and between 3 and 6 hours enters the rigor phase. Blood begins to pool in the lower part of the body in contact with the ground. Blowflies and flesh flies arrive and seek to feed and lay eggs.
Bloated Body: Gas begins to accumulate in the dog’s body, leading to a bloated appearance. Fluids begin to push out of the dead dog’s mouths due to the pressure of the gas. This is also the phase where you can smell the dog decomposing above the ground.
Active decomposition: The worms are feeding on the body and all the fluids will have escaped. Once this phase is over, the worms will leave the body of the dead dog.
Advanced decomposition: Any grass around the dog’s corpse will begin to look dead.
Dry remains: All that remains now are the decomposing remains of your dog, including dry skin, cartilage and bones.
How long can you wait to bury a dog?
A vet I spoke to said that you should not wait too long to bury your dog, as it can start to smell and attract flies inside of 24 hours.
However, you also want to wait long enough just to make sure that the dog is in fact dead. You can tell the dog is dead once rigor mortis starts to set in 2 to 6 hours after death.
How long does it take for a dead dog to smell?
As we’ve already established, dead dog decomposition can depend on the environment. This means that if you’re in a warmer part of the country, a dead dog’s body might start smelling in as little as 10 to 12 hours after death.
However, if the dead dog in a cold environment such as Alaska, and is outside in the snow, you probably won’t get any bad smells at all at just above freezing temperatures.
On average though, you might expect a dead dog to take as long as a day to start smelling.
How long should it take before you bury a dead dog?
One dog expert and veterinarian I spoke to said that you shouldn’t wait too long to bury your dog, as it can start to smell and attract flies within 24 hours.
However, you also want to wait long enough to make sure the dog is actually dead. You can tell that the dog is dead as soon as its body starts to become hard and stiff if the dog is dead for 2 to 6 hours.
How long does it take for a dead dog to smell?
As we have already established, the decomposition of dead dogs can depend on the environment. This means that if you are in a warmer part of the country, the body of a dead dog may only start to smell 10 to 12 hours after death.
However, if the dead dog in a cold environment like Alaska and is out in the snow, you probably won’t get any bad smells at all above freezing temperatures.
On average, though, you can expect a dead dog to take as long as a day to start smelling.
How deep should you bury a dead dog?
To allow a dog’s body to decompose properly when buried, and to reduce the chance of it being disturbed by the wild scavengers, you should try to dig as far as 2-feet down.
In lighter soil that has a sandy consistency, you will need to dig deeper, to 3 feet… for best results, here’s how deep I recommend going with any dog grave.
These depths should also mean you don’t hit any utility lines or pipes near your house.
Make sure you also fill the last 6 inches of the burial spot with stone, then cover the dirt over it and then place stones or slabs over the spot.
This will help protect the dog’s grave from being disturbed and dug by other animals.
Where is the best place to bury a dog?
It is important to choose the best place in your garden or yard to bury your dog that will not be disturbed in the future. This means burying the dog in the ground as far away from flower beds, water sources, and pipes.
What animal would dig up a dead dog?
You don’t want to see your beloved pet being dug up. This is why it is so important to bury the dog as deep as you can because there are some scavenging animals out there that will try to dig up the carcass of a dead dog.
Some common animals that will dig up a dead dog include foxes, wolves, vultures, bears, and badgers depending on where you live. Most likely would be foxes, wolves, vultures, bears, and badgers depending on where you live.
In the United Kingdom, it would be illegal to bury a dog just about anywhere other than your own property or with a registered pet cemetery. If you choose to bury your dog in your garden, you must own the property and not rent it.
British legislation from 2013 also states that you should bury the dog not less than 2-feet deep in heavy soils or 3 feet deep if in lighter soil.
You are also not allowed to bury the dog near water sources or at all if the animal is considered to be a risk to human health.
Heart Attacks in Dogs
Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrition to the heart muscle so it can do its job. If one of these arteries stops working, the heart muscle that was taking care of it gets sick, very quickly. Maybe it just dies.
If a sufficiently large area of the heart muscle is affected, the whole heart stops working and you will eventually die.
With very small areas of heart muscle damaged, your heart may continue to work, but you have chest pain, nausea, and all the other signs of a heart attack.
The most frequent cause of blockage of these coronary arteries is the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque. Cholesterol (among other things) creates an argon lining inside the blood vessel, making the inner diameter smaller and smaller.
This in itself causes the poor blood supply to the heart muscle. If a piece of crude breaks off, it flows downward and can cork the vessel completely. Now you have a heart attack.
The thing is, it is rare in pets to have high cholesterol. There are certainly individual animals that have high cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of blood fat).
They usually will have thyroid problems or other medical conditions that contribute to it. Even when they have high cholesterol, they don’t develop atherosclerotic plaque that will clog their coronary arteries.
Maybe they just don’t live long enough for that to happen. Even really obese human children do not develop such a heart problem before they are teenagers.
In any case, dogs and cats and horses and cows don’t have coronary arteries clogged with garbage.
That means they rarely have anything that stops an artery to cause the death of the heart muscle. If they do, it would proberbly be a blood clot or something similar.
As you can see, there is no real cut and dry answer for how long it takes for a dog to decompose when buried, or just left above ground. There are so many factors involved.
If your dog has passed away, I would recommend you seek to have them buried in a proper grave at a pet cemetery where things like decomposition rates won’t be an issue for you.
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