Our pets just don’t live long enough, and as unfair as it seems, we need to recognise when to help them be comfortable and pass peacefully. It’s one job that veterinarians are blessed to be able to do for your pet, even though there is always some sadness at making this decision.
What are some of the clues that help you decide?
Lethargy That Just Won’t Quit
Any time your pet is listless or lethargic … not “acting like himself” you can be sure he’s not feeling well for some reason.
In particular, lying in one spot for long periods of time, especially one that is kind of quiet and isolated, can be a sign (especially in cats that like to isolate and lie by themselves).
If you live in a city or suburb, and your dog doesn’t have an outside option, you might find he chooses a weird spot you’ve never seen him use for a nap. Another friend’s dog curled up in their laundry room for his last days. It only made sense when she realised how it was out of the way, out of traffic, and afforded him maximum privacy from his beloved small human family members in their busy house.
If a dog is near the end, they may not want to get up from their spot, even for their most favoritest, favoritest things, like toys, treats, and offers to go for a walk. They might not even seem happy to see family members. If your dog has been sort of puddling up in a pile of lethargic, disinterested misery, and it’s been more than a day, that can be an early warning sign that she is getting ready to leave this life.
Lack of Interest in Food and/or Water
It’s the rare dog that doesn’t want to eat. Sometimes, nausea from cancer treatments (or cancer itself) can be the culprit. Other health conditions, medications, and even foods can certainly cause temporary nausea, too.
If your pet stops drinking water, that’s another sign that she is possibly nearing the end. At the end of life, our organs start shutting down, and as a result, the brain just stops sending us hunger and thirst signals. There’s no point in taking food and water that can’t be digested and then used by the body.
Dogs that are near the end of their life often become very disoriented, so if your dog does get up and move around, she may stumble, wobble, or collapse. You may find him shaking, or even having what looks like a seizure, as his muscles tremble and discharge energy.
Losing Control of Bowels and/or Incontinence
A dog who is dying often loses control of their muscles (as above), including all the sphincter muscles that hold waste in the intestines, or urine in the bladder. Combine that loss of control with the inability to move with confidence and general lethargy, and you see incontinence. Often, you’ll find your dog has soiled himself without even attempting to get up — urinating and/or defecating right where he’s lying. You might also see sores from the waste irritating the skin.
At the very end of life, breathing often becomes ragged. Instead of a nice, even in-and-out, you might hear great breaths in, and then a long pause, and a little sigh out. There might be panting, or great pauses, or almost a rattling sound as your pup struggles to keep going.
For more information about how to support your animal family members please contact Dr Elaine at: www.animalwellness.com.au