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Do Dogs Say Goodbye Before They Die? The Truth Behind This Heart-breaking Question - PawSafe

Do Dogs Say Goodbye Before They Die? The Truth Behind This Heart-breaking Question

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

do dogs say goodbye before they die

One question that many pet owners ponder is whether dogs have a way of saying goodbye before they pass away. Dogs do not communicate in the same way humans do. Still, many pet owners and vets alike have observed behaviors that suggest that canines do seem to say farewell before they pass away. This is why you’ll hear pet owners say they just knew it was time. It’s like an unexplainable, emotional understanding that transcends words.

Of course, many of us have to deal with euthanasia at some point. And this usually gives your time to say goodbye to your dog when they no longer have any quality of life. But what about if your dog is alone when they die? Do they try to communicate to us before they pass away?

Drawing on my personal experience with my beloved Neapolitan Mastiff, Hudson, I’ll explore this poignant topic. Also, we will look at what science has to say about dying pets and grief.

My Experience with Hudson

Hudson, my loyal Neapolitan Mastiff, was bravely battling congestive heart failure for several months. One day, he entered my room, a moment that remains etched in my memory. I was engrossed in work on my computer, but when I looked up and saw Hudson, there was a profound sense in his gaze that felt like a farewell.

It was a quiet, significant moment that communicated more than words ever could. Did he know he was dying? Was he just seeking comfort? I will never have the answer to this question, but I know that the instant I saw him, the time had come. Many pet parents have experienced the same thing. And yes, in his last moments on earth, he came to me. Perhaps it was to say farewell.

In another article, I delve deeper into the topic of whether dogs know when they are dying.

The Final Moments

Caught in a wave of panic upon realizing Hudson’s state, I rushed to get him to a vet, even though it was after hours. The urgency of the situation clouded my judgment, and I hurriedly got him into the car. Tragically, as we were driving, I felt Hudson’s presence wane. A quick glance in the rearview mirror confirmed my worst fears – Hudson had passed away. I pulled over, heartbroken, realizing that his last moments were not as peaceful as they should have been.

Reflection and Regret

Looking back, I deeply regret not spending those final moments peacefully with Hudson. It was a stark reminder of the importance of being fully present with our beloved pets, especially in their final hours. Dogs may not wish us farewell in the way humans do, but they often seek comfort and closeness with their owners when they are unwell or nearing the end of their life.

For most, losing a pet is like losing a family member. It’s like burying a piece of your very own soul. Our guide on what to do when your dog dies can help guide you through the technical parts of saying farewell to your dog, like memorializing and burying them. But, this is a wound that lasts a lifetime, and dogs may know this, which is why they say bye in their own way.

For example, a dog could become more clingy or seek out comfort from their owner more frequently. Others may wait until a family member returns home before passing as if they were holding on until they could see them one last time.

Another way in which dogs may say farewell is through physical interaction. Some dogs have been known to seek out their owners or loved ones right before they pass away. While it’s impossible to know for sure what a dog is thinking or feeling, these behaviors could be interpreted as a form of communication.

Dogs are known for their incredible ability to read human emotions and body language, and it’s possible that they also have a similar intuition when it comes to their own health. Some people have reported that their dogs seemed to know they were passing on and even know when other dogs are dying.

Of course, it’s important to remember that every dog is different, and there’s no way to predict how they will behave in their final moments. While some dogs may exhibit these behaviors, others may not show any signs of impending passing at all.

Understanding Dog Behavior During Their Passing 

A sick dog waiting for their owner

To understand whether dogs say goodbye, you need to know whether dogs know that they’re dying in the first place. Our linked article notes that dogs don’t understand death like we do. However, they do know that something bad is about to happen to them and that you are grieving.

Dogs say farewell, not because they fully know the implications of death, but because they can sense your sadness and want to comfort you.

However, we can’t tell for sure what death means for dogs. Maybe they understand the finality of death, seeing as they grieve the loss of other pets and loved ones, according to Nature Journal. For instance, the case of Nero, the French Bulldog who passed away only 15 minutes after his owner, may show the extent to which canines understand death.

Ways Dogs Say Farewell Before Passing on

When it comes to saying goodbye, dogs may exhibit a variety of behaviors depending on their individual personalities and the circumstances surrounding their death:

  • Clinginess and coming to find you:  Some dogs may become more clingy or affectionate toward their owners. Many pet owners report that their dogs become more affectionate and seek increased physical contact as they approach the end of their lives. This may manifest as cuddling, staying close to their owners, or seeking comfort in familiar spaces.
  • Seeking Solitude: Others may withdraw or become more detached as they look for a safe space to pass on. It’s believed that most dogs run away to die because instinct tells them they’re weak and need to protect themselves. 

Wendy Smith Wilson, DVM, doesn’t share the sentiment that dogs are sparing our feelings when they die off. In fact, she insists that running away results from suffering due to cognitive decline, vision, and hearing loss.

  • Unusual Vocalizations: Dogs may communicate through vocalizations that differ from their typical behavior. Some may become more vocal, while others may become unusually quiet. 
  • Prolonged eye contact: One notable behavior that some dogs exhibit, especially when they are in their final moments or facing health challenges, is a prolonged and intense gaze directed at their owners. Almost as if they’re taking one last good look at their beloved owners.
  • Lethargy, then Sudden uptick in energy: A dying dog might lose interest in their usual activities and surroundings. This could include a lack of interest in toys, walks, or interactions with other pets. However, some may have a sudden increase in energy a few days, even hours, before their passing.

It’s also important to note that dogs may not always understand the concept of death in the same way that humans do. They may not be aware that they are dying, or they may not understand why their owners are upset. This can make it difficult to determine whether a dog is intentionally saying goodbye or simply reacting to their surroundings.

His heartbreaking story shows how Mike, the 15-year-old dog, said goodbye to his owner:

Signs of a Dying Dog

dying dog saying goodbye holding paw of owner

Losing a beloved pet can be one of the toughest experiences a pet owner can go through. As pet owners, we want to ensure that our furry friends are comfortable and happy until the very end.

 However, it can be challenging to recognize the signs of a dying dog. Here are some physical and behavioral changes to watch out for:

Physical Changes

  • Loss of appetite: Dogs who are close to death may lose their appetite and refuse to eat.
  • Difficulty breathing: As a dog’s body begins to shut down, they may experience difficulty breathing, which can be seen as labored breathing.
  • Incontinence: Dogs may lose control of their bladder or bowels towards the end of their life.
  • Weakness and lethargy: Dogs may become weak and lethargic and may not want to move around much.
  • Changes in Breathing: Labored or irregular breathing, including gasping or panting at rest, can be an indication of passing on
  • Drop in body temperature: A dog’s body temperature may drop as they approach the end of their life.

Behavioral Changes

  • Restlessness: Dogs may become restless and may not be able to settle down.
  • Increased need for affection: Dogs may become clingy and seek more attention from their owner.
  • Withdrawal: Some dogs may withdraw and become less interactive with their owners.
  • Confusion: Dogs may become confused and disoriented.
  • Loss of interest: Dogs may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

It’s important to note that not all dogs show the same signs, and some may not show any signs at all. If you notice any of these changes in your dog, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is comfortable and pain-free.

Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Losing a pet can be a difficult and emotional experience. Our pets are often considered a part of our family, and their loss can leave a significant void in our lives. It’s important to acknowledge and process our grief in a healthy way to begin the healing process.

Acknowledging Grief

When we lose a pet, it’s natural to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and guilt. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and give ourselves permission to grieve. We may find comfort in talking to friends and family members who have also lost pets, or seeking support from a therapist or grief counselor.

Healing Process

The healing process after losing a pet is different for everyone. Some people may find comfort in creating a memorial for their pet, such as a photo album or a special piece of jewelry. Others may find solace in volunteering at a local animal shelter or making a donation in their pet’s memory. It’s important to take the time to remember and honor our pets in a way that feels meaningful to us.

Grieving the loss of a pet is a natural and important process. By acknowledging our grief and finding healthy ways to heal, we can begin to move forward while still cherishing the memories of our beloved pets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do dogs do when they are about to pass away?

When dogs are about to pass away, they may become more withdrawn and less active. Some dogs may also exhibit changes in their breathing patterns or have difficulty standing or walking.

How long do dogs typically say goodbye before passing away?

The amount of time dogs spend saying goodbye before passing away can vary. Some dogs may show signs of decline over several months, while others may only exhibit symptoms for a few days or weeks.

Do dogs know they are loved before they pass away?

It is believed that dogs have the ability to sense the emotions of their owners, so they may be aware of the love and affection that their owners have for them before passing away.

What are the signs that a dog is nearing the end of their life?

Signs that a dog is nearing the end of their life can include loss of appetite, lethargy, difficulty breathing, and changes in behavior or personality.

How do you know if your dog is dying of cancer?

If your dog has cancer, they may experience symptoms such as lumps,  weight loss, lethargy, and changes in appetite. Your veterinarian can perform tests to determine if your dog has cancer and what type of cancer it is.

Do dogs typically die peacefully in their sleep?

While some dogs may pass away peacefully in their sleep, others may experience discomfort or pain before passing away. It is important to monitor your dog’s health and seek veterinary care if you notice any changes in their behavior or health.

Final Thoughts

We don’t really know for sure if dogs can say adieu before they pass away. But many people who have dogs say that their pets do things that make it seem like they are trying to tell us goodbye. Sometimes, when dogs are about to pass away, they might cuddle with their owners more, act really loving, or even stop eating and drinking.

Every dog is different. How they act when they are about to pass away can change based on how old they are, how healthy they are, and what their personality is like. When you have a pet dog, it’s your job to take good care of them all the time, even when they are about to pass away.

It’s super sad when we have tell our dogs goodbye, but we should always remember that they were a special part of our lives. If we give them lots of love and make them feel safe and happy throughout their life, we can help them have a peaceful and respectful goodbye.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.