Do Dogs Die In Their Sleep? The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out

Many dog owners will one day face the sad fact that their animal companions are ill and will die soon. A large number of them express the desire to have their dog quietly and mercifully die at home “in their sleep.” This conjures up peaceful notions for pet parents of a solemn and gentle passing.

But what’s the reality? Do dogs really die peacefully in their sleep?

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian, and I give you my honest opinion on issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is: to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders, and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me—it can be hard to hear the truth.

How Long Are Dogs Sick Before They Die?

Death isn’t always swift and graceful. Sick dogs can be ill for hours, days, or even weeks. It can vary from pet to pet, so one might succumb after only a brief illness while another will languish for much longer.

A dog that is so ill that you think it is destined to die likely has no quality of life. If a pet is doing poorly and looks like he or she is “dying,” there’s a very good chance that they are uncomfortable, in pain and unhappy. Their breath might be labored and their body may hurt. Their mind can be clouded and their temper can be short. A dog that is not eating, having trouble breathing, acting lethargic or weak, can’t stand and walk, can’t control urine or bowel movements, or is unconscious is “suffering”. If a dog can’t sleep without discomfort or difficulty, that is suffering too. All in all, they are no longer enjoying their life to any real degree.

Some pet parents have no intention of providing additional veterinary care for their dog. They want their dog to peacefully die. This happens in a number of situations. Perhaps they have limited financial resources or the pet is an injured stray they have found. Maybe they have already treated the dog and it either hasn’t responded to therapy or has a terminal condition. However it happens, these animals often end up in prolonged discomfort or pain because of their owners.

Should You Wait for Your Dog to Die in His or Her Sleep?

If a dog is suffering, “dying naturally” can take a very long time and it can be very painful. Many owners say that they want to give their pet “time to say goodbye” but in the opinion of most veterinarians, you are a kinder friend to your dog by euthanizing and ending their life. An extra few hours or days of suffering isn’t any reasonable quality of life for the dog. It is good only for the humans who are prolonging the dog’s pain for their own needs.

The Conclusion

The expectation that your dog will “die in their sleep” can happen, but it is generally uncommon. It is more likely that a dog dies because they aren’t eating and they get progressive dehydration, which is uncomfortable and painful. It is nice to want your dog to die at home but please consider euthanasia if it is at all likely. You have the power to put a peaceful end to your pet’s suffering; doing so may be your last act of love for them.

Disclaimer **The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can’t say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of and are not endorsed by**

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Why People Are Looking for Rehoming for Dogs

Sometimes, through circumstances beyond your control, you may have to think about rehoming your dog. The good news is that there are people out there who are looking for rehoming for dogs.

Many people who are thinking of adding a new dog to their family think that rehoming is definitely the way to go. They would rather find a dog that has been living in a good home. The dog has been well taken care of and it is already trained.

If you’re thinking of getting a rehomed dog, just be sure that you know what you’re getting into. Find out as much as you can about the dog. Find out why the current owner is rehoming the dog. Ask for the dog’s veterinary records. Does the dog have any medical conditions or special needs? Find out if he is good with children or other household pets. Get as much information about the dog as you can before you make up your mind.

Rehoming is different than adoption or rescuing. With rehoming, it is up to you to make sure that the dog has been spayed or neutered, and that all vaccinations are up to date. Always ask the dog owner these questions to make sure the dog is ready for your home.

Rehoming Your Dog

When you have to give up your dog to a new home it’s never easy. But you may be forced to give up your pet for reasons beyond your control. You might have financial problems that prevent you from properly caring for your dog. You may be facing foreclosure. You may have found that you have a pet allergy. There can be any number of good reasons that it is no longer possible for you to care for your dog, and your primary objective is to find him a good home.

When searching for a good home for your dog, always start with your inner circle. Speak to family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. One of them may be willing to take your dog and give him a good home. Talk to everyone you know about rehoming your dog. Sometimes word of mouth goes a long way toward finding a new home for your beloved pet.

Speak to your veterinarian. He or she may know of someone who would be willing to take your dog. Speak to the breeder, person or rescue organization you got your dog from – they may be able to help you rehome your dog.

If you have no luck finding a new home for your dog this way, it’s time to broaden the search. You just have to make the right connections. Ask your veterinarian to post flyers in the office. Talk to local shelters and see if they can help match your dog to a potential new owner. They may have a bulletin board or a newsletter where you can advertise.

Use your social media to reach out to others. Post your dog’s photo or a great video. Tell your dog’s story and ask your connections to share the information on their social streams. Look for adoption websites where you can advertise and ask your local shelter if they have a website where you can post your dog’s information.

Make flyers and put them up in high traffic areas. Post them at the grocery store, the office, at school, at church, and in veterinary offices.

Good advertising makes it easier to connect with a new potential owner. Always remember to list your contact information. Have a good photo of your dog. Make sure to describe your dog and all of the wonderful things that make him so special. The better you describe your dog the easier it will be for potential new owners to get to know him. Let them know that the dog is spayed or neutered and tell them that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. It is always best to have all vaccinations up to date before trying to rehome your dog.

Rehoming Your Dog to Strangers

If you find that you have to give your dog to someone that you don’t really know, you may be worried. The questions just keep going through your mind. Will my dog go to a good home? Will they take care of him? Will he be happy there?

When you are rehoming your dog to someone that you don’t know, it’s good to take precautions. Ask the right questions before placing the dog. You can ask the potential new owners to fill out an application and you can also ask them to show you their home. Find out if there will be children or other household pets in the home. It’s important to make the best possible match for your dog.

How to Treat Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea is one of the most common medical symptoms that veterinarians see in their hospitals, making “how to treat diarrhea in dogs” one of the most common dog owner questions. Before we review diarrhea treatments and various diarrhea medications, we will quickly define “what is diarrhea” and the possible causes of canine diarrhea.

Diarrhea is defined as having loose stools which are often more frequent than normal.   The consistency of diarrhea can range from watery, liquid with some form, pudding, to a formed but softer-than-normal consistency.  Some diarrhea can contain blood and/or mucous.

Diarrhea can be a standalone symptom or it can be associated with other symptoms. Some dogs will have diarrhea and otherwise be completely normal. This means they have a good appetite, no vomiting, and a good energy level. Other times diarrhea is associated with vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and/or weakness. In these latter cases, we recommend that you see your veterinarian to help determine the underlying cause and to get your dog the diarrhea treatment that will work best.

There are many different causes of canine diarrhea that range from very mild or minor problems to severe life-threatening problems. Specifically, causes of canine diarrhea may include the following:

  • Eating inappropriate food or materials (commonly referred to as dietary indiscretion)
  • Infectious agents such as bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal, or parasitic infections
  • Drugs (in humans there are over 700 medications that are known to cause diarrhea)
  • Toxins
  • Telescoping of the bowel on itself (Intussusception)
  • Intolerance of materials in the normal diet
  • Intestinal obstruction that can be caused by ingestion of indigestible foreign material such as toys, socks, fabric, underwear, rocks
  • Metabolic disorders, such as liver problems or kidney disease
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

Some of the underlying causes of diarrhea are minor and can resolve quickly while other causes can be serious and life-threatening. Below we will consider how to treat diarrhea in dogs, when you should see your veterinarian, what you can feed a dog with diarrhea, types of dog diarrhea medicine, and tips for handling diarrhea in puppies.

Tips for Treating Dog Diarrhea at Home

It is important to take special care when treating dog diarrhea at home.

First of all, it is important to consider if diarrhea is the only symptom and your dog is otherwise acting normal or is he is acting sick with diarrhea? It is recommended that if your dog is acting sick and showing other symptoms, you would seek help from your veterinarian. There may be a life-threatening problem and treating dog diarrhea at home is not a good idea. Such symptoms include:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Concurrent vomiting
  • Diarrhea contains blood
  • Or your dog is showing any other signs of illness

Second, we will give you tips on dog diarrhea medication below but it is important to NOT give any medication without the recommendation of your veterinarian. Some human medications not listed below are unsafe and can cause harm to your dog.

Finally, read “what you can do at home for dogs with diarrhea”. This short article contains specific instructions on how to feed a dog with diarrhea, recipes to feed at home, and medications that are safe to give dogs.  

One last tip – the best way to avoid accidents in the house is to ensure your dog has frequent opportunities to go outside. Don’t wait for your dog to wake you up, as by then it is often too late. Offer your dog frequent opportunities to “go out”.

What You Can Feed a Dog With Diarrhea

If your dog has diarrhea but is acting otherwise normal with a good energy level, no vomiting, weakness, lethargy or other abnormal symptoms, then it is generally safe to offer some water and some food.

The recommendation for water intake is to offer free choice water if your dog is not vomiting and otherwise acting normal. If your dog is having vomiting in addition to diarrhea – please read this article on home care for dogs with vomiting and diarrhea. This article will give you specific instructions on how to introduce water and food when both vomiting and diarrhea are affecting your dog.

The diet recommendation for dogs with diarrhea is foods that are easy on the stomach. In dogs, we call it a “bland diet”.  You can purchase a bland diet from your veterinarian or make a homemade version at home. Prescription bland foods include Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d (which stands for “intestinal diet”), Iams Recovery Diet, or Waltham Low Fat Diet.

Are You Guilty of These Common Dog Mistakes?

Most dog owners are great. But sometimes even the best pet parents make common dog mistakes.

Most of the time, the people involved are well-intentioned, but misinformed. Many of the mistakes pet owners make is due to a lack of experience in that particular situation or problem. They may be doing something they think is helping their pets, but in actuality, is doing them harm. Even if they think they “know” their pets, things can go horribly wrong.

And, sometimes, it’s hard for veterinarians to point out these mistakes as some pet owners are very defensive and don’t take criticism well.

But we’re happy to highlight those common dog mistakes. There are certainly more, but here are the big ones.

The Top 5 Common Dog Mistakes

1. Skipping the Yearly Checkup

Thinking about skipping the veterinary dog checkup this year? Think again. It’s a good practice to take your dog to the veterinarian once a year, and skipping the visit could mean you miss out on preemptively spotting a health issue. Skipping an examination can also mean that your dog doesn’t get shots he needs to stay healthy.

An annual dog checkup means a routine examination to make sure everything in your dog’s body is working properly, and that nothing is wrong. Without it, your dog’s overall health could be at risk. The visit to the veterinarian won’t be time consuming or expensive, especially if your dog has insurance.

2. Not Having an ID Tag or Microchip

Some form of identification for your pet is vital. Of the millions of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters around the country, an estimated 30 percent of them are lost pets whose owners cannot be found. Shelters only hold “stray” animals for a short time — sometimes only for a few days. Without identification, they are inevitably euthanized unless adopted out.

Identification has evolved over the years, from collar tags to tattoos and implanted microchips. All are available at a reasonable cost. But which one is best?

The short answer: combine the traditional collar tag with either a tattoo or a microchip. The reason is that the average person who finds a lost dog may not know to look for a tattoo and won’t be able to detect the microchip without a scanner. Often, the effort to contact the owner depends on how easy it is to do so.

Collar tags can provide immediate contact information. Along with the ID tag, your dog should wear his license, which indicates that he has been vaccinated against rabies.

3. Allowing Dogs to Run Free

Some dogs are just born to run. Although the reasons for running away are varied, there are a couple of common themes. Dogs run away either to get to a better place where something rewarding may happen, or to escape from a real or perceived danger.

But when the neighborhood is concrete or tarmac and is seething with automobiles and trucks, this can present a problem. Free-ranging dogs get into a lot of trouble in our society and a good number of them wind up in the pound. For this reason, a wandering dog is not a good dog — not in the long run anyway.

Dogs that are permitted to “run free” often get into trash, ingest toxins, or are traumatized by being hit by a car or getting in a fight with another animal. Or an animal control officer tracks them down. Keeping a dog within a fenced in yard or on a leash can prevent this.


4. Skimping on Nutrition

Good nutrition is no accident. It takes time and patience to learn what your dog needs to stay healthy, happy, and active. It also takes dedication and perseverance to make sure your dog eats what he should, rather than what he wants.

It’s vital that your dog eats a complete and balanced diet. He needs fresh water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. The most important nutrient is water, which makes up 60 percent of a dog’s weight. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are necessary for energy; minerals are important for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, among other things; and vitamins are important to help your dog process biochemicals.

How to Dog Proof Your Home

Getting a new dog is an incredibly exciting time for you and your family. But do you know how to dog proof your home so your new friend doesn’t get into trouble?

Dogs can be playful and curious, and while it can be fun at first, it can quickly turn into a problem. Ever seen the classic movie scene where the family dog strews garbage across the kitchen? Dogs are known for getting into things they shouldn’t, and if you’re not well-prepared, your kitchen could resemble that scene.

Just like when you bring a new baby home, your house is full of dangers for a new dog. Whether they’re a little puppy or a old timer, your dog is going to take some time to adjust to his new environment, so the easier you can make it for him to get used to his new home the better.

If you already have a dog, it’s not too late to make sure they stay safe. Often dog owners make a stronger effort to dog proof their homes after something happens — something that they could have prevented. From chewing through cords, eating a twist tie that was dropped, to even chewing through their cages, many dog owners don’t expect their pet to be destructive until he is. Our advice? Be prepared for anything. Your dog might appear to be the perfect angel, but give him a chance and he’ll rip apart every last magazine you keep in the house.

Learning how to dog proof your home can be difficult because you might not know if you have to do a lot or a little — it all depends on the size of your home, the size of your dog, how much access you’re going to give your new dog, and how many potential dangers are in your home.

The basics of how to dog proof your home mean getting rid of anything that could be poisonous or cause harm to your dog, or at least putting it out of reach. Chemicals are a big one, whether it’s cleaning supplies or the infamous antifreeze, it all needs to be up and in cabinets where your dog will never be able to reach them.

Next, you’ll want to make sure that all small spaces that a dog could squeeze into are blocked. The last thing you want is your dog getting behind the couch and eating something he shouldn’t, or accidentally knocking something over. If your dog is a larger breed this might not be as much of an issue, but you should be wise that some puppies will go out of their way to get something they want on the ground.

The easiest way to approach dog proofing your home is to think of your dog like a perpetual toddler. Medications and foods that can make them sick need to be out of sight and out of mind. Baby proofing methods are so similar because the tools we use to keep our kids out of the cabinets work just as well on our dogs. Gates, covers for cords, and safety locks are all very effective in keeping your dog out of places he shouldn’t be.

How to Dog Proof Your Home — A Clean Home is a Happy Home

Another good way to keep your dog safe in your home is to make an effort to keep things clean and organized. Messes are just an opportunity for your dog to find something he shouldn’t. Your favorite shoes or new socks are all at risk if they’re left out, so it’s better to find a way to keep your rooms clean. Everything that has a place should be in a place where a curious snout can’t reach it.

You can find plenty of ways to keep things neat, but even after all that effort, leaving your dog out when you’re not home can also lead to disaster. Unsupervised dogs see the world as their oyster. Couch cushions? Shredded. Get a crate for your dog and put in the time to crate train him. Avoid walking in on your dog’s in the act, and keep him safe by keeping him locked in his crate while you’re gone. Eating something he shouldn’t can lead to serious consequences, especially if he’s not able to pass it.

When you’re learning how to dog proof your home, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Dog proofing your home might not be the cheapest part of owning a dog, but it’s definitely one of the smartest. Your dog needs protection because he doesn’t know any better, so it’s up to you to make sure he stays safe. Give yourself the peace of mind you deserve so you can spend quality time with your dog rather than worrying about what he’s doing every second.

Tips for Introducing A New Dog into the Home

Here is a tip from one of our users:

I am a foster home for my local animal shelter so I get a “new” dog every other month. I have 2 dogs of my own as well. One foster I took in a while back was a very sweet girl, very loving and very playful. But for some reason she was very afraid of other dogs and would often growl at my dogs. My dogs would smell her and stay very close to her, like she was invading their grounds (even though this was nothing new to my dogs–they just weren’t sure about this dog).

I don’t remember why I did it but I had to take this dog to the vet and couldn’t find an extra collar so I took the one off of one of my dogs for the foster dog to wear. Anyway, when we got home from wherever we went I took her into the yard. My dogs smelled her, smelled the collar and then walked away. My longhaired dog now wears two collars and when I go to pick up a new foster from the shelter I take one of them off and use it on the foster I bring home. By the time we get home she has the scent of my other dog, almost the “I belong” smell and it makes introductions a lot easier. It adds a bit of comfort to me when bringing in a new dog.


“Enough is Enough” – Signs of Stress in Dogs

When dogs are feeling stressed or uncomfortable it is written all over their bodies. Dogs don’t bite without warning. They always communicate their discomfort through body language before exhibiting aggressive behavior. Your job is to learn to read your dog’s body language so you can interpret what he is saying and intervene when necessary. Once you are adept at interpreting the messages your dog is sending, give the dog space when you see the signs that your dog is uncomfortable.

Common signs of stress include:

  • Lip Licking
  • Yawning
  • Freezing
  • Turning Away
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Whale Eye – showing the white part of their eye

If you recognize your dog is uncomfortable, remove him from the situation and give him space. Utilize his crate or his “room” – a safe, quiet place divided by a baby gate. Once your dog is relaxed and the trigger of his stress is gone, allow him to rejoin the family. This isn’t a punishment for your dog, nor will he learn to be more afraid. Advocating for him in this manner will teach him that there is no need to progress his behavior because you are in control of the situation.

A professional trainer can help develop a plan of action to address a dog’s specific stressors. Do not hesitate to bring in a professional if you see your dog demonstrate signs of stress. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is a great resource.



Tip on Dog Adoption

Are you thinking about getting a new dog? There are several factors to consider before you bring a dog into your home. If so, there are several things you should consider when getting a dog including:

1. Are you ready for a dog?
2. Do you have enough money for a dog?
3. When is the wrong time to get a dog?
4. What kind of dog should you get?
5. What age is best for you?
6. Where do you get your dog?
7. Is adoption right for you?
8. What's in an adoption contract?
9. How do I choose between dogs?
10. How do I plan to include the dog in my home?
11. What do I need before taking my new dog home?

Tip on Vomiting in Dogs

Some dogs can vomit occasionally. A common question owners ask is when should you worry? If a dog vomits more than once in a day, the vomiting is associated with other signs including lethargy, diarrhea or not eating or there is blood in the vomit, then it is time to worry.

For more information on vomiting, go to Vomiting in Dogs.

Heat Index Tip

Heat index is the apparent or perceived temperature of the environment and is associated with humidity. As humidity increases, the temperature seems hotter than it actually is. As the heat index rises, the potential for heatstroke increases. In humid environments, it is more difficult for dogs to cool themselves. Use precautions to avoid heat injury, especially when the temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce exercise and limit times outdoors. Air conditioning and fans can help keep your pet cool.

For more information, please read the story Keeping your Dog Cool in the Summer.