December 16, 2011,
E.M. asks from Boulder, CO on December 15, 2011
Do Dogs/Pets Ever Die in Their Sleep?
I have a very large (113 lb) dog who will be 12 in February. Her back legs are getting weak, she sleeps all the time, but she still loves to chase after balls, chew on bully sticks and has a great appetite. But her time is limited....big dogs have shorter life spans and I know I am lucky to have had her this long. I am starting to feel nervous all the time about the inevitable. I pray that she will pass away in her sleep because I can't bear the idea of "making the appointment" and bringing her in. In fact, I had a horrible dream about it last night...that it got to the point where she couldn't walk anymore and we were going to put her down. Do I have any hope that she might pass away in her sleep? I feel like putting our pets to sleep has become the norm these days but I sooooo dread it. Any thoughts?
So What Happened?™
Thanks for your kind words. We are not there yet. Bear is still enjoying life and doing well for an old lady--I know that her healthy appetite, desire to play and interact and chew bones still means she has quality of life right now. But this may be our last Christmas with her and I worry all the time. Here's a poem I wrote for her a couple of years ago...it's about having your dog and then children and how I feel bad that I can't give her as much attention anymore.
You were my first, my little girl.
The hairiest baby in the whole wide world.
It was just me and you.
Remember all the things we'd do?
We'd go on hikes, we'd throw the ball,
Romp and swim, we did it all.
I even tucked you in my bed
And fluffed the pillow under your head.
Now I have so much to do,
I have no time at all for you.
You look at me with big brown eyes.
You're bored and lonely--no surprise.
I wish that we could walk alone
And the leave the chaos back at home.
But I am the mother dog, you see.
And now my other pups need me.
And I know that when you die,
I will cry and cry and cry
And wish I'd had more time to spend,
Just you and me, at the end.
But until then, here's a treat.
I'll try to pet you with my feet.
M.P. answers from Raleigh on December 15, 2011
I had to face putting my beloved cat of 14 years down about a month ago. He had been in declining health, and one day, I just knew it was time. The look was in his eyes- like he was begging me to make it better. Making that appointment that morning was so hard, and I was a mess. My mother coined it beautifully- Making that decision, as hard as it is, is the most loving, unselfish thing you can do. I was there when the time came, and I was the last thing he saw as he passed, the last voice he heard. He was calm, not alone, and at complete peace.
If it comes that you have to make the decision one day, try not to think of it as a scary and negative thing. As heartbreaking as it was for me, it was beautiful, too.
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L.A. answers from Austin on December 15, 2011
Yes, we had a dog die over night when I was a child.
I also have a co worker who in the morning found their cat had died over night.
We recently about a month ago, had to put my business partners dog down he could not move. almost completely paralyzed. He had Cancer and had not eaten in 4 days.
The sad part is my business partner also has cancer.. There she was so thin, weak, bald and completely heartbroken. She is the one that said he needed to be put out of his misery.
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G.L. answers from Salt Lake City on December 16, 2011
Yes, pets do die in their sleep sometimes, and it can be a peaceful passing. When I was a child, I had a kitten who had something wrong with his lungs. he died in my arms while both of us were sleeping. It was sad, but I felt like he went painlessly and peacefully. I've also had a dog go to bed in her doghouse and not come out the next morning. She was ancient for her breed, five years past the average lifespan. My best friend's old dog also passed that way. I wouldn't put an animal down unless it had health problems severe enough that it lived in pain or misery.
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C.O. answers from Washington DC on December 15, 2011
Yes, dogs have died in their sleep.
If you have young children it's VERY traumatic for them to happen upon the dog they can't wake.
If she's in pain all the time, I would love her enough to put her down. I know how much it hurts. We put Obi down at 14.5 years...he had cancer and it was bad. I understand your dread. but it's much easier to put them down rather than find them in the morning or during the day....then you need to call the pound, etc. to come get her - when they do - they literally strap her legs to a pole and carry her out...if your kids see that?! what a nightmare.
Sorry - not trying to be rude...but that's what happened to us when Skippy died in his sleep. Thank God I was 17 years old. It was still horrible finding him. We called the Humane Society, they came out, took off his collar, tied his legs to a pole and carried him out. Made me think of a pig roast.
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M.J. answers from Minneapolis on December 15, 2011
yes some do, generally they do not. They are animals and sense when something is not right with their bodies. They will normally like to sneak off to a quiet, secluded place to pass away. The reason being, they feel vulnerable and unable to protect themselves due to the state they are in.
Had a 22 year old cat that loved sleeping in front of a heat register, and that's where I found her after she passed. Our dogs almost always had to be helped along with Euth. Only one of our dogs died naturally. That was after a long battle with cancer. we just made her comfortable and let nature do the rest.
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N.C. answers from Rockford on December 15, 2011
For your sake, I hope she does go in her sleep, w/out pain and while dreaming of chasing her tennis balls and chewing her bully sticks! Making the decision to finally put them down is THE hardest and most sad and awful thing ever. I'm so sorry you are facing this. I have had to make that decision 3x (in a 5 yr period...and one of our dogs was only 6 but very very ill) and I always second guessed myself and my husband would ask "but what if he gets better." *sigh* So sad and so hard to say goodbye...BUT, when that time comes, take comfort in knowing she will be up there with LOTS of other awesome, fun and loving dogs! :) Also, it might be fun for you to take some pictures on her good days and make a cast of her paw print soon.
Hang in there and enjoy the days you have left with her! *hugs*
6 moms found this helpful
K.N. answers from Boston on December 15, 2011
For what it's worth, we had to make this decision in June for our 14yo black lab. Like you, I'd watched him fade for some time. I'd talked with my vet. My husband & I talked about it -- a lot and for months. How would we know? Could we (well, I) even do this? What was the right thing to do?
When it came down to it, I made the call. Our vet said he'd come to our house or we could come to his office -- whatever made sense for our family and would be easier on our old guy. And, honestly, as much as I loved that dog and miss him still, I was saddened by the need to make the choice, but totally comfortable with it because I knew it was the right thing for him and that, as someone who loved him, I owed him a comfortable, compassionate passing in my arms, with people who loved him right there helping him along. And once he was gone, I was relieved. Not because of the difficulty caring for him had been, but because he was free and, I believe, running like a puppy in his next life.
As I type this, I'm tearing up because even though we have 2 other dogs they aren't HIM -- and I miss my big black lug. But, still, I feel really good about how long we were able to keep him comfortable AND that, once I couldn't be sure he was OK and it seemed his good times were only moments in an increasingly difficult string of days, we did the right thing. He was ready, and I was finally ready to let him go.
I hope it's easy and a non-choice for you & that she just goes in her sleep. Still, if your old girl needs you to do that for her, your love for her will help you through it. Really. It'll be OK.
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C.W. answers from Santa Barbara on December 15, 2011
Yes, they can absolutely die in their sleep but may experience gasping that might wake them up right before.
I was a registered veterinary technician and had many clients who had giant dogs who passed away at home. We were called to remove the beloved pets because it is really difficult to handle such a heavy, stiff animal that has urinated and lost control of her bowels on herself.
Please, please when the time comes I hope you consider euthanizing your sweet girl before she suffers too much, this is for her not you. Thank goodness we have this option for our pets and to hold them and make them feel comfortable until the last moment. This is awful and I'm so sorry you are going through it.
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P.M. answers from Portland on December 15, 2011
It is a tough situation, so hard for the loving family of the pet. But it's often the kindest thing you can do. My mom had an Old English Sheepdog that she couldn't bear to put down, and that poor dog ended up lying for several days in her own pee and excrement because she could no longer stand up.
It even hurt her too much to get her up when my husband and I found out how helpless she was and were going to take her to the vet ourselves. So we found a vet who made housecalls to put the poor dog out of her misery. My mom was grateful – we paid the bill, too, but I am still disgusted that she let that poor, brave dog get into such a miserable condition.
Please do the right thing. You will probably know when it is time. I'm sure that animals do occasionally die in their sleep, but those are the ones that wear out from many, many years of active living. I doubt that a 12yo dog will die that way. So sorry!
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M.L. answers from Houston on December 15, 2011
Yes they do, just like people do. My inlaws little mutt died in his sleep, it was good for them b/c they had just made the appointment to put him down and he died the day before.
Just know though, that often times, bringing her in can be the best thing for her if she gets to that point. I worked at the vet and have seen many animals go on too long in misery. Also, they can make her final moments comfortable and you can even hold her and comfort her as she passes.
I hope you the best during the time, it's always so sad to lose our loved companions! Mine is 10 now, had her before I ever even met my husband and it's hard to think about having to make that decision in the next few years.
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A.V. answers from Washington DC on December 15, 2011
Animals do die in their sleep. My grandmother's cat before this one just curled up and never woke again. We knew she was failing and had kidney issues.
Some of my pets passed naturally and some had to be helped. Either way is still hard. Many hugs to you for having to think about this eventuality.
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