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One of the worst parts of being a dog owner is knowing that your beloved pet and best friend will leave this world one day. Unfortunately, dogs do not live as long as us, and this cognition is truly heartbreaking.

As a pet owner, you must have wondered if there are some signs a German Shepherd is dying, which can help you prepare for the worst.

Pet loss is never easy. It can be a very difficult and emotional experience that takes a lot of time to grieve; however, death of a beloved dog is a part of life that we simply must learn to accept.

The Most Common Signs A German Shepherd Is Dying

1. Loss Of Appetite / Weight Loss

german shepherd sitting next to a bowlgerman shepherd sitting next to a bowl

Many dogs experience loss of appetite at the end of their life, especially if they are suffering from some diseases, they don’t feel well, and are in a lot of pain.

Due to old age, the dog’s body becomes too weak, has trouble digesting protein, and is no longer able to absorb nutrients from the food. They might even stop eating altogether, which, of course, leads to significant weight loss.

2. Dehydration/Not Drinking Water

Loss of appetite can often be accompanied by not drinking water. As the dog’s organs begin to shut down, the dog loses a desire for eating and staying hydrated.

However, it is important to mention that lack of drinking water is not always a sign that your dog is dying. This can also be a sign of illness and potential health issues that can be treated (hopefully successfully).

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3. Loss Of Coordination

Man and his German Shepherd dogMan and his German Shepherd dog

The loss of balance, lack of motor skills, and obvious movement problems are some of the most common signs a dog is nearing his end.

Your German Shepherd might no longer have the muscle strength he once had. He might be experiencing some vision problems, difficulty walking and standing, disorientation, stumbling, and falling.

Decreased mobility is very common in older dogs, and it usually progressively worsens with old age.

4. Difficulty Breathing

If you have ever been around a dying person, you might have noticed that they often have difficulty breathing, and abnormal breathing patterns. Well, this is also the case with canines.

Their breathing will probably change to a faster or a slower pace, and you may notice a change in the sound of their breathing, which can either become quieter or harsher. For example, they can breathe open-mouthed or stop breathing for a moment, and then resume again.

Read also: 12 Reasons For Your German Shepherd Breathing Fast

5. Persistent Pain Or Discomfort

A lot of dogs experience pain and discomfort in their final days. Some dogs may sleep more than usual, or on the other hand, they might be unable to settle down and get comfortable at all.

If your dog is in pain, he might also show signs of aggression or irritability. Some dogs remain hidden and unwilling to interact with their family, while you can also notice them panting or trembling from pain.

6. Lethargy

german shepherd restinggerman shepherd resting

Extreme lethargy and unwillingness to do anything is definitely a red flag and a sign that something is simply not alright. Your dog will act strangely, and not like himself at all.

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His behavior will change significantly, and he will often seek a calm and quiet place to rest and nap. He might become disinterested, refuse going for a walk, or not do other usual activities.

7. Vomiting

In combination with other symptoms (such as severe diarrhea), vomiting can be a very serious sign that your dog is dying. It usually signifies that your dog’s digestive system is shutting down, and it is especially concerning if your dog suffers from some chronic illness, such as a tumor or liver failure.

Related: When To Euthanize A Dog With Liver Failure: The Right Call

8. Incontinence

Urinary incontinence (a.k.a., the involuntary passing of urine) is a very common problem in senior dogs. Severity can range from small leaks to large amounts of urine, and the condition usually worsens at the end of the dog’s life.

Your dog will most likely not be aware of it happening at all, and it can be very upsetting to him. Some dogs might do it in their sleep while others while they walk.

9. Lack Of Interest

german shepherd lying downgerman shepherd lying down

When we get sick, we often lose interest in the things we usually love doing. Since we don’t feel well at the moment, we also don’t have a desire to do anything remotely fun. This also happens to our dogs.

The lack of tail wags, sleeping more than usual, dull eyes, and the loss of enthusiasm for dog treats and toys are signs that there is something wrong with your dog’s health.

10. Detachment Or Clinginess

Another very common sign of death is if your dog becomes either too socially distant or unusually clingy or needy. This kind of behavior is unique to each dog, so just make sure that you keep an eye out for any changes in their usual habits and behaviors.

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11. Depression

The lack of mobility, pain, and general feeling of inability to do things that make your dog happy can seriously lead to unhappiness and depression. This is why a lot of dogs that are dying also suffer from depression and anxiety.

12. Muscle Twitching And Seizures

Old, very sick german shepherd lies in green grassOld, very sick german shepherd lies in green grass

Near the end of their life, many dogs can experience muscle twitching or seizures. As they age, dogs often lose muscle control, which leads to uncontrollable twitching that can sometimes be pretty bad and cause dogs to lose balance.

Also, a lot of dogs unfortunately experience seizures. Seizures can be caused by kidney failure, metabolic changes, problems with the pup’s brain, and different underlying medical conditions.

Related: When To Put Down A Dog With Seizures? A Difficult Decision

13. Confusion

Extreme confusion and acting out of character are very common signs of a dog’s last days. Your German Shepherd might wander the house aimlessly, get lost all the time, or not recognize you and other family members.

14. Body Odor

german shepherd lies in autumn woodgerman shepherd lies in autumn wood

When your dog’s organs stop functioning properly, it is normal for your dog’s body odor to change, and start having a different or stronger smell than usual.

This happens due to different diseases, poor grooming, and other common symptoms of the dying process.

Read also: Do German Shepherds Smell? All On Bad Odor And How To Help

15. Temperature Regulations

Senior and dying dogs often have a problem regulating their body temperature. They can easily become very cold or very hot. This happens due to the hormonal changes that lead to a dog’s inability to control his own temperature.

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A dog that is very close to his death will often have a low body temperature (less than 82°F (28°C)) and blood pressure (less than 133/75 mmHg), which can cause vital organs to grow weaker.

Related: How To Comfort A Dog With A Fever

16. Low Quality Of Life

Lastly, the most obvious sign that your German Shepherd might be losing his battle with life is deteriorating quality of life. You’ll notice that your dog actually has more bad days than good ones. The symptoms might appear gradually, and vary each day.

To be completely honest with you, this situation with bad and good days could last for some time, and it is not at all easy to deal with. You’ll have to be there for your pooch, and try to make his last days a little bit better and more tolerable.

How To Help A Dying Dog

sick german shepherdsick german shepherd

When it comes to end-of-life care and helping your sick dog, the best thing every pet parent can do is let their dog know they are loved. Make sure that you keep them company, give them lots of love, and provide them with a comfortable dog bed and a comfy resting place.

Continue with your usual daily routines because big changes can actually worsen your dog’s anxiety and depression.

Consult your veterinarian about some medications and house calls (for example, painkillers or appetite stimulants) that can help ease the pain and improve your dog’s quality of life at least a little bit.

It is also a good idea to discuss with your vet the possibility of (in-home) euthanasia, and whether that would be a better solution over natural death. You also need to decide what you would like to do when your pet passes – a burial or pet cremation.

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Crossing The Rainbow Bridge

What are some signs the German Shepherd is dying?

Hopefully, I have managed to answer your question, and help you learn the important signs your dog is nearing the end of his life, but, oh… has it been a difficult subject to talk about.

Recently, I also lost one of my dogs, Benny, so I know how devastating it can be. Please remember to take care of yourself. 

You need to understand that the grieving process is inevitable, and no matter how hard it must be, you need to continue living and cherishing your dog’s memory.

Just like the famous poem says, “Then, you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be apart”, I truly believe that although your dog dies, it is not the last time you will meet.

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By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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