We know when we bring our pups home that we will most likely outlive them. But that does not really enter our thoughts until it pretty much smacks us in the face. That’s what it feels like, right? Our pup was just hiking and playing catch yesterday! Now she’s too tired and lethargic. Now she is showing signs of reaching the end of her life. 🙁
I recently had a “Pup’s Last Session” with a pet who is nearing the end of her life. I was lucky enough to create portraits of Maggie a few years ago at her prime so when I got the request to photograph her before her end, I did not hesitate.
It made me think about my recent loss of Baxter – a 12 year old golden retriever. He was my buddy and was up for anything. He was so lovable and he loved everything in life. I noticed that he had been slowing down, he couldn’t go on long walks like before and he slept a lot. I knew his days were numbered. I just did not realize how quickly that would happen.
Are you noticing slight changes in your pup? Are you wondering if the end is near?
Here are some signs that your dog may be close to the end.
- Loss of coordination or decreased mobility. I noticed this in Baxter. Sometimes it was as if he tripped over something, but nothing was there. He also struggled to get up from laying down on a slippery floor. And the days of him excitedly jumping in the car were over.
- You may notice your pup getting lost in the house or in the yard. There were times I would come out of my home office to see Baxter standing and looking confused. He was always excited to see me. It was like he lost me occasionally.
- Very tired. He may be sleeping a lot which is a sign that your pup is nearing the end. You’ll notice this like I did when Baxter stopped going on long walks with me. He was just too tired.
- Lack of interest. Some dogs shy away from things they loved before like playing fetch, walking, and going on rides in the car. They also may not greet you when you get home. I remember the first time Baxter did not greet me. When I went to him to pet him and say hi, he just stay down and wagged his tail. Heartbreaking.
- Weight loss. This is part of the aging process or could be a sign of an illness.
- Change in their eyes. You may notice dull or glassy eyes in your pup toward the end.
- Labored breathing. You may notice your pup is breathing fast and/or slow or is almost completely stopping breathing at times.
- Body temperature changes. Your pup may be super sensitive to cold and warmth toward the end. You’ll want to provide a way to offset those temperature changes to keep them comfortable.
Some dogs need a lot of comfort toward the end and are under your feet all the time. But others, like Baxter, need their peace and quiet and then on his last day he would not leave the back porch. If was as if he knew this was it for him and that is where he wanted to die.
As always, you’ll want to discuss any and all of these symptoms with your vet. There may solutions to some and there may be ways to make their last days more comfortable. You’ll want to determine if recovery is possible or if putting him down would prevent your pup from experiencing more pain. You’ll want to discuss how to handle the end with your vet in advance to understand the options available to you and your pup when the time comes. But above all, try to stick as close to your normal schedule as possible because routine is comforting to your pup. And of course, this is a time to slow down and share sitting around together. Baxter and I shared a lot of evenings on the back porch during his last few months. I remember them fondly.
Is your pup facing the end soon? Contact me if you are interested in a Pup’s Last Session photography session. There is no charge for this session, and you will receive an artist’s choice 8×12 print with the coinciding social media digital file. I feel that strongly about how important capturing this memory is.
I am available for these sessions in Indiana in the Greenwood and Franklin areas. If you are outside those areas, you are more than welcome to bring your pup to my garage studio. I’ll make sure you both are comfortable. Contact me and we can work thru the details. But more importantly, please make sure you have a great portrait of you and your pup to hold on to when he has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. You will definitely cherish it.
Here is another great article to End of Life Pet Care.