The canine lifespan is significantly shorter than that of the average human, so as a dog owner you are likely to outlive your pet. The sadness of losing a beloved dog can be decreased if you know your pet had a comfortable end to his life. If you anticipate your dog's passing, you can make practical preparations so his last days or weeks of life are as comfortable and happy as possible. If you feel emotionally devastated by the prospect of your dog's death, talk to a health care professional about receiving counseling or other help.
Ask your veterinarian about your dog's likely prognosis and the probable timescale involved. For example, your vet may be able to tell you that your dog has terminal cancer, with probably two to three weeks of life remaining. Understanding the timescale can help you prepare yourself emotionally for your dog's death and make practical preparations for your dog to be comfortable.
Get sufficient pet medications from your veterinarian, and be sure you understand the appropriate dosage and frequency for each medication. Pain medications for a dying dog may include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids or narcotic pain medications. Ask your vet about medications to alleviate loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or stomach upsets if your dog experiences any of these symptoms.
Learn how to assess your dog's pain level using a canine pain scale. Dogs cannot communicate verbally, and may be stoic about pain -- you need to have some idea of your dog's pain level so you can administer pain medications or make the call to have your dog euthanized if she is in too much pain. Your vet can demonstrate techniques to assess pain level, including behavior observation or feeling for muscular tightness or areas of heat on your dog's body.
Create a comfortable and quiet bed and resting area for your dog. This should be warm and away from people and other pets. If other family pets are causing distress to your dying dog, keep them separate at all times. Sometimes other dogs can attack or even kill a sickly or elderly dog.
Establish a regular feeding schedule for your dog. If your dog is experiencing nausea, more frequent and smaller meals throughout the day may help. Soft or blended food -- canned dog food, for example -- will be easier to chew and swallow than dry dog food.
Continue any of your dog's favorite activities -- walks or riding in the car, for example -- as long as your dog shows interest. Keep activities short to avoid overly tiring your dog. During these activities, talk to your dog in a calm and reassuring tone. Dogs are sensitive to human emotion and can become stressed if you are emotional or crying.
Administer medications as needed to control your dog's pain and other symptoms. If your dog's pain levels are too high for him to have any enjoyment in life, euthanasia is the kindest option.