14 Ways to Know if a Puppy is Just Sick or if it is Dying

After you get a puppy, you are likely ecstatic to add a new, adorable family member to your home. However, sometimes puppies get sick, and you don’t know if they just have an illness, or are dying. If you are worried about the health of your puppy, take them to the vet. However, below are 14 things that you can use to evaluate if your puppy is sick or dying. Most symptoms are similar for a sick or dying dog.

1. Loss of Appetite

Puppies love to eat and love food in general, even more than older dogs do, so if their appetite changes something is likely wrong with them. If they suddenly stop eating after you change their food, their lack of appetite might be because they don’t like their food. However, if your puppy has stopped eating, drinking, and is refusing treats, something is wrong with them medically.

If your puppy is refusing to eat, something is likely wrong with its stomach. If it just has an upset stomach, it is sick and needs medication from the vet. However, many puppies don’t have an appetite when they are dying. If they are refusing to eat and losing weight quickly, they will likely die soon. If your puppy is refusing to eat but is acting like it is hungry, still begging and barking around mealtime, they likely don’t like their food and are not sick or dying. (Source)

If your puppy is not drinking water or eating, its organs may be shutting down. This means that your dog is dying, and you need to take it to the vet immediately if you want to have any chance of saving it.

If you are not sure if your puppy isn’t eating because it is sick, or if it just doesn’t like its food, try feeding them different, dog-safe foods like eggs. That is what we did when my dog stopped eating and drinking. If they eat the other food, they are likely sick, but not on the edge of death. However, it will likely take some coaxing to get them to eat the food.

When my dog got sick, she refused to eat her kibble. To ensure that she would eat something, we made her eggs and hand-fed them to her. She still didn’t drink much, but we got her to eat something, which was important to us at the time.

However, if you try to give your puppy different foods and they refuse all of them, even their favorite treats, they are dying. They are likely not hungry because their body isn’t processing food or water. Take them to the vet immediately and see if they have any treatments or can figure out what is going on. (Source)

2. Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be a sign that your puppy is sick or dying, it depends on the severity and the cause. When a puppy is sick or has an upset stomach, it will have diarrhea. However, if your puppy is dying, it won’t want to move at all, so it will go to the bathroom in your home, even if it is fully potty trained and has not had an accident in the house in a long time.

Diarrhea can be caused by your dog’s organs shutting down, which is why dying dogs often have diarrhea. If your dog seems to lack the motivation to move or go outside and they have diarrhea, they are likely dying. Take them to the vet as soon as possible.

3. Vomiting

If your puppy is vomiting, it is likely sick. However, if your puppy is vomiting and has other symptoms on this list, they are likely dying.

If your puppy is vomiting, try to give them foods or treats that will settle their stomach. Give them plenty of cold water, and let them sit outside in the grass, as long as it doesn’t have any chemicals or pesticides on it. Puppies eat grass to help settle their stomach.

However, if your puppy only throws up once they are likely not sick, they just ate too fast or something similar. Sometimes, if a puppy eats too much grass too quickly, it will gag or throw up soon afterward.

If your puppy vomits for multiple days, it may be sick or have an allergy that you are not aware of. Their food may contain something they are allergic to, which is making them throw up. Take them to the vet as soon as possible.

4. Puppy is Lethargic

If your puppy is sick or lethargic, it is sick and possibly dying. When puppies don’t feel well, they become lethargic and will typically stay in one spot all day, even if you try to tempt them with their favorite foods and toys. If they are sick, they won’t want to play or go on a walk even if they typically enjoy it. They also won’t walk as fast as they normally do, although that may be difficult to notice depending on how fast or slow they walk when they are lethargic. (Source)

When my dog got sick and right before she died, she became extremely lethargic. She didn’t want to play or go on walks. She didn’t even get up to greet people, which was extremely unusual as she typically always greeted everyone at the door, especially my parents. When I tried to take her on a short walk, she got so tired that she laid down in the middle of the road and refused to move for a few minutes, even though I tried to coax her to the sidewalk. She died a few weeks later.

If your puppy is extremely lethargic, take them to the vet as soon as possible. They may be able to rehydrate them and give them their energy back.

5. Lack of Interest in Activities

If your puppy isn’t interested in playing or going for a walk, which are likely their favorite activities, they are sick. They don’t have the energy to be interested in their favorite activities. They may also be depressed, but that is considered an illness by many vets.

If your puppy isn’t interested in its favorite activities, take them to the vet. They can give you advice on how to make your puppy interested in things again or give them medication that will make them feel better.

6. Excessive Desire to Cuddle

Some puppies, especially puppies that are typically extremely cuddly, are more cuddly than normal when they are sick. It will likely become excessive, so you will definitely notice that something is not normal with your dog.

This is also the case when a puppy is dying. They will likely want to be with you as much as possible because they know that they are dying, and they want to be with you as much as possible. They also want to comfort you in any way that they can. However, this is not the case with all dogs.

7. Wants to Be Alone

If your puppy wants to be alone, even after they have acclimated to your home and those who live there, they are likely sick or dying. When they are sick, they will stay off to the side of the room. They may wag their tail when you approach and lift their head, but they won’t do much else.

If your dog is dying, it will likely hide so it can be alone, especially if they are in pain. They will hide in extremely comfortable spots that they are familiar with. If your puppy starts hiding seemingly without cause, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

8. Repeated Serious Illnesses

If your puppy has gotten sick before and they have the same illness again, they are likely dying, especially if it was a serious illness.

When my dog was diagnosed with diabetes, she became lethargic and stopped eating. The vet rehydrated her and she got better, but just before she died she became extremely lethargic once more. The vet said that they could rehydrate her again and see if it helped, but there wasn’t much else they could do. She died a few days later.

My other dog had epilepsy, which was a surprise when he was first diagnosed. Shortly before he died, he had 50 seizures in 3 days. He had had days with multiple seizures before, but the number and frequency were increasing. He was not recovering mentally from them, and he seemed miserable. The medical condition became worse, up until he died.

9. Loss of Mobility

If your dog struggles to move and isn’t lethargic, they are likely reaching the end of their life. This can happen to puppies, but it typically happens to older dogs who have arthritis or other mobility-related illnesses. If your puppy seems to be struggling to move, take them to the vet.

10. Seems to Be in Pain

If your puppy seems to be in pain, they are likely sick. They may have also been injured, but the pain is also a symptom of illness. If they are limping or whining when you pet them, especially in a certain area, they are in pain and need to be taken to the vet.

If the pain is excessive, they are likely dying because of a serious illness, but they can be treated by the vet.

11. Lack of Coordination

If your puppy suddenly becomes clumsier than normal, can’t balance, and is running into walls, they are sick or dying. Dogs often lose their sense of coordination when they get older, but when a puppy loses their coordination it is a symptom of multiple serious illnesses. They could even be going blind or have brain damage. Take them to the vet as soon as possible.

12. Labored or Slow Breathing

If your puppy is struggling to breathe, they are dying or extremely sick. When dogs are about to die, their body stops functioning and it becomes harder for them to breathe. This is the case for puppies as well.

If you notice that your puppy’s breathing is rapid, uneven, slow, or seems to stop temporarily, take them to the vet immediately. They will be able to help them breathe normally and diagnose them with an illness or determine that it is time to let them go.

Your puppy is not sick or dying if they are panting when it is hot, they have just finished playing, or have just come home from a walk. Dogs pant to regulate their temperature and sweat, which is why they pant during and after they play.

13. Aggression

If your puppy suddenly becomes aggressive, and there is seemingly no external cause, they are sick or in pain. They may be so sick that they don’t recognize you, so they are scared that you will hurt them. This is caused by illness and neurological issues, which sometimes can be treated by the vet. Suddenly aggressive dogs are often close to death.

Dogs typically show aggression when they are sick or in pain because they don’t want to be touched. They think that if you touch them, you will hurt them. This doesn’t mean you have hurt them in the past, it just means they are injured, sick, and in pain. They don’t want to be touched, even if they love you

Signs of aggression include snapping, growling, and biting. If your dog is suddenly aggressive towards things or people that they were nice too before, they are sick and dying.

14. Puppy is Disoriented or Confused

If your puppy is disoriented or confused, even when they are in familiar places, they are sick and will soon die because their eyesight and/or cognitive abilities are deteriorating. Although dogs can go blind early in life, especially after suffering from a serious illness, it is often a sign that they are dying, as their body is shutting down.

If your dog is disoriented, it will likely become restless and won’t be able to get comfortable, even in the most comfortable places. Their sleeping patterns will also change. (Source)

If it seems like your dog’s eyesight or cognitive abilities are deteriorating, take them to the vet immediately. They will determine if they are ill or dying.

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

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