How to Verify if a Dog is Dead (How Veterinarians Check)

It can be immensely heartbreaking when you start to worry about your dog and its health. Maybe you have seen their health decline recently and can tell they are going to pass away soon, but sometimes things happen unexpectedly too! If you aren’t sure whether your dog is alive or not, you will want to try these proven techniques to check their vitality.

Veterinarians will check to see if your dog is dead by checking for a heartbeat, checking for breathing, rigidity, and touching their eyes to see if there is a reaction. If all four of these are nonexistent for a period of time, you can accurately assume your pet has passed.

Now that you have a basic idea of how you can check on your dog, it is important to know more about the processes veterinarians use to diagnose death, what to do if your dog has died, and how to cope with the loss.

Veterinarian Tips for Handling Dead Dogs

To elaborate a little more on the statement from the beginning of this article, there are four main ways that a veterinarian diagnoses that a dog has passed away. The main ways they use to check to see if a dog is alive or not is by checking the heart rate, checking to see if the chest is moving, checking to see if there is a reaction to touch, and seeing how movable your pet is.

The way that a veterinarian gets a heartbeat is by using a stethoscope under the left elbow. Something to note is that the heart rate might be super light or hard to detect so that alone is not a good way to diagnose death. The same is true for breathing. Dogs can have sporadic breathing patterns when they are sleeping.

The next thing that veterinarians will do is they will touch the eyeball of the animal. The body’s natural reaction to having the eye touched is to blink. A dog will blink if they are awake or conscious. This reflex is one of the biggest signs of death and is one that you can do in your home.

The last thing a veterinarian does to confirm death is to see if your dog is rigid. When death occurs, the body will start to change. One of the first things that happens is that your animal will seem stuck or rigid, due to the muscles going through some postpartum changes. The longer the pet has been gone, the stronger and more noticeable the rigidity will be. (Source)

Ultimately, if you are still unsure after you have tried these techniques, you will want to take them to a veterinarian. They are trained to be able to help you and your dog, regardless of what has occurred.

What to do if my Dog has Died?

Now that you know that your dog has died, there are several steps that need to be taken to properly care for your dog and others that are impacted by your beloved pet’s passing. You can rely on those around you to help, this is what friends and family are for! You can also call your vet or your local animal control to have them help you through the process. (Source)

The first thing you will want to do after you discover your dog has died is try to decide how you want to dispose of the remains. Lots of veterinarian places will have connections to places like pet cemeteries, pet crematories, or other burial options. If you want, you can also dispose of the body on your own as long as it follows laws in your area. (Source)

Some main things to keep in mind when moving your pet who has died is that it should be done within a short period of time of death and that it will likely require some cleanup. Your dog will start to smell after a while if you don’t move them and store them somewhere colder or handle the burial process.

Your pet might also have released some inner fluids when they passed away, so be sure to clean the area around them. Moving the body could also cause liquid to leave the body so it is important to wrap your pet in a towel or another material just in case. (Source)

After you wrap your pet in some materials, you will need to put your pet in some trash bags. This may seem harsh, but it is necessary to be able to move them and keep the smell from traveling. The more bags you use, the better. If you are taking them to a professional to bury or cremate them, you will also want to label the bag. (Source)

How to Cope With the Loss

After your pet has been taken care of, there will be more that needs to happen. But the most important thing that you need to handle is coping with the loss of your pet. This process is a lot messier than some would think or believe. The circle of people, pets, and others that might be impacted by the loss of your dog can become pretty large.

You will need to face your own grief. It is normal and natural to feel sad and depressed with this loss. You will need to find ways to memorialize your relationship with your dog. This can include different options like keeping your dog’s collar, favorite toys, or putting up photos. (Source) The main thing that is important is to allow all of the people to grieve thoroughly and give them support.

There are also other options you can rely on like pet loss therapy support groups, finding a local animal shelter to volunteer at, and getting another pet. (Source) When I have lost pets, oftentimes getting another pet helped me heal and continue to have a supportive relationship that is unique to caregivers and pets.

This can also help if you have other pets besides your dog that just passed. Pets can take the loss of another pet hard and have some intense reactions. Some of the signs of this include sadness, lethargy, and refusing to eat or drink. You can also help your pet handle the loss by showing extra love.

With this information, we know that you can help your dog and find the strength to continue regardless of what happens! We wish you the best.

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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