Do Dogs Die in Their Sleep? [Beyond Dog Rainbow Bridge]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Imagine the peaceful image of your faithful companion curled up in its favorite spot, eyes gently closed, its chest rising and falling with each tranquil breath.

Now, a deep question stirs within your mind, sending a shiver down your spine: Do dogs die in their sleep?

In this post, you will learn more about a dog’s end of days and how you can deal with it when it happens.

Medical Questions? Talk to a Veterinarian 24/7.
Connect one-on-one with a licensed vet who will answer your questions in minutes.

Ask a Vet Now or Schedule a home visit

*Article may contain affiliate links to retailers like Amazon and Chewy. Learn more on our disclosure page.

Do Dogs Die in Their Sleep?

do dogs die in their sleep?

Yes, dogs can die in their sleep. Just like humans, dogs can experience natural deaths while they are sleeping. 

Imagine drifting off to dreamland and never waking up. It may sound scary, but it can be a peaceful way for dogs. 

It’s comforting for (most) pet owners to know that their loyal companions left this world without too much suffering.

What can cause a dog to die in its sleep?

Many things can contribute to a dog passing away peacefully in their sleep. 

Here are the possible reasons:

  • Old age
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Organ failure
  • Dehydration
  • Not eating
  • Trauma 
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Unforeseen medical emergencies

Do dogs cry at the end of life?

While dogs might not cry tears as we do, they can still show signs of distress or discomfort as they approach the end, including screaming before they die.

It’s as if their hearts are speaking a different language, but we can’t seem to understand. 

They might show a “cry-like” behavior, such as:

  • Whine, whimper, or vocalize
  • Display behavior changes
  • Experience appetite changes
  • Show energy changes

Signs That Your Dog Might Be Dying Soon: How Do I Know if My Pet is at Rainbow Bridge?

Signs That Your Dog Might Be Dying Soon

How can you tell if a dog is approaching the end of its life?

The following signs may suggest a dog is approaching the end of life.

Difficulty breathing

One of the telltale signs may be difficulty breathing.

You may notice their breaths becoming labored, shallow, or rapid.


Sometimes, dogs might lose control over their bladder or bowels.

This can happen because their muscles are getting weaker or their nerves aren’t working properly.

Does not eat or drink anymore

Dogs usually love to eat and drink but if they stop doing so, it’s a clear sign that they’re not feeling well, in pain, or getting weaker.

Drastic weight loss

Your canine can experience a sudden loss of a lot of weight without trying. 

If they’re getting much skinnier and there’s no apparent reason, it might be a sign of different health issues like organ problems, cancer, or changes in how their body works.

Unable to coordinate

Sometimes, dogs may have trouble walking or become wobbly, like trying to walk on a tightrope without balance.

It can happen if their muscles are weak or their nerves aren’t sending the right signals.

Severe lethargy and depression

Your paw pals are usually full of energy, wagging their tails and ready to play. 

But it could be a sign that their health and energy are slowly fading if they seem:

  • Extremely tired
  • Uninterested
  • Sad for a long time

Gum color changing

Check your pup’s gums, they can give you clues. 

It might mean insufficient blood flow if the gums turn pale or white.

And if they turn blue or purple, it could mean insufficient oxygen.

Yellowing of the skin and eyes

If your dog suddenly turns yellow, their skin, gums, and eyes turn yellow, it’s jaundice.

It can happen when the liver or gallbladder isn’t working properly.

Natural causes of death in dogs

Just like grandparents, dogs can live long and happy lives.

But as they get older, their bodies may wear out, and this can sometimes lead to a peaceful goodbye during sleep.

Age-related illnesses

Older dogs’ most common health problems are dementia, arthritis, and cancer (which sometimes causes a dog to smell before they pass on).

Other issues include heart disease, kidney failure, and liver disease—some of which can lead to a peaceful death.

Progressive health decline

Your fur buddy has organs that do essential jobs, like a heart that pumps blood and lungs that help them breathe.

If a dog’s organs decline to work properly, they might peacefully pass on while dreaming of chasing squirrels.

Sudden Death in Dogs

Life is full of surprises, and sadly, some dogs can have unexpected deaths while catching some Z’s.

Below are some examples:

Cardiac arrest and heart conditions

Your canine can have heart problems, leading to cardiac arrest and unexpected endings.

Here are a couple of heart issues:

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Imagine your heart getting bigger and weaker, like a balloon losing its air. That’s what happens with DCM.

It is a condition where the heart muscles become thin and stretched out, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood effectively to the body, just like trying to blow up a balloon with a small hole.

Certain breeds are more prone to this condition, such as:

  • Newfoundlands
  • St. Bernards
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Great Danes
  • Irish Wolfhounds
  • Boxers
  • English Cocker Spaniels

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Picture your heart muscles becoming too thick. But, in this case, the thickened muscles can cause problems.

It’s like trying to fit through a narrow doorway with broad shoulders. It challenges the heart to pump blood properly.

Breeds like Boston Terriers are more prone to HCM.

DCM and HCM can put a dog’s heart at risk, making it more likely for sudden, unexpected endings.

Acute health emergencies

Dogs can have unexpected medical emergencies like:

  • Stroke

A stroke happens when there’s a disruption in the blood flow to the brain, causing confusion and damage, affecting the dog’s ability to move or think properly. 

In some cases, it might even cause a dog to walk around in circles before they die.

These unexpected events can happen while they’re peacefully dozing off.

  • Aneurysm

Picture blood vessels as tiny pipes carrying precious water. Sometimes, these pipes can weaken and develop a bulge, like a balloon filled with too much air. 

This bulge is an aneurysm; if it bursts, it’s like a water pipe suddenly bursting open. The burst can cause internal bleeding and seriously risk the dog’s health. 

These unexpected emergencies can happen when they least expect it, even during their peaceful slumber.

Should You Consider Euthanizing Your Dog?

Deciding whether to say goodbye to your doggie is a tough choice.

You can ask your vet, and they will help you make the best decision by considering your dog’s health, feelings, and happiness.

Hey there, sorry to interrupt but I wanted to tell you about an online vet service I’ve been using for years.

An in-person visit with one is great, but it’s not always an option.

Now, thanks to technology, you can speak to one without leaving your home.

Remote access
Avoidance of travel
Reduced stress for pets
Immediate access to experts
Quick response time
Schedule appointments easily

Got something to ask a vet?
Talk to one anytime, 24/7.


* Don’t use this service for emergencies.

Alternatively, a vet can come out to you instead (exclusive to our readers: use THEVETS15 for 15% off).


Thank you. The rest of the article continues below.

When is the right time to euthanize my dog?

You should think about a few things with the help of your veterinarian:

  • Quality of life: Look for signs that our dog may be in pain, uncomfortable, or not enjoying things they used to love.
  • Pain and suffering: Find out from the veterinarian if your dog is experiencing a lot of pain or suffering without remedy.
  • Moving and doing things: See if your dog has difficulty moving, walking, or doing everyday things independently.
  • Eating and drinking: Watch if our dog has lost interest in food and water, which can lead to weight loss and being unhealthy.
  • What the vet says: Talk to the veterinarian about your paw’s condition and available treatments. If the situation is horrible and treatments won’t help much, saying goodbye might be the kindest choice.

There is no exact “right” time, but with these things in mind and the guidance of your vet, you can make the most caring decision for your dog.

Where will euthanasia take place?

Euthanasia can happen in different places.

Some veterinarians do it at their clinic, while others offer a service where they visit your home.

You can choose what suits you and your dog best.

What happens during euthanasia?

During euthanasia, the veterinarian gives your dog medicine, usually with an injection that induces a painless passing.

What happens after euthanasia?

You have a few choices. 

You can let the veterinarian take care of your dog’s remains where they can arrange cremation or burial services. 

You may bring your dog home for a private burial if your local laws allow.

There are also options for pet cremation.

Coping With the Loss of a Dog

Have you ever felt a mix of sadness and love when thinking about someone you miss?

Losing a pet dog can be equally challenging and emotional, but there are beautiful ways to remember and honor them.

Ways to remember your pet dog

Let’s explore some heartfelt ways to keep your pet’s memory alive:

  • Create a memorial

Have a particular spot in your home or garden dedicated to your dog’s memory, like a mini museum just for them. 

You can gather their photo, collar, or favorite toy and create a special place where you can go to remember them, a quiet sanctuary filled with love and cherished memories. 

Consider adding a plaque or engraving with their name and a special message. It’s a signpost to mark their unique place in your heart forever.

  • Keepsakes and mementos

Sometimes, having something tangible to hold onto can bring comfort during grief.

Keep a few precious items that remind you of your dog, like a lock of fur, a paw print, or a piece of their favorite blanket.

These little treasures hold a piece of your pet’s essence. When you touch them, it’s as if you have a portion of their love.

  • Photo albums and videos

Gather your favorite snapshots and create a special album or a digital slideshow.

With each turn of the page or click of the mouse, you can relive the adventures and feel their love shining through. It’s like having a time machine that brings your dog’s memories closer to your heart.

  • Write a tribute

I personally think that writing a heartfelt letter, poem, or story about your dog can be a healing way to express your love and honor their memory.

Let your heart guide your pen, and watch as your love for your pet dances on the page.

  • Plant a memorial garden

If allowed, you can choose a spot in your yard or find a peaceful corner in a local park. 

Spending time in this garden can bring serenity and peace, like a warm embrace of nature’s love.

It’s a living tribute that grows with time, like the love you shared with your pet.

  • Donate to their memory

Sometimes, turning your sadness into something positive can bring light to the world.

Consider donating to an animal welfare organization or a cause your dog would have cared about.

If you do this, you honor their memory and help make a difference in the lives of other animals, extending your dog’s love beyond their physical presence.

  • Create a tribute online

Have a virtual stage to share your dog’s story and celebrate their life with others who understand. 

You can create a memorial website, blog or share their photos and memories on social media.

It opens the door to a supportive community where you can connect with others who have experienced a similar loss.

Create a loving online gallery celebrating your dog’s unique remembrance.

  • Support groups and counseling

Join a canine loss support group or seek expert counseling that can provide a safe space to share your emotions and receive support.

In these groups, you’ll find people who have also experienced the loss of a beloved fur friend.

They can offer comfort, guidance, and understanding as you navigate the grief journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do dogs feel pain when they die?

It’s difficult to know for sure, but dogs might feel pain while saying goodbye because of their health or discomfort.

How can I help my children through the loss?

Talking to your children about it is crucial when you lose a furry friend. Use words they can understand and be honest about what happened. Encourage them to share their feelings. Give them extra love and support.

How can I help my other pets cope with the loss?

Your other pets might feel sad too when they lose a companion. Give them extra attention, stick to their routine, and provide toys and treats to keep them happy and distracted.

Should I get another dog?

Deciding to bring a new dog home is a big decision. First, take time to heal. Consider your lifestyle, your commitment, and your family. When the time is right, a new furry friend might bring joy and love back into your life.

In Conclusion: Do Dogs Die in Their Sleep?

I can totally understand how tough it is to go through a situation like this, but knowing the signs and symptoms that may indicate a dog is nearing the end of their life can provide us with the opportunity to offer them the care, support, and comfort they deserve.

This way, we can ensure that our loyal companions find peace and love in their final moments.

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

Share this post!
Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

no more bad dog breaths banner