Why Do Dogs Go Away to Die

You may have heard about dogs leaving their owners and homes to die. If your dog wanders off to die, it is doing what comes naturally. If you have a dog that is sick or old, or a dog who has been sick in the past, you likely know that a dog will wander from home.


Dogs who wander off to die do so instinctively, to "protect the pack." In the wild, an old or dying dog puts the rest of the pack at higher risk of being attacked by predators. Furthermore, certain breeds are more apt to wander off to die.

The dog who wanders off does so to a find a safe place to die. Animals often want to hide to avoid appearing weak or avoid being attacked. In livestock, a sick animal will often try to look healthy to avoid not being the weakest animal in the herd.

If your dog has a tendency to wander when sick, it can be difficult to track the warning signs of illness or death.

Warning signs

There are some common warning signs that owners might observe that can show that their dog is about to die. These symptoms may come on suddenly or may happen over time. It is important to watch your dog for any of the following symptoms, especially if your dog is older or ill.

Your dog may be:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Withdrawn
  • Lethargic
  • Incontinent
  • In pain or whimpering
  • Unwilling to move
  • Unable to lift its head
  • Injured or have tumors

Always contact a veterinarian if you notice these signs. Sudden death is common in some breeds, but these symptoms could indicate a treatable illness.


If your dog is quite ill it might be necessary for you to put your dog "to sleep," a phrase often used to mean "humane destruction" or "euthanasia," two terms used by veterinarians.

It is never easy to choose to end your pet's life. The decision is an emotional one, and it is best to discuss other possible options for your dog with your veterinarian. You should consider several things before choosing to end your pet's life, including the following:

  • Is your dog in pain or discomfort. Can that pain be treated with drugs?
  • Is treatment for your dog's illness possible? Is treatment impossible?
  • Has your dog suffered severe injuries? Can your dog recover from these injuries?
  • Does your dog have an age-related illness, such as memory loss or incontinence, which cannot be treated? Will he or she suffer more from this illness?

Once you discuss these questions with your veterinarian, you will be better able to make the decision that is best for you and your dog. Treating your dog might also keep your dog from following their instincts to wander off to die.

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