Death is never a welcome event; that is why Brad Paisley said that we should not cry for him down here when he gets where he is going. If we knew the exact day that we were leaving this earth, most likely, we would do a lot of things differently. Nickelback sang they would reminisce old memories and take the advice of a friend who said that each day is a gift and not a given right. After all, we are humans and pride ourselves in having more senses than any creature thing roaming the earth. So, even if we never know the day or the hour, we are guaranteed that it is coming. Given the interaction we have with our pets, we cannot help but wonder if they know when death is imminent. Well, experts help us put this matter to rest by weighing in on if dogs know when they’re dying, and here is what they can tell us so far.
They Probably Can Sense the End is Near
A story is told of how two dogs seemed to know that one dog was about to die. According to Psychology Today, Joseph, a student on animal behavior, described how his family dogs, Sadie and Oscar, behaved as Oscar’s death drew closer. Joseph disclosed that the two dogs lived with his parents and were best friends. Oscar was a senior dog, apparently healthy, and Sadie always slept by his side. One midnight, Oscar did something unusual; he usually slept downstairs, but he woke up and tried going upstairs. Unfortunately, he could not and instead sprawled out on the floor, and Sadie was awakened by the noise. Upon sniffing Oscar, she knew what was about to happen and ran upstairs to alert Joseph’s father. By the time he went to check on Oscar, the dog had already died. Sadie was mourning Oscar and refused to leave his side.
If you can look at the incident, you have to ask yourself if Oscar knew he was dying and wanted to bid Joseph’s father goodbye. Or if Sadie knew the best friend was about to die and wanted Joseph’s father to help. Whatever the case, we can assume they both knew because, according to experts, dogs’ behavior should enlighten us on how they perceive death. As published by Yahoo, Haylee Bergland, a health and behavior expert, believes that although it is challenging to know how much dogs feel or understand as their end nears, their behavior is enough to give us a clue. She explained that some grow clingy and follow their humans around while others remain distant, preferring to spend time alone. She added that some dogs would be very energetic, yet others will lay still with no energy or desire to do any activity. The conclusion is that dogs know what is happening to them hence the changed behavior.
How to Tell If Your Dog Knows Another is Dying
If you have watched “Hudson & Rex,” you must remember the episode where he preferred sitting in the cell with a man who was dying of cancer. Dogs have very sharp senses of smell and can pick up even the slightest change in human bodies’ chemical composition. According to Wag!, dogs behave differently when they know another is about to die. Usually, the most common signs that a dog is grieving his friend’s imminent death are loss of appetite, sleeplessness, hanging around that particular dog a little too much, or becoming withdrawn and losing interest in activities that previously captivated him.
As strange as it sounds, our dogs can tell if a human or fellow animal is dying from hormones that dying bodies emit. Wired explained that dogs have a sense of smell more powerful than the most advanced detection tool ever made by man. For this reason, dogs are trained to detect different diseases, and currently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been trained to distinguish samples of those infected from healthy individuals. When it comes to death detection, they do not need any training. Naturally, dogs can identify necromones ̶ hormones released by decaying and dying animals; hence, the changed behavior towards their friends. You should note that even if a dog detects the necromones, his behavior is likely to change if he has a close relationship with the dying dog.
Do Animals Understand Death?
Knowing that a friend is dying is one thing, but your dog understanding that it will never see the companion again is quite another. Yet even from the many national geographic films we have watched, we know that since animals grieve their loved ones’ death, they understand the concept of death. The way Sadie refused to leave Oscar’s lifeless body is proof that even she understood that she had lost her best friend. Such behavior is evident not just in our canine friends but in the wild as well. According to Seeker, similar behavior is observed in wild animals. The article gives an example of a monkey that fell ill and died, leaving her partner tugging at her body for five minutes.
The male partner then joined the other monkeys, and the female’s body was buried. They still had not forgotten about the female monkey’s loss, so they went back to the spot she had died and paid their respects by sitting there for a few minutes. The site adds that most primates show their understanding of death differently. Mothers who have lost their children will carry the dead bodies around for days or weeks, hoping that they will come back to life. Such reactions have led to some scientists believing that although the animals recognize the animals are dead, they do not understand they cannot be revived. As a result, such scientists believe that the grieving process is not because animals understand death but because it is in their nature.