Do Dogs Die in Their Sleep? Well… It’s Complicated!

If we have a senior doggo in our house, we often catch ourselves wishing that they pass on comfortably, without much pain, and in the embrace of humans they love, don’t we? While there are medical ways to ease the dog’s pain and help them pass away with ease, it certainly doesn’t feel like the right thing to do to many pet parents despite the medical procedure being legal.

With that, the questions such as ‘Do dogs die in their sleep?’, ‘ How uncommon is it for dogs to die in their sleep?’ often bombards our minds. Sadly, the answers to such questions aren’t straightforward, and there’s no way for us humans to predict if the pooch will die in their sleep or not.

Read on to find out the probable causes why dogs die in sleep and how common it is in elderly dogs and pups. We’ve tried to include all the information we could to provide you with enough information on this sensitive topic. Let’s start by discussing how often dogs die in their sleep.

How Often Do Dogs Die in Their Sleep?

Yes, dogs can die in their sleep, but the occurrences are rare and completely random, and one can only hope that their dog goes quietly without any pain and suffering. Sudden or chronic illnesses, as well as old age, are known to hit dogs in their sleep, whereas trauma-related sleep death is relatively rare. 

Per the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), surveillance showed that neoplasia, cardiac diseases, respiratory disease (primary culprit being food aspiration), trauma, and gastrointestinal mishaps are the top five common reasons a dog dies suddenly. The point is that several health issues cause sudden death in dogs, which can happen during their sleep. However, dogs dying in their sleep due to sudden health issues are even rarer.

Having said that, if a pooch is suffering from a chronic disease, incurable cancer, or is simply old, there are chances that they can peacefully let go of their lives in peace. However, if a pooch is too much in agony and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, the vet and pet parents together decide to stop their medication or euthanize the doggo to let them rest comfortably.  

What About Most Elderly Dogs?

Elderly dogs are more likely to pass away in sleep than young and healthy dogs. Dogs often display some telltale signs if they’re soon about to stop living, and once such signs begin, be it daytime or during sleep, you can expect the tragedy to hit any day, any time. Elderly dogs are also more prone to health issues that can trigger trauma in your dogs while asleep. 

Dogs are expected to live for around 11 – 13 years, and only a minimal percentage live beyond 15. With age, your doggo might show symptoms such as incontinence, increased lethargy, decreased thirst or appetite, restlessness and difficulty breathing, and decreased mobility. Once a few or more of these symptoms start kicking in in your old dog, they might soon end up passing away while asleep if they’re fortunate.

Moreover, old dogs are prone to cardiac failure, renal failure, and cancers. Sudden traumas from such serious and chronic illnesses can also lead to sleep death in your dogs. If your senior doggo is showing severe and painful symptoms, it is always better to consult a vet regarding the best approach forward.

How Uncommon Is It for A Dog to Die in Its Sleep?

While it is completely understandable that you’d want your doggo to die in their sleep comfortably whenever their time comes, unfortunately, it can often end up being an unrealistic expectation. It is not uncommon for a dog to die in their sleep, but please note that it isn’t very common either. 

If the doggo was perfectly healthy before going to bed but didn’t wake up the next morning, the unfortunate accident might probably be sudden organ failure, strokes, or respiratory issues. Sadly, such traumas might attack your doggo out of the blue. And, in cases of chronic diseases and old age, dogs dying in their sleep is, unfortunately, more common relatively.

Suppose a dog has been suffering for a long time and showing signs of extreme weakness and aging. In that case, one can definitely pray that it could pass away in sleep comfortably or use medical approaches to gently put the dog to rest to save them from pain and discomfort. While vet doctors these days very rarely make the euthanization decision depending upon the owner’s financial constraints, they still suggest this option if your pup is suffering too much and there’s no cure to their healthy life.   

Can Puppies Die in Their Sleep?

Puppies can die overnight or in their sleep due to multiple reasons. If they let go of their lives a few weeks after their birth, the chances are that they were born unhealthy or neglected during and after birth. Puppies also die in their sleep in cases of traumas, such as sudden aspiration or injuries that have weakened the pup for weeks. 

While pet parents realize and get time to cope with the fact that their old doggo will die sooner or later, unexpected deaths of pups and young dogs can be unbearably heartbreaking. Especially in case of serious unattended infection, injury, or unbearable pain following trauma or an accident, there are chances that they will silently pass away during sleep. Gastrointestinal trauma, cardiac issues, or respiratory issues while asleep can also lead to sleep death in puppies.

Pups often get sick, and many congenital defects can be fatal and irreversible. If not taken enough care of within the first few weeks after birth, or if the pup has been the victim of cannibalism at birth, the young dog might suffer from fading puppy syndrome. The pup loses vigor and displays symptoms of nutrient deficiency and low weight, followed by eventual death around 3 weeks after the birth. In such illnesses, some dogs might have to face the angst of a painful death, whereas others go gracefully when asleep.


To summarize, ‘Do dogs die in their sleep’ – yes, they do, but such cases aren’t very common, and not every elderly dog dies in sleep. Be it waiting for their time to come in angst or using medical help for the purpose, our advice is to embrace your doggo with warm hugs and let them know that their human buddies love them with all their hearts. If your pooch is struggling, we hope you make the decision that is in the best interest of them. Sending your doggo love and luck.