Why Do Dogs Die With Their Eyes Open? A Pro Explains!

The death of our beloved four-legged friend causes pain and heartache.

Owners often wonder if they could have made their dog’s final moments more comfortable.

Some people ask themselves why their dog died with their eyes open and what that means. Here we explain this phenomenon to you.

In a nutshell: Why do dogs die with their eyes open?

Whether the dog dies with its eyes open or closed depends on the situation just before death.

When you die, your muscles go slack. This causes the eyelids to either stay in place or go into the neutral state – the half-open eye.

Closing the eyes is prevented by two things:

Rigor mortis freezes the muscles
The eye fluid dries and sticks to the eyelid
In fact, there is no deeper meaning when dogs die with their eyes open.

Why doesn’t a dog close its eyes when it dies?

Not every dog dies with their eyes open, some have their eyes closed or only half open.

Whether a dead dog has open or closed eyes depends on the situation at the time of death.

When a dog dies in its sleep, its eyes are closed. If the dog dies in a traffic accident, for example, they are wide open, as this corresponded to the facial expression at the time of death.

Why can’t you close your eyes after you die?

Closing and opening of the eyes is caused by small muscles in the eyelid. With death, these muscles relax.

As a result, the eyelid either maintains its position, or it goes into the neutral state. This is – in humans and dogs – the half-open eye.

Often the eyes cannot even be closed by force after death.

There are two main reasons for this.

The rigor mortis

It occurs after 1-2 hours or earlier. The entire musculature freezes as the body’s biochemical processes are no longer supplied with energy.

Dry eyes

After death, the eye fluid dries up. She glues the eyelid to the eye from the inside.

How long does it take for a dog to die?

It is impossible to predict how long it will take for a dog to die. It depends on the cause of death, which is always individual.

After an accident, the dog dies immediately or after a few hours, in the case of an illness it can take months.

Unfortunately, dogs rarely die peacefully in their sleep due to old age. It often happens that they are relieved of their pain by euthanasia, i.e. putting them to sleep.

Good to know:

Euthanasia takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how it goes, and is only decided if the dog’s suffering outweighs its zest for life. The difficult decision is made by the owner together with a veterinarian.

Stages of dying

In slow dying, there are three stages of dying that most dogs go through just before they die.

  • Dying phase: refusal of food and water
  • Dying phase: increased urge to move
  • Dying phase: convulsions and defecating, whimpering and squeaking

When the moment comes, we must be strong for our dogs. When we are completely upset, they mirror our mood and become anxious.

Even if it’s hard:

  • keep calm and friendly
  • don’t leave your dog alone
  • give him as much closeness or distance as he wants

Do the opened eyes have a deeper meaning?

In fact, the answer to that is a resounding no. Spiritually there are different interpretations.

For example, in Chinese belief, the facial expression is said to be the soul’s ultimate reaction, expressing whether it will go to heaven or hell.

It’s best not to let the open eyes drive you crazy. It is better to use the time after the death of your furry friend to say goodbye in peace and allow yourself to mourn.


When a dog dies in its sleep, its eyes are usually closed. If a dog dies while awake, they are fully or partially open.

With the onset of rigor mortis, the muscles freeze and prevent the eyes from closing after death. In addition, the eye fluid dries and sticks the eyelid tightly.

From a spiritual point of view, there are different interpretations of what open eyes can mean for the dead. In fact, however, not.

It can take hours or months for a dog to die, depending on the cause of death. If the dog is in severe distress, the veterinarian and owner can decide together to euthanize it to put it out of harm’s way. This usually takes 15-20 minutes.

If your dog is in severe distress and you are considering euthanasia, it is imperative that you consult with a veterinarian thoroughly so that you can make a decision for your dog’s well-being.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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