As I understand it there are various stages of breathing changes in someone's final hours. The last stage involves a strange sounding rattling in the breathing (caused by un-swallowed saliva at the back of the throat), hence the term 'death rattle', this is when death will most likely happen within the hour, (I am talking people here by the way as opposed to animals). Eyes will most likely have dilated pupils and the eyelid may remain slightly open even though the person is unconscious. In my late Husband's case he also started to form significant brown patches on the whites of his eyes.
A day or so prior to death the person often becomes alert and seems like they are much better, even having conversations with loved ones. It seems after this they go downhill very rapidly and are gone with 24-48 hours.
I often deal with Pets that are in the Terminal Life stage and I would say that the most eminent signs of death are depicted by Multi-organ failure. If all your physiological systems fail at one time, you are more likely to die. It is important to understand that death is not a single or abrupt occurrence but a process.
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