As pet parents we are often faced with pets aging faster than we do. With this comes the natural process of disease and deterioration of the body. Part of reaching the end stage of life is associated with pain and difficulties unfortunately. As the carer and advocate for our furry counterparts, we are responsible for helping this process be as gentle as possible on them. This is called palliative care.
When is it time for palliative care for pets?
When diseased or aging pets reach the end of their course of treatment success and options, what remains is nursing care, at home typically. There may have been a diagnosis of terminal sickness or you need some time to say goodbye at home. Extensive treatments may not be a successful or viable option. Palliative care can allow your pet to have quality of life as much as possible, without premature euthanasia. As with our human elderly, the carer has many tasks and will find it quite a responsibility. The aim is to reduce suffering and control stress and pain as much as possible.
Ask yourself if you have noticed any of these situations:
- your pet is having difficulty getting up alone or if they find themselves stuck on a slippery surface
- he or she seems confused and gets lost outside or in a corner of a room or under furniture
- slowing down with activity and they may seem to have a faster breathing rate
- their disease has started to affect their normal desire for regular food and meals
- they can’t keep themselves clean or reach to groom certain places
- you may see hesitance with going to certain places that involve steps or into the car if they have pain
- avoiding interaction or becoming more needy/anxious is a sign they may be uncomfortable or more reliant
- persistent licking in an area or tenderness when touched
- a non healing wound or a bleeding area
- loss of hearing and getting startled or bumping into objects/stumbling
- very thirsty and can’t seem to get enough to drink to quench their thirst
Hospice care is something that may help your pet if you are noticing any of the above situations. This means you should visit your regular vet and discuss the specific changes you have noticed. This may have been gradual and deteriorating over time or it could be acute. Your vet will be able to assess your pets condition and some diagnostic tests can help manage some of the symptoms. There can be some medications which will help with pain or keeping your pet comfortable and clean.
What does pet hospice care involve?
A large part of hospice care involves help with normal daily functions. Maybe they struggle with getting to the food and water if they are kept in a far away place in the house, bring these closer to where your pet likes to spend time and often elevating the bowls makes it easier for them. They may need different food or supplement and fluids as they get older or have different conditions so your vet can help advise you.
The peeing and pooping part of the day can be less clean as before when they were younger, help your pet stay clean and well groomed in this region and they might need help going outside or having a lower edge to their litter box.
If your pet seems lost or confused, try to keep the layout of home the same and avoid moving furniture and this may cause them anxiety. Sight and hearing often diminish with age so more gentle attention will help ease this difficulty.
How can I help my pet and my family?
Keeping a diary will help you monitor frequency and severity of problems. Managing expectations and being objective is important with this time of your pet’s life. Use the quality of life scale to help you assess your pet. Hospice will help you know you gave your pet the best possible end of life care, but saying goodbye is inevitable. Gently prepare yourselves and the family for what lies ahead.
Cherish the time you have left with your beloved pet. Help them and share lots of love and companionship. Don’t force them to be more active than they want, they may tire easily or feel discomfort after enough exercise. Often a gentle massage and cuddles will be so enjoyable for both of you.
After Pet Hospice Care
We understand how sad the end of your pets life nearing will be. Your emotions will be up and down and there will be many questions. Sometimes there are ups and downs and it can be traumatic knowing when to make a difficult decision. Comfort and quality are of upmost importance. When the time comes that suffering cannot be managed it is time to consider an assisted peaceful passing. Nature’s way is not always peaceful or without prolonged suffering.
Please know we are here to help you and will talk to you about any questions you may have. We are veterinarians who answer the phone and have twenty years of experience with all disease processes and can help guide you through the thought process.