End of Life Care for Pets
As a caregiver of a pet who is ailing, you may find yourself wondering what to expect in the last days and weeks of their life. Watching your pet struggle with illness or old age can be difficult, which is why we wanted to provide some information on end of life care to offer some solace during this tough time.
What Is End of Life?
If you’ve had pets or you are familiar with pet care, you may realize that a pet’s life is loosely categorized into three stages: puppy/kittenhood, adult, and senior. The fourth stage is end of life, and has less to do with age and more to do with the pet’s condition. End of life care for pets focuses not on curing disease, but on maximizing comfort and minimizing suffering while providing a collaborative partnership with the pet’s owner. At All Creatures Veterinary Hospital of Brooklyn, we provide end-of-life-assistance through hospice care and palliative care.
Patients who are considered candidates for hospice or palliative care have one or a combination of the following conditions:
- Terminal disease diagnosis
- Chronic progressive disease
- Chronic disability
- Terminal geriatric status, signaled by failure to thrive
As a patient passes from palliative care to hospice care, it is important to take into consideration their social, physical, and emotional needs. As a team, we strive to work with you to discuss and have a plan for the following:
Social needs – Pets who are at the end of their life still need interaction with their families, other pets, and mental stimulation.
Emotional needs – We want to provide dignity, consider the pet’s will to live, and reduce their stress.
Physical needs – Considerations for the physical comfort of end of life care patients include pain management, management of clinical signs, nutrition, mobility, safety, and hygiene.
If we can address all these three considerations for pets at the end of their life, we’ll be working together to help make them as comfortable as possible in their last days.
Your role as a caregiver to your pet at end of life is crucial. This is normally a trying and emotional time for pet owners. We will focus on helping by making sure we talk about all that is involved with caring for your pet, and that you feel comfortable and have the tools you need to cope.
Other considerations may include:
- What treatments should and can occur at home
- Specifics of administering home care with hands-on instruction
- Your own safety and hygiene
- Discussing your home environment and any modifications that may need to occur to care for an end of life pet
- Periodic plan assessments
- If and when euthanasia will be advisable
Euthanasia is often a decision that pet owners struggle with, and we can talk to you about how to make this decision, and how to help your family and children with it.
When it comes time to euthanize, we’ll be there every step of the way. Our goal is to provide a dignified and compassionate passing, and we have the tools to do this.
Grief is a universal and dynamic process, and is an important consideration as we discuss euthanasia. We offer several resources to help you process grief, as we know that sometimes pet owners are surprised by the depth of their grief. If you need more help with this, we can also recommend professional grief support counseling, if you would like to explore it.
Here are some resources for you in the meantime:
Give us a call if you would like more information about palliative and end of life care for pets. Together, we can make this stage in your pet’s life comfortable and maximize their quality of life.