When your pet is nearing the end of its life, they might require continuous care to ensure their comfort and happiness. Our veterinarians at Denver will clarify what hospice care entails and what you can anticipate for your pet when using this service.
What to expect from a pet hospice care
Whether your pet is your first furry friend or one of several you've had, facing the fact that your pet is approaching the end of their life can be really sad and overwhelming.
Maybe they've had health problems for a while and are showing signs that they may not be with us much longer, or perhaps they've been diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer. Regardless of the situation, you probably wish for more time together while not wanting them to suffer.
These are likely some of the conflicting emotions you're experiencing right now - and that's completely okay. Fortunately for you and your beloved pet, hospice care can help preserve your pet's quality of life and help make them as comfortable as possible during their last days.
Veterinarians can provide supportive hospice care for pets with degenerative diseases or terminal illnesses, helping them manage their symptoms, reduce pain, boost their energy levels, and stimulate their appetite.
While your pet won't be cured, this time in hospice care (also referred to as palliative care) can give you two more time together. We often advise clients to consider pet hospice care as a link between wellness care and euthanasia. At this phase, pet owners have made the difficult choice to decline to pursue curative therapies for their pet's life-threatening illnesses.
With our team at Pets on Broadway Animal Hospital, who have years of experience in veterinary care, we can help you create a compassionate end-of-life plan tailored to your pet's unique needs. This includes thoroughly assessing their quality of life, prescribing food and medications to manage pain, and providing humane euthanasia when the time comes.
When is hospice care a good option?
If your veterinarian has diagnosed your pet with a serious illness, if your furry friend is showing signs of worsening health, or if they are advancing in age, it's a good time to explore the possibility of hospice care for your pet. In particular, if your pet has any of these medical conditions, you should consider initiating a conversation about this option:
- Cancer or other incurable illness
- Long-term disability such as neurological disease or advanced arthritis
- A disease for which diagnostics or aggressive therapy options have been declined in favor of comfort care
- A long-term or progressive disease such as kidney disease, liver failure, or heart failure
In addition, it's pertinent to consider whether your pet is in severe pain or is still engaged with their environment, surroundings, and family.
How can I tell if my pet is in pain?
As caring pet owners who have spent a significant part of our lives with our beloved animal friends, it's heart-wrenching to consider that they might be going through pain or a lower quality of life. However, most of us will encounter this concern during our pet's lifetime. If those difficult days start to outweigh the good ones, it's crucial to visit your vet to decide what to do next.
Here are some indications that your pet might not be living their best life:
- Not eating or drinking well
- Sleeps a lot
- Seems depressed
- Losing weight
- Reduced activity level
If your pet is dealing with severe pain, they may gradually start to show subtle symptoms such as:
- An increase or decrease in grooming behaviors
- Panting or changes in breathing
- Shaking or trembling
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Being hesitant to play or jump onto higher services (due to joint pain)
- Other problems with mobility and moving their body
- Hiding or not interacting with others like they used to
- Exhibits aggressive behavior
- Increased vocalizations (howling or meowing)
Remember that each animal will be unique, and your pet may continue to eat, drink, or try to do activities despite disorientation or pain. They may not cry, whimper, or display other outward signs normally associated with pain.
The best way to tell whether your pet's specific symptoms are related to their condition or something to be concerned about based on their medical history and status is to ask your vet.
How can I help my pet be comfortable at the end of their life?
If you and your pet are nearing the end of your time together, we want to ensure it's a peaceful and comfortable period for both of you. Our team's top priorities are easing your pet's pain and reducing their stress.
That's why having your Denver veterinarian perform a comprehensive physical exam to check for underlying health concerns that should be treated is important.
Additionally, you can enhance your pet's comfort by providing a cozy bed with plenty of cushions and keeping their favorite toys close by.
Some pets also become incontinent (lose control of their bladder) late in life. If this is the case for your pet, make sure their living area isn't soiled or wet. You may want to use a sling or lay a towel down to help your pet get up to urinate or defecate if required.
How much does dog and cat hospice care cost?
The cost of pet hospice care can vary significantly based on the level of service and the location where it's provided. Our team of veterinarians is dedicated to making sure your beloved pet's last days or weeks are peaceful, comfortable, and pain-free.
We're here to help answer your questions and address any worries you might have. We'll create a personalized plan tailored to your pet's needs and give you an estimate of the costs for any necessary services. And, of course, we're always available to offer comfort and support to both pets and their families.
What should I ask my veterinarian about end-of-life care?
When it comes to finding appropriate end-of-life and pet hospice care for your cat or dog, you may have many questions. This list may be a good place to start as you consider service providers:
- Do you provide pet healthcare and hospice care services, and can they be customized to fit my and my pet's needs?
- Are there any aspects of my pet's health condition that require further clarification or testing?
- Which treatments or solutions would be best for my pet, and why?
- Are there side effects for any recommended treatments or medications I'll need to watch for?
- Are you able to provide a cost estimate for hospice care services?
When it comes to making end-of-life decisions for your pet, it's a personal choice. You should think about the time, emotions, and money you and your family can dedicate to your pet's care. Acknowledging that your budget may limit your pet's treatment can be tough.
However, finances are a big part of the decision for most pet owners. Always be reasonable and honest with yourself and your loved ones based on your current capacity, capabilities, and values. In addition, do not be hard on yourself; remember that your financial circumstances are not a measure of the love you feel for your pet.
You should also think about what's best for your pet. Consider their overall quality of life, whether they still enjoy their daily routines, activities, and meals. If it seems unlikely that your pet will improve with treatment, it might be more compassionate to consider hospice care or euthanasia.
How can I deal with the loss of a pet?
It's perfectly normal to spend time grieving the loss of your pet and to feel a range of emotions - after all, they were a huge part of your life for a significant amount of time, and you two have shared a lot of memories together.
You may choose to memorialize your pet and share happy memories with others who care about them. Reach out to trusted family and friends (especially other pet owners) for support. There are also many pet loss support groups, such as the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and potentially local groups in your area.
If you have children, you may also consider how to involve them in the decision-making process, as well as conversations and memorials.
If you feel the need for counseling services, look to your local veterinary college for options. You might consider speaking to a healthcare provider if your feelings if you are experiencing severe or persistent feelings of grief and loss.
Pet Hospice Care at Pets on Broadway Animal Hospital
If you've been wondering whether it's time to consider end-of-life care options for your cat or dog, such as pet hospice care, our vets are always here to address any questions or concerns you may have about our services.
We're dedicated to treating your beloved pet with respect and giving you and your family support and comfort during this tough time.
Our experienced veterinary team can check your pet's health and suggest the right care, whether it's a thorough quality-of-life exam, pain management options, or humane euthanasia.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.