Being told that your pet has an incurable or untreatable illness is one of the most difficult experiences a pet owner will encounter. The moment we all dread, when the autumn of life rushes upon our pet and we’re shrouded in a sense of helplessness.
However, this is the time when your pet needs your support, help and courage more than ever. You must prioritise your pet’s welfare above all else. You’ll be faced with demanding choices, which will require a clear mind. If you’re in this position, it’s vitally important to avoid denial, it will only waste precious time. Trust your vet and plan your next steps.
End of life may be due to overwhelming illnesses that, despite devotion and medical intervention, cannot be conquered. Common conditions include:
Unfortunately, the list goes on. Whilst it is important to be aware of symptoms and identify them early, close cooperation with your vet is the key to keeping a healthy pet and then if necessary managing a pet’s final days in a respectful, loving and pain-free way.
You may wish to provide end of life care at home (also known as palliative care), which is possible with the advice and guidance of your local veterinary team. They’ll help manage your pet’s condition and prescribe appropriate pain control medication.
Working with your veterinary team is vital. They’ll teach and guide you through the process of providing intensive care at-home. This is usually perfectly workable and a great way to thank your pet for the loyalty they have given you and your family. Your calmness, love and strength will be needed to ensure that as your pet approaches the end of its life it doesn’t suffer unnecessary pain or distress.
“Pet hospice care” often conjures up an image of a physical hospice. The reality is that such care is a method of care for your pet, rather than a physical location. You can do this with the right veterinary support, which may include a pain management strategy, physical and mental stimulation and a supportive dietary plan. Hospice care should be used to help your pet end their days gently, respectfully and to say a peaceful goodbye. You may also consider building a memory box for your pet whilst they are still well enough.
The thing we fear above all else is that our pets suffer. We want a peaceful pain-free passing. That’s why pain management is so important. The fact that your pet is not whimpering or moaning does not mean they are pain free, amd so should be closely monitored. Look for these signs:
These are some of the signs we need to keep an eye on, however, the common thread is behavioural change. It is not fair to extend their life for our benefit and the hardest decision of all may be the need to consider euthanasia, putting a beloved pet to sleep, especially if they are suffering or experiencing an unacceptable quality of life. Above all, this is an act of love and a decision that demonstrates unselfish love and care for your beloved pet companion.
Making such a decision may initially seem selfish or unfair, but if your pet is suffering it’s the opposite. It’s an incredibly hard decision to make, so do not make that decision in isolation.
Caring for your terminally ill pet is an exhausting thing to do. It may cause mental and emotional fatigue. If you have a pet that has little or no likelihood of recovery, it will at some point be kinder for your pet and your family to recognise that putting your pet to sleep is the most compassionate and loving thing to do. Seriously ill pets may also deteriorate quickly, turning palliative care into a crisis. The last thing we want at the end of a loving and loyal pet’s life. Quality-Of-Life-Assessment
End of life care is something that can be managed at home with support of your vet. However, avoid being in denial of a terminal disease, you’re wasting the final time you have with your pet. Be conscious that the care is “end of life”, don’t leave things to the last minute, keep in control of the welfare of your pet. Bravely consider euthanasia, remember the adage “better a week too early, then a day too late,” don’t let the situation control you by becoming a crisis which needs emergency action.