A close-up of a black dog with graying fur sleeping on a pillow

Approaching the end of life with our best pet friends is not something any of us look forward to. But sadly, our pets seldom outlive us. Thinking about our wishes and hopes for our pets’ last days is an important and compassionate thing to do. 

When our pet receives a diagnosis of a terminal illness or has a permanently debilitating condition it can be hard to know where to turn. Our pets are family, and these discussions can be difficult at best, and devastating at worst. That’s why Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital offers hospice care for pets. 

What Is Hospice Care for Pets?

Similar to human hospice care, hospice care for pets exists to provide supportive care to pets and families when a family decides that diagnostics and treatment are no longer in the best interest of the pet. Hospice care encompasses three main things:

  • Physical comfort
  • Pain control
  • Quality of life

Hospice care focuses on the management of symptoms, rather than focusing on a cure. Veterinarians and support staff work to provide education, options, and support until a natual death occurs or until euthanasia is chosen.

More Than Pain Medication

Since the 1990’s, veterinarians have had access to advanced pain management medications for their patients, and the scientific studies to show that lower pain in animals speeds healing. But besides pain medications, there are many methods of preventing a pet’s suffering, including some of these : 

  • Regular subcutaneous fluids to improve hydration
  • Slings and towel walking to support weakened hind ends
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Cold laser therapy
  • Change in diet to encourage a pet who doesn’t want to eat
  • Covering slippery floor surfaces with mats for better traction
  • Environmental enrichment and modification

It’s a Family Affair

Each family has individual needs, and each pet is unique. A main component of hospice care is educating families about how to best care for their own ailing pet. This may include teaching families methods of basic home medical care, and also helping the family to cope with pending loss. 

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

The veterinary team’s assistance in recognizing when quality of life has diminished and helping to time euthanasia is also a part of the hospice experience. Dr. Alice Villalobos of the Animal Oncology Consultation Service has developed guidelines to help pet owners and veterinary professionals discuss quality of life and identify the signs of suffering. In this way, we can have an objective guide to refer to when making tough decisions. 

We can support you, your family, and your pet on a compassionate and thoughtful journey with  hospice care and end of life care. If you have any questions about your pet’s quality of life, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.