Sadly, our pets aren't immortal, and eventually, we will need to part ways. In this article, our Grass Valley vets discuss hospice care and end-of-life care for pets.
Why is Hospice Care Necessary?
The typical length of life for cats in the United States is on average 12-18 years, while dogs live an average of 10-13 years. Humans have a life expectancy of 78 years which means that you are most likely to outlive any pets that you may own.
Hospice care has become available in order to make this easier for both humans and animals.
Hospice care is administered when the decision is made that there are either no more viable medical options or that further treatment is causing more suffering with little to no chance of recovery. At this point, it is all about making the pet as comfortable as possible.
Along with hospice care, you will also have euthanasia to think about. Determining when to euthanize a dog or cat can be tremendously difficult for pet owners. A veterinarian may recommend euthanasia, which is a humane death, when other options to reduce pain and distress are no longer helpful. Euthanasia may be recommended when you least expect it, such as if your pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness or if they’ve been in a debilitating accident.
When Should You Seek Hospice Care For Your Pet?
This type of care is normally set aside for animals, those with medical conditions that are not treatable, those whose condition affects their quality in an extremely negative fashion, and those who are at the end of their lifespan.
What Does Hospice Care Include?
Hospice care involves making your pet as comfortable as possible during the last stage of their life. This can include a comprehensive quality-of-life exam, prescribing medication and food for pain management, and finally offering humane euthanasia.
Your Pet's Quality of Life
When your pet's quality of life begins to decline it can be tough to come to terms with. But what does the quality of life look like for your pet? Each pet is different and will have different signs that they are nearing the end of their natural life.Some examples of activities that your pet may enjoy when they have a good quality of life could include:
- Taking walks
- Playtime with toys or outside
- Healthy eating habits
- Acknowledging your presence around them
- Hiding from you or other loved ones
- Losing weight quickly
- Sleeping more often than usual
When To Think About Euthanasia For Your Pet
Once you begin to see a decrease in the activities that your pet enjoys and an increase in the negative signs that appear near the end of life then it may be time to start thinking about euthanasia.
This is a difficult issue to discuss due to the topic's emotional weight. The choice is yours if you prefer to have your pet pass away naturally in the comfort of their own home or painlessly at your vet's office. Your vet team will do their best to accommodate your choice.
If you are choosing to make use of the painless method by taking your pet to your vet you will need to make some decisions. The first decision is when to have the procedure done. At Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital we usually try to book these appointments for times when the office isn't busy to help this event be as calm as possible.
Your next decision is who will be in office when it happens. Some people want to be with their pets until the end and some people cannot handle that type of situation. There is no judgment for your level of comfort with the concept of death.
If you have children we will leave it up to your best judgment on the emotional maturity of your kids and whether you want them present to understand what is happening to their pet.
Sometimes if there are multiple pets in the house some owners find that it helps to bring their other pets so that they can sniff and understand that their friend has passed on.
After Your Pet Has Passed Away
Because this is an emotional time, we recommend planning for this step in advance. There are several options for what to do with your beloved pet's remains including burial, cremation, and aquamation. You may wish to have a memorial service for your beloved pet.
No matter what you choose to do we recommend that you have a support network to help you through the grieving process.
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.