What is Pet Hospice Care?
One of the most difficult choices a pet parent must make is the decision to let their pet go when it is time.
Whether your furry companion is in her golden years or has been diagnosed with an incurable or terminal illness, dealing with this impending loss can bring many emotions.
This is where pet hospice and end-of-life care from our vets at Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital can help.
We will do everything we can to ensure your pet's final days or weeks are calm, comfortable, and as free of pain as possible. We offer quality of life exams, medication, and advice about pain management, and humane euthanasia.
Preparing for Hospice & End-of-Life Care
Also referred to as palliative care, pet hospice care is administered as a pet approaches the end of its life.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from clients about hospice and end-of-life care.
Hospice & End-of-Life Care FAQs
- What is pet hospice care?
Hospice care begins when you decide as a pet owner to withdraw or decline the pursuit of curative therapy for illnesses that limit your animal's life. Hospice care focuses on making your pet's remaining time as comfortable as possible.
Our vets bring decades of skill and expertise in veterinary care to help you develop a compassionate end-of-life plan customized to your pet's needs.
- What are some signs my pet may be ready to pass?
- Some behavioral and physiological signs that your pet may be ready to pass include:
- Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Change in appetite or loss of appetite
- Erratic breathing
- Is in pain
- Hides or withdraws from people
- Weight loss
Keep in mind each animal is unique and they may not display signs usually associated with pain such as crying or whimpering. They may also continue to eat and drink despite pain.
You know your pet best, so please talk to your vet if you notice any abnormal behaviors and they will be able to offer insight based on your pet's symptoms and medical history.
- How can I help my pet feel healthy and comfortable at home at the end of their life?
During this time, you can make your pet more comfortable by making sure they aren't in pain or experiencing distress.
Have your vet perform a complete physical exam to ensure there are no underlying health issues that need to be treated.
Make sure they have their favorite items or toys within close reach.
Since your pet may spend a significant amount of time in bed, make sure this area has lots of cushions and is comfortable.
If your pet is incontinent (has lost control of her bladder), check their living area often to make sure it isn't wet or soiled. You may choose to use a towel or sling to help get your pet up to urinate or defecate if needed.
- How can I prepare for euthanasia?
After the quality of life assessment to ensure all other alternatives have been exhausted, we may send your pet home with you with pain management medications until your appointment.
We may be able to arrange your appointment time when it is likely to be quieter at the clinic, such as at the very beginning or end of the day. However, with unpredictable illnesses or injuries, this is not always possible.
If you have children, it can help to provide age-appropriate explanations of what will happen in advance to prepare them for losing their furry friend.
You may consider bringing your pet's bed, or a comfortable blanket or pillow, with you for them to rest on.
If you have other pets, you may choose to bring them to the appointment, so they can understand the loss and sniff your pet's body following euthanasia.
You may decide to sit with your pet so you can comfort them while the vet provides the medicine via injection.
- What will happen during the euthanasia process?
You will be asked whether you'd like to stay with your pet for the euthanasia. This is an important point to consider - some people are not emotionally capable, and whichever choice you make is okay.
You may choose to be present while he or she is sedated, then leave the area during the euthanasia itself. You might also ask a family member or friend that your pet knows and likes to take your pet to this final appointment or to stay with your pet while you leave the room.
A powerful sedative will be injected directly into your pet's vein to cause the nerves in your pet’s body to cease sending signals (including pain signals).
Your pet's breathing and heart rate will slow until they eventually stop. This may take as little as a few minutes or up to 15 to 20 minutes depending on your pet, their condition, and other factors. The euthanasia solution will then be injected. Brain function will then stop.
Many pets take a final, deep breath as they pass away. Some will urinate or defecate when they are euthanized due to the total relaxation that occurs.
Euthanasia is not painful for animals. Afterwards, your pet's eyes may be open. If you wish, your vet can close them.
The vet will listen to your pet's heart with a stethoscope to confirm that they are gone. We like to allow owners as much time with your pet as you need following the procedure, and are committed to treating every pet owner with as much sensitivity and compassion as possible. The entire process typically takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- What happens after euthanasia?
You can choose what happens to your euthanized pet's body. You may keep the body to bury personally, have it buried in a pet cemetery, or choose cremation. It may be helpful to consider this decision well in advance.
People and pets are unique, and each may respond differently to the loss of your pet. Children may have questions or feel very sad for a few weeks.
Adults may feel a range of emotions, from heavy grief to guilt, sadness or emptiness, or relief that their pet is free of pain and that their condition will no longer have to be managed. As vets, we have seen the entire range of emotions, and all are valid and normal.
Remember to take care of yourself afterwards. Talk to friends and family, or you may choose to join a pet loss support group. If you notice persistent feelings of grief that are interfering with you or family members' mental health, you may wish to consider mental health counseling.
Memorializing Your Pet
Saying goodbye to your pet is a very difficult decision. Although it may be the kindest choice you can make in your animal's final days if they are in pain or suffering, the process can still be heartbreaking.
You may consider memorializing your pet in a way that keeps them close to your heart. You may choose to hold a memorial service with your friends and family. Another option is to create a headstone or a living memorial with a tree or plant in a spot that you can visit whenever you miss your pet. You may also choose to have an imprint of their paw print made, so you can keep a piece of them with you in your home.
Each pet is different, so do what feels right for you and your family to remember and honor your unique furry companion.
New Patients Welcome
Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for pets in the Grass Valley area. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.