Owning a dog brings us years of joy, happiness, and love. We put a lot of effort into caring for our dogs from the minute we get them. Unfortunately, all good things do come to an end. When your dog is a senior and you’re faced with his or her upcoming demise, you may not be sure what you should do. After all, you don’t want them to be in any kind of pain or discomfort, but you do want them to be with you for as long as possible.
If your dog is close to the end, read on to learn more about the care you should be giving in order to make sure he is comfortable and dignified in his last days.
Is Your Dog in Pain?
It’s very important to figure out whether or not your dog is in pain. Remember, animals react differently than humans when it comes to their level of pain and discomfort. They may not show as many outward signs as we do, so you will want to pay close attention to their actions. Many dogs will still drink or eat while they are in pain. If your pet displays the following actions, they may be hurting:
- Excessive panting
• Not wanting to move or be moved, reluctance to get up and walk
• Picking at their food
• Gasping for breath and rapid, shallow heartbeat
• Growl or yelp when touched
• Become sensitive to normal handling
• Hide from humans
• Aggressive behavior
• Changes in sleep habits
• Loss of balance or motor control
If your dog displays any of these signs, you will want to have your vet check them out as soon as possible. It’s important to understand, as much as possible, about their quality of life now that they are elderly. Even if your dog isn’t in constant pain, they may not have the best quality of life anymore. Have they stopped playing and interacting with others? Do they display signs of depression, such as sleeping a lot and not participating in activities like they used to? Do they hide from others? If so, again, take them to the vet. While it is a hard decision to make, your vet can help you figure out if it’s time to put your dog down for his own good.
End of Life Care
If your pet is dying, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as they possibly can be. Implement the following tips to make their end of life is as happy and comforting as possible.
Bedding – Your dog will likely spend most of his time sleeping. Make sure his sleeping area is as comfortable as possible by giving him a well-cushioned dog bed that is big enough to stretch out on. If he normally slept on your bed but can no longer jump up, consider getting a dog ramp that he can use to go up and down at his leisure.
Toys – Comfort items are a must when you are caring for an elderly dog near the end of his life. If he has a favorite toy, blanket, pillow, or other item, make sure it’s always around him. Some dogs also enjoy sleeping with an item that smells like their owner. Consider allowing your dog to sleep with an item of clothing you have recently worn and haven’t washed.
Incontinence Issues – Elderly dogs very often begin to have problems with bladder control. Additionally, they may not be as fast as they once were to let you know they need to go out. Always make sure to check your dog often to make sure that they are not wet or otherwise soiled. If they are having a difficult time getting up, use a sling or a large towel to help them rise.
Check for Sores – An elderly dog that sleeps a lot can easily develop pressure sores. A warm, soft sleeping spot that has lots of cushioning will help keep them from developing. However, you should periodically check that none have appeared on your elderly dog.
Pain Management Options
One way to increase your dog’s quality of life is to provide him with various pain management options. Your vet may prescribe medications that can help him if he has muscle aches, arthritis, or other joint problems. There are also over-the-counter medications that will be useful in managing pain. Some pet owners also turn to gentle exercise regimens, such as hydrotherapy, when their dog has difficulty moving on their own. This form of treatment allows your dog to gently exercise in the water, taking the weight off of his muscles and joints.
Talk to your vet about diet options at this point as well. A different diet may greatly improve your dog’s quality of life and even minimize any pain he feels. Just remember, an elderly dog will need to be gradually introduced to any new diet or exercise regimen, so be patient with them as they learn something new.
Pet Hospice Care
Pet hospice care may be a choice if your dog is dealing with a terminal illness with no cure. With the use of pain medications, human interaction, and dietary changes, the goal is for your dog to be as comfortable as possible in the end. If you do consider hospice care, be sure that you are not prolonging the suffering of your dog. Again, your vet can help you make the right decision for your situation.
Top 12 Things You Should Know About End-Of-Life Care for Dogs Guidelines
1. You still have some control of the situation
When your pet is told they have a fatal illness, you can feel helpless, but you can still take charge of their care. Your veterinarian will inform you of the anticipated course of the illness so that you can jointly develop a treatment strategy for each stage.
2. There are clear reasons a pet can be a candidate for palliative or hospice care
In their final stage of life, dogs and cats typically have one or more of the following conditions: a terminal or ultimately fatal illness; a chronic or progressive illness, such as end-stage kidney or heart failure; crippling arthritis; a chronic disability, such as the inability to walk; or any combination of these conditions. Since the medical issue itself is incurable, the goal of medications and treatment will be to make every day as good as it can be.
3. Just like in human hospice, animal hospice care focuses on relieving the patient’s suffering and supporting their caregivers
Following a terminal diagnosis, hospice care should be given—under veterinary supervision—until the patient passes away. This style of care, which might include euthanasia or a hospice-supported natural death, aims to reduce pain and anxiety using drugs.
4. Hospice-supported natural death is an alternative to euthanasia
Under a veterinarian’s care, a pet may pass away spontaneously or with the use of drugs that your doctor has prescribed. This substitute is perfect for people who find it difficult to decide whether to intentionally end the life of their pet, even when doing so is compassionate and ethical.
5. Humane euthanasia is a peaceful process
To reduce your pet’s suffering, discomfort, and worry, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has authorized a number of particular procedures. When an animal is put down during euthanasia, pet owners are frequently comforted by how swiftly, sweetly, and softly it happens.
6. Euthanasia can be a final act of love
While veterinary caregivers understand how difficult it is to decide to put a beloved animal to sleep, animal hospice does not allow a pet to pass away without being put to sleep unless there are appropriate methods in place to mitigate pain while under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian. The pain of a pet should never be neglected or disregarded; this is wrong and cruel.
7. Your veterinary team will carefully evaluate your pet’s end-of-life transition
To maximize comfort and reduce suffering, it is essential to attend to your pet’s physical, social, and emotional requirements. The Animal Hospice Care Pyramid may be used by your team as a reference when making suggestions to you.
8. Your veterinary team will customize a plan for your pet’s specific needs
This involves evaluating your dog’s level of discomfort as well as their capacity to consume food and liquids, breathe easily, eliminate properly, move around your house, and interact with family members and caretakers.
9. Provide palliative and end-of-life care at home if at all possible
Find out from your vet how to improve the quality of life for your pet. Your pet’s comfort can be greatly improved by making small changes to your home, such as making slippery floor surfaces less slippery, making food and water more easily accessible, making sure that bedding is comfortable, optimizing the location and design of the litter box, determining the ideal home temperature, and maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.
10. Euthanasia can be performed in a veterinary hospital or at home
Even some veterinarians specialize in doing in-home euthanasia; if permitted by local regulations, they may also meet you at a park or the beach. In such a delicate moment, your veterinarian will be considerate of your requests.
11. Your veterinarian will continue to help after your pet’s death
Your veterinary team may help you with the arrangements, whether you decide on burial, cremation, or a necropsy (autopsy). They can also provide advice on how to deal with your loss. Writing a message to the pet, compiling a picture book or diary about the animal, crafting jewelry or a charm out of the cat’s ashes, or planting a memorial tree are all common ways that pet owners prefer to honor their animals. Your veterinarian can assist you in creating a remembrance item, like a clay paw or nose print, or in gathering fur if you would like.
12. Grief is a natural response to loss
A dynamic process, it evolves with time. The five stages of grieving that apply to losing a human loved one also apply to losing a pet: denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and eventually acceptance. Please think about utilizing the services offered to pet owners in need. It is not just you.
What to ask your veterinarian about end-of-life care
- Is my pet in pain? How did you find out? What is the most effective remedy for that?
- What alterations to my house can I make to make it more comfortable for my pet?
- Do any signs that my pet qualifies for hospice care?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of hospice-supported natural dying vs compassionate euthanasia?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of doing euthanasia at home versus a veterinary clinic?
- How should I incorporate my dogs, kids, and other family members in this process?
- Do you have any suggestions for folks who are grieving the loss of a cherished pet?