What is Hospice Care?
One of the hardest choices cat and dog parents make is to let their beloved furry pet go.
Whether your animal companion is in their golden years or has been diagnosed with an incurable or terminal illness, dealing with this devastating loss can bring lots of emotions.
This is where the end-of-life and hospice care at Green Valley Veterinary Clinic can help.
Our caring vets will do everything they can to make sure your pet's final days or weeks are calm, comfortable, and pain-free. Some of these services we offer include a comprehensive quality of life exam, prescribing medications and food for pain management and offering humane euthanasia.
Preparing for Hospice & End-of-Life Care
This type of treatment can also be called palliative care is given to pets as they approach the end of their life.
Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions we get from clients regarding hospice and end-of-life care.
Hospice & End-of-Life Care FAQs
- What is pet hospice care?
We offer this type of care when pet owners have made the decision to withdraw or decline the pursuit of curative therapy for illnesses that limit a cat or dog's life.
Our vets have years of skill and expertise in veterinary care to help you establish a compassionate end-of-life plan customized to meet your pet's needs.
- What are some signs my pet may be ready to pass?
- Some behavioral and physiological signs that your cat or dog might be ready to pass include:
- They are in pain
- Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Change in appetite or loss of appetite
- Erratic breathing
- Weight loss
- Hides or withdraws from people
Remember that every animal is unique, and your pet might continue eating or drinking despite disorientation or pain. They might not display outward signs normally associated with pain, such as crying or whimpering.
Please contact your vet, as they will be able to tell you whether these symptoms are abnormal or alarming based on your pet's 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 make sure they don't have an underlying health issue that needs to be treated.
Ensure your cat or dog has their favorite items or toys within close reach.
Because your pet might be spending a significant amount of time in bed, make sure their area has lots of cushions and is very comfortable.
If your pet is incontinent (has lost control of her bladder), frequently inspect their living area to make sure it isn't soiled or wet. You can use a towel or sling to help your pet get up to urinate or defecate if needed.
- How can I prepare for euthanasia?
After the quality of life assessment to make sure all other alternatives have been exhausted, we might send you and your pet home with medications to help them manage their pain until your appointment.
We might be able to schedule your appointment for a time when it's likely to be quieter at the clinic, such as at the very beginning or end of the day. However, with unpredictable illnesses or injuries, it isn't 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 companion.
You can bring your pet's bed, or a comfortable blanket or pillow, with you for them to rest on.
If you have other pets, you might be able to bring them to the appointment, so they can understand the loss and sniff your pet's body following euthanasia.
You can also 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 euthanasia. This is an important point to consider - some people are not emotionally capable, and whichever choice you make is okay.
You may decide to be present while your cat or dog 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 one last 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. Afterward, your pet's eyes might still be open. If you wish, your vet will be able to 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 their pet as they need following the procedure, and are committed to treating every pet owner with as much sensitivity and compassion as possible. The entire process usually takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- What happens after euthanasia?
You are able to choose what happens to your euthanized cat or dog's body. You can keep the body to bury personally, have it buried in a pet cemetery, or opt for cremation. It might be helpful to make this decision well in advance.
People and pets are unique, and every person can respond differently to the loss of their pet. Children might have questions or feel very sad for a few weeks.
Adults can 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 afterward. Talk to your family and friends, or even join a pet loss support group. If you notice persistent feelings of grief that are interfering with you or your family member's mental health, you might want to consider mental health counseling.
Memorializing Your Pet
Saying goodbye is an incredibly hard decision. Sometimes, while it is the kindest choice a person can make in an animal's final stage of life, the process is still very difficult and heartbreaking.
You might want to honor your pet's memory by memorializing them in a way that keeps them close to your heart. You can do this by hosting a memorial service with friends and family. Another idea is to create a headstone, living memorial with a tree or plant, or another special spot that you can visit whenever you miss your pet.
The choice you make can be as unique as your pet's personality and provide comfort to everyone who knew, loved, and cared for your furry friend.