Watching your dog age is difficult. In fact, it can be one of the most emotional periods of your life. And if you have an elderly dog whom you know is on his way out, it’s doubly difficult. You’ve accepted that it’s almost time to go, and your only goal is to make your dog as comfortable as possible. You’re not alone in that goal. At East Valley Animal Hospital, we know how much you love your dog because we are dog owners ourselves. Here is all you need to know about hospice care for dogs.
Defining “Hospice Care” for Dogs
When we use the term “hospice,” we aren’t referring to a physical hospital where dogs can go. We’re referring to at-home care you can provide so your dog is comfortable in his final days. That isn’t to say you’ll be alone in providing hospice to your dog. You should always have a veterinarian in the loop. Your vet will prescribe and monitor your dog’s medication and keep an eye on his symptoms. We will be your partner in maintaining a peaceful, comfortable environment for your dog.
When Is Palliative Care Needed?
It is essential that you pay frequent visits to the vet as your dog ages. As he nears the end of his life, health problems will appear more often. Some of these issues are treatable, but some can only be eased, instead of cured. Your dog may require palliative care if he develops:
- Cancer. Cancer in older dogs is not always worth the pain and stress it would cause to treat. Sometimes it is treatable, but with older dogs, it’s often better to think about quality of life.
- Kidney failure. When your dog’s kidneys stop functioning, the rest of the body gradually shuts down.
- Another irreversible illness, such as heart or gastrointestinal diseases.
- An inability to walk. Your dog’s joints may stiffen and weaken due to a chronic condition like arthritis. When it gets to the point where he can no longer walk, it is time to think about his quality of life.
Your vet will diagnose these conditions and keep you updated on your dog’s prognosis—we will be upfront with you and give you the details gently but honestly depending on what is in the best interest of your dog.
Hospice care for dogs may involve drug and/or alternative therapies:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are useful in managing your dog’s pain. You can administer them yourself, but do not do so without talking to your vet first. Never self medicate as human NSAIDs are toxic to dogs.
- Steroids or opioids may be prescribed. Again, do not administer pain medication without a prescription from your vet.
- Laser therapy has proven very effective in managing dogs’ pain. It is both useful and safe for dogs with some terminal illnesses.
These treatments are painless and fast-acting. They’ll be a key element in keeping your dog comfortable and happy at the end of his life.
The Most Important Medicine
Your dog has spent his life being your buddy, your companion, your best friend. You love him beyond words, and he feels the same way. Throughout his last days, nothing will make your dog happier than having you right by his side.
That isn’t to say you aren’t allowed to be sad. If the gravity of the situation doesn’t hit you immediately, it will. And that’s okay. You and your dog have each other in this difficult time, and your presence in his time of need is invaluable.
Caring Vet in Gilbert
Providing hospice care for dogs is hard. But we’re here to make it easier for you. When the time comes, East Valley Animal Hospital will be right by your, and your dog’s, side during this painful process.