End of Life Care for Pets FAQ
Coping with the impending loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences a pet parent will face. Whether your furry friend is approaching his golden years or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s important to calmly guide the end-of-life experience and minimize any discomfort or distress. As your pet’s health declines, you may elect to care for your pet at home-with the supervision of a veterinarian-or you may decide to end his suffering with euthanasia.
Whatever course you choose, you’re not alone-the ASPCA is here to help. Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about making your pet’s final days peaceful and dignified.
My Pet Is Elderly and Will Soon Pass Away. How Can I Make My Home More Comfortable for Her?
The most important thing you can do for your elderly pet is to minimize any pain or distress she’s experiencing at the end of her life. First, be sure to consult with your veterinarian and treat any health problems, since undiagnosed issues can cause discomfort and rapid deterioration.
Make your pet feel secure by surrounding her with her favorite things, like a warm blanket or special squeaky toy. Since pressure sores can develop in pets with limited mobility, it’s also essential to provide a warm sleeping spot with plenty of cushioning.
Some older pets may develop incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, so be sure to check your furry friend regularly for any wetness or soiling. If your pet needs help getting up to urinate or defecate, you can purchase a sling or use a large towel to wrap under her body and assist her.
What Determines a Good Quality of Life for My Pet?
- Does your pet seem irritable, restless or confused?
- Has he lost his appetite or does he drink water excessively?
- Does he avoid his favorite activities?
- Is your pet picked on by other animals in the home? This can happen when a sick or elderly dog becomes the weakest member of the “pack.”
- Does he seek out unusual places to sleep or hide?
When your pet’s quality of life deteriorates due to an untreatable disease or aging, please speak with your veterinarian and family members about end-of-life issues.
How Can I Tell if My Pet Is in Pain?
When cats and dogs are suffering, they may not show outward signs that we normally associate with pain like whimpering or crying. Sometimes an animal will continue to eat or drink in spite of pain, panting or disorientation. Some physiological and behavioral signs that your pet might be experiencing pain include:
- excessive panting or gasping for breath
- reluctance to move
- food pickiness
If you’re unsure of how much your pet is suffering, keep a daily record of good days and bad days. It’s also important to ask your veterinarian for the exact signs of suffering likely to be associated with your pet’s condition or disease.