End of Life Care for Pets FAQ
Are There Any Behavioral Changes I Might See in My Sick Pet or Other Pets in the Household?
Irregular behavior patterns are often the first sign that your
pet is ill or in pain. A pet may lose his normal activity levels, appetite and
grooming tendencies, or he may exhibit inappropriate elimination, vocalization
Other healthy pets in the household may experience similar abnormal
behaviors as a reaction to the changes and distress of your sick animal
companion. Be sure to get regular check-ups for all of your pets to monitor and
protect against any undiagnosed issues.
What Are Some At-Home Pain Management Options for My Elderly Pet?
If you suspect your pet is in pain, please make an appointment
with a veterinarian for a physical examination and consultation. Your
veterinarian will explain the pain management protocol associated with your
pet’s specific condition. For pain due to arthritis, for example, a
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug may be prescribed, but only after blood
tests ensure that your pet does not have kidney or liver problems that would
preclude using this type of medication. If your pet has more severe pain, due
to a chronic illness like cancer, your veterinarian may prescribe a narcotic
pain killer in the form of an oral medicine or a patch that is placed on the
What Is Pet Hospice Care and What Are Its Benefits? What Are the Goals of Pet Hospice Care?
Hospice care-also called palliative care-is an option for pet
parents who want to engage in an extended good-bye or are opposed to
euthanasia. Pet hospice is an option if your pet is suffering from a terminal
illness and a cure is not possible. The focus is to make a pet’s final days or
weeks more pleasant with the proper use of pain medications, dietary strategies
and human interaction. Pet hospice is not a place, but a personal choice and
philosophy based on the principle that death is a part of life and can be
dignified. The goal of pet hospice is not to cure your pet’s illness but rather
to ensure a peaceful end-of-life experience.
A participating veterinarian will teach pet parents how to provide intensive
home care to keep an ill pet as comfortable as possible. Every pet parent
should also have a back-up plan, which may include euthanasia, in case the
animal's suffering gets out of control.
Is Hospice Care the Right Course for My Pet?
Although hospice care is a growing area of veterinary medicine,
we need to be very careful not to prolong the suffering of pets who are in pain
or experiencing poor quality of life. It is very difficult to face losing a
pet, but our choices must not be clouded by fear of the grief we will
If you are considering hospice care, ask yourself the following
- Do I have a local veterinarian whose expertise includes the most advanced
techniques in pain management, alternative treatments, oxygen and
- Do I have a veterinarian available 24 hours a day to provide emergency
euthanasia if my pet’s suffering gets out of control, such as the sudden onset
- Do I have adequate resources to provide constant care for my pet, even when
I am out of the house?
- Will hospice home care for my pet seriously disrupt my regular family and