Despite death being an irreversible fact of life, one of the hardest events for us to come to terms with is the loss of a beloved pet. Our dogs are our play mates, they give us comic relief, offer social and emotional supports, and are true family members. The idea of them suffering at the end of their lives because of illness or old age is painful for us as their people. We want to do everything we can to ensure that our dog’s end of life care keeps them peaceful and comfortable in their final time.
There are a number of factors to assess as you plan the way forward for your pet’s final time. It is important to evaluate their physical state and their social and emotional well-being, and then determine the resources that are available for support. Close communication with your veterinarian can help to ensure that both your needs and your best fur-friend’s needs are being met. Euthanasia used to be seen as the only humane end for your dog’s life, and it still might be the best way to give you dog a peaceful goodbye, but there are other alternatives available as well. Taking time for difficult conversations before you need them can help smooth the way when your dog needs you most.
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Remember that pets don’t always show discomfort or pain the same way we would. They might continue to eat and drink normally but take a little longer to stand up or lie down. They could begin to seem confused and get lost in your home or other familiar places, or they might have a loss of appetite or other behavioral changes. Being alert to changes in their daily habits can help you to seek out veterinary care quickly and get them the help they need.
If your pup is diagnosed with a disease at any stage of life, your veterinarian can help you select a path of medical treatment to address the illness and hopefully promote a cure. Certain illnesses and health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and congestive heart disease can be managed with long-term care that might not lead to a cure but will extend your dog’s time with a good quality of life.
Palliative care is care that moves from trying to cure an illness to care that focuses on making your dog as comfortable as possible and giving them the best quality of life you can. There are times when no cure is available or the illness has progressed for your pup, and the best alternative is to continue to offer treatment to extend a comfortable life without actually curing the underlying disease. This type of palliative medical care will happen with guidance and assistance from your veterinarian.
Understanding the course of the disease or illness your pet is facing can help you to know what types of supports they might need going forward. It is important to identify the elements that give your dog a good quality of life. Is it enough for them to be pain free? Is it also important for them to spend time outside every day or to be able to eat on their own? In addition, you and your family should be clear on your values around the end of life, the resources you have available, and the assistance your dog might need as they move closer to the end.
A key element of palliative care is the management of discomfort, and it is probably best achieved with a combination of medical interventions, supplements such as ElleVet CBD + CBDA Chews to aid with mobility discomfort or the stress from mental confusion, and changes you can make to your home environment in order to make it easier and more comfortable for your dog to move around, sleep, and eat in your home. Often senior dogs, along with discomfort and stress, will show signs of cognitive decline, such as sleeplessness, whining, pacing and panting, and an inability to settle. CBD is extremely helpful in managing the effects of this cognitive decline to help them achieve a restful state and to get good sleep.
ElleVet CBD is particularly helpful for senior dogs in their last years or months, and tends to work most effectively on dogs who are the worse off. Typically, dogs who are not responding well to traditional methods will respond very well to ElleVet. We have endless testimonials from pet parents who wrote in to say that we changed their dog’s last months from misery and sadness to a good quality of life with sparks of the puppy they used to be. It is something we as a company are proud of, because helping senior pets navigate the end of life is a meaningful gift for pets and pet parents alike.
In this way, palliative care will help maintain a good quality of life by managing your dog’s discomfort, and stress, allowing them to safely and comfortably navigate your space, and allowing them to continue to be mobile and involved in daily family life.
When the comforts you are adding during palliative care stop being effective and your pet begins to lose their quality of life, pet hospice could be the next step. Hospice is generally seen as a bridge to the end of life, and it ensures that your pet will not suffer while it also supports you and your family through this sad time. Your veterinarian can help guide you if it is time for this transition, but you ultimately know your pup best and are most able to make the difficult decision to move to hospice.
You might opt for hospice supported natural death, where your dog is kept comfortable and pain free until natural death occurs.
Inevitably, despite all the care and comforts you provide, there is a time when the end of your dog’s life is approaching. The most dignified and humane answer could be to end their suffering through euthanasia.
In 2004, veterinary oncologist Dr. Alice Villalobos developed what has become known as the HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale to help pet parents and veterinarians more objectively assess their pet’s quality of life. Each of seven categories is evaluated on a 0-10 scale to determine the success of hospice end of life care and help decide if it is time to help end your dog’s suffering. The categories are Hurt (is pain managed?), Hunger (can your dog eat enough?), Hydration (able to drink enough?), Hygiene (are you able to keep your dog brushed and clean, especially after pooping?), Happiness (is your dog interested in life and happy?), Mobility (can they move themselves or move with assistance?), and More Good Days than Bad (is there still a strong human-animal bond? Are they suffering?). Dr. Villalobos determined that a score of greater than 35 showed that animal hospice (what she calls ‘pawspice’) is still effective.
Veterinarians are carefully trained to provide humane and peaceful euthanasia for pets at the end of their lives. As hard as it might be to make the decision to euthanize, it is important to keep your dog’s needs and state of being foremost in your mind. Some veterinarians provide this service in your home or even at a park or a beach where that is allowed. They will also help you with arrangements for cremation or burial after your pet’s death, and they might have memorial footprints or other keepsakes for your pet.
Veterinary specialists in end of life care, such as Lap of Love, have veterinarians all over the country who will come to you home and will guide you through the process leading up to and including euthanasia, and are a wonderful and caring option for home euthanasia. At ElleVet we often recommend contacting Lap of Love, along with our product to make the transition as beautiful and peaceful as possible.
We know that our dogs are more than just pets and quickly become members of our families. We would all rather imagine our best fur friends being forever energetic and healthy, but the reality is that we will have to make difficult decisions as our pets near the end of their lives. Knowing the choices that might lie ahead can help to ease this transition when it happens, and we can know that we did all we could to make sure our good boys and girls are safe and comfortable to the end.