Palliative Care and Hospice for Terminally Ill Dogs – American Kennel Club

Even under the best of circumstances, a dog’s life is too short. It’s a difficult subject, but one that all pet owners must eventually face. As the end of your dog’s life approaches, whether through illness or old age, he may be contemplating some difficult decisions. But while euthanasia was long considered the most humane option for aging or terminally ill pets nearing the end, the growing fields of veterinary palliative care and pet hospice provide dog owners with options that they can extend both your partner’s quality of life and the length of time you live. spend enjoying them.

what is palliative care for dogs?

Palliative care focuses on making dogs as comfortable as possible and improving their quality of life as they near the end of their lives. it begins when the focus shifts from trying to treat a disease or extend a dog’s life to helping keep the dog happy and comfortable while nature takes its course.

Reading: Palliative care for dogs

Whether they are declining older dogs or terminally ill dogs in the later stages of disease, palliative care focuses on managing pain and other symptoms and prolonging quality of life as much as possible. This is done through medications, therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or laser therapy, and home care such as fluid management, heat therapy, and helping dogs do more of what they enjoy while they can enjoy it.

what is pet hospice?

While the terms hospice and palliative care are often used interchangeably, pet hospice focuses more on managing the dying process. hospice takes over when palliative care has gone all out and is no longer effective. hospice’s goal is to provide dogs with a dignified death that is as peaceful, humane, and painless as possible. that could mean managing pain and making the pet comfortable during a natural death or relieving unmanageable suffering through euthanasia.

different types of palliative care for dogs

Hospice care, also known as palliative care, is not reserved for terminally ill pets. Dogs with any type of painful or limiting disease or condition can benefit from comforting care, even if the condition is not life-threatening. Here are some examples of how various conditions could benefit from palliative care.

arthritis and joint pain

Arthritis is a common ailment among older dogs, but joint pain can affect younger, healthier dogs as well. Although arthritis is not a terminal disease, it can seriously diminish a dog’s quality of life if left untreated and there is no cure.

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Palliative care for arthritic dogs will likely include prescription pain relievers, but could also include:

  • nutritional supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids
  • changes to your dog’s diet to help support healthy weight management and relieve stress on joints
  • pain- decontracting therapies such as hydrotherapy, cold laser treatments or acupuncture. Your dog may also need changes in your home, such as placing all bedding, toys, and belongings on the lowest level and blocking stairs, or providing shallow ramps or steps to make it easier to climb onto decks, porches , beds or furniture.
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In addition to arthritis, other debilitating conditions common in geriatric dogs include vision and hearing loss, incontinence, and dementia. older dogs are also more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and are more prone to other illnesses, such as liver disease, thyroid disease, and kidney failure.

In addition to regular veterinary check-ups for illness and a healthy nutrition plan tailored to the dog’s age, a comforting care plan might include providing medications to treat symptoms of dementia, warm bedding to help keep warm and diapers to control incontinence.

If vision loss or reduced mobility is an issue, it may be necessary to put down rugs to make floors easier to walk on or rearrange furniture to make the house easier to get around. A total comfort care plan for senior dogs would also include allowing them to move at a slower pace while participating in activities they may still enjoy.

kidney disease

Advanced kidney failure is a good candidate for home palliative care once it is clear that veterinary treatments will not alter the outcome or prolong the life of the dog. the goal in this case is to provide the dog and her family with more time together and to help the dog become more comfortable in his own home. In addition to providing medications and a nutrition plan prescribed by a veterinarian, dog owners may also be tasked with administering subcutaneous fluids to help maintain kidney function for as long as possible.


Palliative care for cancer in dogs is primarily focused on managing pain and making things as normal as possible for your dog all the way through. A comfort care plan might combine prescription pain relievers with nutritional supplements and other therapies, such as massage or acupuncture. It may also be necessary to administer subcutaneous fluids to prevent dehydration. Plus, it would probably include providing a comfortable space for your dog to rest while staying close to family.

know when to move from palliative care to hospice

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Usually, hospice takes over when palliative care measures become ineffective and the dog’s ability to enjoy life begins to decline rapidly. With dogs, hospice generally seeks to alleviate suffering and involves providing comfort to both the pet and family members during the euthanasia process, as well as guiding the family through aftercare and disposition of remains. your pet. however, some dog owners choose to forgo euthanasia of their dogs, instead continuing pain and comfort management until a natural death occurs.

The right course of action and deciding when it’s time to transition to hospice is determined by staying in touch with your veterinarian and other members of your team. Your veterinarian can provide you with a quality of life scale to help you assess your dog’s level of pain and his ability to enjoy life. Ultimately, the final decision will come down to your personal beliefs and how well you know your dog.

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Is hospice care right for you and your dog?

Deciding what to do for your dog near the end of life is never an easy decision. If you are facing a life-threatening disease, financial considerations may prevent you from pursuing all avenues of treatment and fighting the disease as aggressively as you would like, while consideration of your dog’s ability to enjoy life may also put you off. limits to treatment options.

While palliative care may be a more affordable option in some cases than continuing treatment, it is not without cost. In addition to the money spent on medications, therapies, and sometimes expensive prescription dog food, providing home care for your dog also requires an investment of time and energy that you may not be able to afford. it can also take a heavy emotional toll on you and your family.

If you are faced with this decision, talk to your veterinarian about all that managing your pet’s symptoms would entail, and be honest with yourself, your family, and your veterinarian about what you can really do for your dog. Your veterinarian will be able to work with you to develop a personalized plan for your dog that suits your family’s needs, as well as advise you on the best options for your pet.

dogs are not just pets, they are part of the family and saying goodbye to them can be as difficult as saying goodbye to any close loved one. but having a plan to get them out of this life can give you peace of mind knowing you did everything you could to provide the best life for your faithful companion, all the way.

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