You spent some great years with your dog, and it has been a memorable journey. However, you recently started noticing that your pet doesn’t have as much energy as before and you are afraid that journey is coming to an end. He may have entered his golden years, or he is suffering from a terminal illness, but whatever the cause, it is your job as the owner to help your furry friend during the final period of his life. Here are some tips on improving end of life care for dogs that will help you in that area.
Know What You Are Dealing With
The best indicator to know that something is wrong is to look for unusual signs in your dog’s behavior. You might notice that he is not eager to play with you anymore although he always loved games. Perhaps he doesn’t have the appetite, or he is obviously nervous and irritable. You may notice that he is reluctant to move, reclusive, and picks up his food. Those are all indicators that your pet’s quality of life has deteriorated.
The primary person to consult is your vet. If you have a pet doctor that knows the medical history of your dog, he is the one you should turn to. Make sure to provide all the relevant information, and the vet will conduct the necessary tests to find out what is wrong with your pet. In some cases, it will simply be old age, but you should be ready for the option that your Fido is suffering from a terminal illness, such as cancer. The possibilities also include kidney disease and other chronic diseases and, as soon as you become aware of bad news, you should work with your vet to figure out what to do.
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How to Maintain Your Pet’s Quality of Life
Your veterinarian might have just told you that your dog has a serious illness that is not life-threatening at the moment. Unfortunately, there is no curative treatment, and the disease will only progress over time. This may also be the case with old age, which is not a disease by itself, but it decreases the quality of life over time. In most cases, your furry friend will be able to go through his daily routines, but at a reduced level.
In situations like these, you need to live in the moment and ensure to maintain your pet’s life as normal as possible. There will be some adjustments that you will need to make – for example; if he has a heart condition, the doctor may forbid him to walk up and down the stairs and you might have to carry him. Your pooch will probably get therapy, and it is your task to ensure that he regularly gets the medications. Their goal is to slow down the progress of the disease as much as possible or help with the pain.
Here are some quick tips on how to keep your pooch’s quality of life at a high level:
- Make changes to your home – if the floor is slippery, add some carpets. Place navigational aids such as dog ramps and, if needed, find a higher (or lower) place for water and food bowls so that your dog can drink effortlessly
- Discover what your dog wants – if he comes near the fireplace, there is a chance he is cold, so put a blanket over him. If he found a place to lie under the table, be patient until he comes out and checks on him regularly
- Make sure he is not and pain – if you notice any indication of pain, consult a vet to alter his treatment
- Just be there – more often than not, the crucial thing you can do is be beside your pet and spend time with him.
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It is critical to monitor your dog’s behavior on a daily basis. You should also regularly check his temperature, weight, and any other indicator that his condition is deteriorating. Whenever you think it is necessary, call your vet to see if he needs his medications altered or he is ready for hospice care.
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What Is Hospice Care?
When your pet enters his final days or weeks, he may not be able to lead a qualifying life anymore, and you might decide for hospice care. Pet hospice means that you will assume the role of a caretaker for your dog and try to make his end of life as comfortable as possible without resorting to euthanasia. Your vet will provide all the instructions on how to manage your dog’s suffering and pain, and you will need to dedicate a lot of time and effort to provide him proper care. If you own the pet as a family, teamwork will be crucial so that you get as much time with your pet as possible. While you will be looking for ways to extend his life, it is vital to prepare for the inevitable and be realistic about his condition.
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Should I Consider Euthanasia?
In some cases, you will notice that your dog is suffering and no treatments or medication can manage his pain or make him better in any way. His bad days are now occurring far more frequently than good days, and physical signs of suffering are more than obvious. At some point, your vet will offer you the option of euthanasia. It is a procedure that secures a peaceful and painless end for a dog who is terminal and suffering. The vet will give your pooch a sedative, and a special medication and the effect is similar to general anesthesia. The procedure takes approximately 15 seconds, and the experts claim that the animal doesn’t have any awareness of the end of life.
There are people who are firmly opposed to euthanasia, while others believe that this is one of the kindest things we can do for our dogs. In fact, if your veterinarian becomes aware that an objective evaluation of your pet’s condition is not optimistic, he will suggest ending the suffering peacefully.
- Vanessa Farner, DVM, End of Life Care for Pets FAQ, WebMD
- Bobbie Sue Whitworth, Ph.D., A Careful Walk-Through of Your Pet’s Final Days (and After), Healthline
- End of Life Care, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Tammy Hunter, DVM, Palliative Care for Dogs, VCA Hospitals