Choosing palliative care for pets is more than keeping a terminally ill pet comfortable. Palliative care can help your pet continue to enjoy life fully, while it is still possible and they are able. With the guidance of a knowledgeable veterinarian, pain management and quality of life maintenance can help make the most of the precious time you have with your beloved pet.
What is palliative care?
Most people tend to blend the concepts of palliative care and hospice. While these are both end-of-life care plans, palliative care extends much further.
After your pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we are essentially left with two choices: to treat, or not to treat? While treatment may seem like the “obvious” choice, it is not so in many cases.
Sometimes, the “cure” can be worse than the disease. Curative therapies (like radiation or chemotherapy) can be costly, and often leave animals feeling weaker or more ill than they would be without the treatment. Likewise, surgeries can be risky for older or ill pets, and rigorous courses of harsh medications may cause miserable side effects.
Palliative care steps in when we decide to shift our energy away from curing the disease, and instead focus on lessening its symptoms and maintaining the best possible quality of life.
How will I know if Palliative Care is right for my pet?
Talking or even thinking about our pets leaving us is one of the toughest subjects I’ve ever faced as a veterinarian. And deciding what is best for a pet approaching their final lifestage is even more difficult for the pet parent.
The first thing you should do is talk to a veterinarian you trust. Ask about the expected outcomes of your pet’s disease, and how it might affect their quality of life. What are the treatment options, and how will those change their lifestyle?
A veterinarian who is experienced in providing this specialized care will help you devise a perfect plan for your pet’s comfort. It will likely consist of pharmaceutical, supplemental and dietary components. The main goal in palliative care is to manage pain while also sustaining a good quality of life. This is achieved by implementing multiple tactics.
How can Palliative Care for Pets make my pet more comfortable?
Again, the primary goal of palliative care for pets is comfort. In addition to pain medication your vet may prescribe, there are many other techniques that may be helpful in maintaining your firry friend’s comfort.
Acupuncture is an incredible resource in palliative care for pets. It can lend itself to pain relief, reduce inflammation or help control abnormal nervous system activity.
Massage, especially Tui Na technique, is an absolute favorite of mine. Not only is it incredibly relaxing, but it will stimulate blood flow to your furball’s sore muscles, releasing painful trigger points that will reduce their aches and pains. This is also a great bonding opportunity for you and Fido or Fluffy, to get in some more quality time and strengthen the relationship that means so much.
Physical therapy, like passive stretching, may also provide additional options to help maintain mobility and manage pain.
How should my pet’s diet change with Palliative Care?
Optimizing your pet’s diet during this time is absolutely essential. By giving them all of the fuel they need, and making it easy to ingest and digest, you are making it easier for them to focus on what’s important: loving life, and enjoying what is in their bowl!
Provide your pet with a nutrient rich, home cooked diet that is full of healing and delicious foods. The Original CrockPet Diet is easy to consume, even for pets who are having difficulty chewing or eating. And you can rest assured that your pet will get all of the vitamins and nutrients their body needs to keep going. They will love lapping up every last bite.
What else can I do to make our home more comfortable?
Provide your pet with plenty of places where he can get comfortable, or one safe space where he has everything he needs. Make sure all of his things are accessible, and consider making some adjustments.
Raising food and water bowls, so they are at about elbow height for your pet, will reduce back pain while eating and drinking. Laying down carpets or padded flooring in place of hard, slick surfaces will make it easier for a stiff or sore pet to get up and navigate their home without slipping or falling.
If your pet has a designated hang-out spot, be sure it is in a place where he will be near to the family. After all, there is nothing your pet loves more than your company. And that’s why…
The best thing you can give a pet in Palliative Care is your time, and your love.
As your pet progresses through his illness, remember that positive emotions are achieved through enjoyable activities and lots of time with their humans. Engage as often as you possibly can in their favorite activities, and things you can still do together.
If your pet is still active, interested and excited about life, you should let them embrace it! So, whether it’s daily massages or hours of car rides, there is so much you can do to keep your pet happy, comfortable and healthy as possible as their glorious golden years come to a close.
So, if treatment or curative measures aren’t the answer for your pet, don’t give in to despair. While your time together may grow shorter, you can still make the days some of the happiest you and your pet have had together.
Electing palliative care in lieu of hopeless curative measures gives your pet the chance to continue enjoying life while this is still possible. If you spend less time focusing on the disease, and strive to lessen its symptoms instead, this can become a time that is filled with joy for both of you.
Palliative care for pets is also a gift to the pet’s owners and family. It gives us the chance to spend time laughing, playing and making our pets happy. Filling your pet’s final days with both of your favorite activities will make it a joyful time to remember, with memories you will cherish for a lifetime.