End-of-life care for pets

Saying goodbye to a beloved family pet is heartbreaking. However, Chelsea Whytcross explains there are methods for end-of-life care that makes the decision and process easier for pet owners.

It’s a situation we all know we are going to face, but no-one wants to face it. As your beloved family pets become older, there are a variety of issues they will face. Knowing your options around end-of-life care for your pet will make difficult decisions slightly easier.

First, you should know, I know how you feel. As I write this, I have a 13-year-old cattle dog who has been diagnosed with lymphoma. The outlook isn’t great – but the process I go through assessing the end of my own pet’s life is the same I talk through with all clients.

The first thing you should do is assess your pet’s quality of life. Many people struggle to make this decision. There are four categories I discuss with clients to help them make this judgement for themselves.

Ways to assess your pet’s quality of life

If your pet is in his autumn years, ask yourself: how are they behaving, and how are they feeling? Are they their bright, happy selves or are they quite depressed and sad? Are the bad days outweighing the good days?

The second category is movement. Is your pet still happy to get up and go out to the toilet and do those normal activities? Are they having any accidents inside the house that might affect their quality of life?

The third one is, are they still able to eat and drink normally? Are there any changes in their appetite? Is your pet still happy to eat and still excited about food?

The fourth one is to do with you – your quality of life and also your budget. It can be hard watching your pet struggle with a terminal disease. Ask yourself: how are you coping as a family? Do you have to give lots of medications to keep your pet alive, and how are you coping with this? Are you staying up all night, trying to medicate your pet, trying to help it breathe?

Options for end-of-life care

All clients are different and some clients will want to do absolutely everything they can and have the animal for as long as possible. Others will not want the animal to suffer, so they will make the decision earlier.

When we have these discussions, we always talk through what is involved in the procedure. We offer home euthanasia, where a nurse and vet are happy to visit the pet’s home. Many people will go with this option simply because they can be there with their family. There might be a special spot in the house or in the backyard which is a much nicer outcome for everyone involved. With the at-home option, there is less stress involved in moving the animal, especially if it is an older dog or a stressful cat.

Sometimes people will bring their animals into the clinic. We have a designated consult room where we try to make the area as comfortable as possible for both the family and pet.

I always explain the procedure and what is involved when euthenising before the family arrive at the clinic to help ensure everyone understands the procedure. Rest assured, we want a very sad situation to be as painless and stress-free as it can be.