Palliative care aims to improve quality of life by relieving pain and associated distressing symptoms. Palliative care may be suggested by the vet if the pet has been diagnosed with a chronic illness e.g. arthritis, kidney disease or diabetes, or a terminal illness like some cancers. It is to improve quality of life by relieving pain and associated distressing symptoms, when treatment is no longer possible or effective.
Palliative care can be a huge undertaking for a pet carer and the impact that has on the pet carer should not be underestimated. It may not be everyone who is in a position to offer ongoing care for their pet, and that can cause untold emotional suffering to the carer. The pet owner should discuss palliative options with their vet and agree to realistic goals.
The pet carer should keep a diary during palliative care. The diary should include all observations of the pet including its food & water intake, toilet habits and output, medication and any notable changes in the pet’s health or behaviour.
Pain relief is crucial for many conditions and to keep a pet comfortable, however there may be side effects of the pain medication e.g. vomiting or diarrhoea.
CAM4Animals have an excellent informative website for those wishing to explore complementary and alternative medicines and treatments
A pet’s appetite needs to be maintained in order for them to get all the nutrients they need and that could involve switching to wet food, soaking dry food, giving appetite stimulants or hand feeding.
Depending on the pet, their environment may have to be adapted e.g. ramps or non-slip mats, raised feeding bowls, low front access on litter trays, but of course if a pet’s eyesight has deteriorated remember not to move furniture around, keep it in the same place to avoid accidents.
It is important for a pet receiving palliative care to have fun times too. Interacting with our pets helps keep them stimulated or allowing them to meet with other dogs. If time permits and the animal is well enough, some pet carers may want to draw up a ‘bucket list’ for their pet and take them back to all their favourite places like the park or beach.
If surgery is an option this can be a huge dilemma for the pet carer whether or not it would be in the pet’s best interest i.e. if it’s morally and ethically the right thing to do.
An example of this would be if a dog has Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and amputation of the leg is an option. Many factors have to be taken into consideration prior to proceeding –
If the pet carer is undecided the vet will guide and advise them when it comes to making the right decision.