Pets age just like humans do--tragically, they age much faster. And coping with the impending loss of a beloved pet is one of the most difficult things any pet parent can face.
Advances in veterinary care now make it possible to do more to save pets, and while you do need to consider how much you should spend to save an ailing pet, the decision is an emotional one just as much as a financial one.
If your pet is at the end of their life, one option is pet hospice. Here's what you need to know--and how to make the right choice for your pet.
Making a Pet Comfortable at the End
The single most important thing you can do for an aging pet is to make them as comfortable as possible. But in order to do this, you have to recognize that pets don't show pain the way humans do.
Take dogs, for example. Dogs feel pain just like we do, but unlike humans, they have an inherited instinct to hide any outward signs of being in pain. That's because once upon a time, when dogs lived in packs with other dogs, showing pain would get a dog forced out of their pack.
Now, most dogs view their human families as their pack. And that means they'll hide their pain for fear of being cast out of the pack, just like they would in a dog pack.
Cats work much the same way. Knowing when a cat is in pain is only simple when the problem is extreme and the cat can no longer hide it.
Knowing this, look for subtle signs that your pet is hurting. Maybe they play less or don't eat as much. Maybe they seem irritable or confused. Maybe they pick unusual places to hide while they sleep.
Understanding Pet Hospice
If your pet is in pain or is suffering from a serious health condition, it may be wise to consider pet hospice as an option.
Pet hospice isn't a place so much as a choice to prioritize making your pet's last days or weeks comfortable, rather than trying to prolong their suffering without regard for their declining quality of life.
It's a choice to give your pet dignity in death, as they would have dignity in life.
A veterinarian can help guide pet owners through this process. Hospice requires you to act as your pet's nurse in their final days, spearheading medications, dietary choices, and human interaction to make your pet comfortable.
Making End-of-Life Decisions for Your Pet
As with any other aspect of owning a pet, pet hospice is about responsibility.
Your pet cannot advocate for themselves, which means that you need to be responsible for advocating on their behalf. Sometimes, that means pursuing treatment for an illness. Other times, that means giving a pet a comfortable, dignified death instead of a prolonged and painful one.
No pet owner wants to see their beloved pet die. But in making end-of-life decisions, you have to keep in mind that sometimes, allowing your pet to die peacefully is the kinder option.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to encourage treatment or diagnosis of any animal medical condition. For medical advice, contact your veterinarian.