End of Life Care: Making Every Day Count

End of Life Care:
Making Every Day Count

Being a veterinarian is often a rewarding job; we get to
watch our patients grow and mature, perform preventative care to keep them
healthy, and help heal them when they’re sick. However, being a vet also means that
I sometimes have the unfortunate task of having to give bad news to pet owners.
Whether it is a terminal cancer diagnosis, debilitating arthritis, failing
kidneys, or something else, we know that medicine and surgery can sometimes
only do so much and that eventually we must decide when it’s time to humanely
end our pet’s pain.
When your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, it
is a devastating feeling. However, I also see it as an opportunity to truly
make the most of your time with your pet. I have had to let three senior pets
go over the last few years due to terminal diseases and I’d like to share some
insight on what I have learned about making every day count.  

1   1) First, have a thorough talk with your pet’s
doctor. Consider asking questions like:
Are they in pain and if so, how will we control
Are there any dietary restrictions I should be
aware of?
Are there any physical activity restrictions I
should be aware of?
What kind of timeline can I expect for this
disease progression?
What clinical signs should I be watching for
with this disease? What should I do if I see these signs?
Basically, the goal of this
conversation is “what can I do at home to keep my pet comfortable and how do I
know when they’re no longer comfortable?”

 2) Next, think about what your pet enjoys and go do
that thing with them.
Does your dog like swimming? If so, plan a trip
to the beach (or an indoor pet pool if weather isn’t cooperating- check local
training and boarding facilities for dog friendly pools). 
Does your pet like to ride in the car and go new
places? There are many affordable vacation rentals that are pet friendly, so
you can plan a road trip with your furry friend.
Does your dog like to eat (I mean, what dog
doesn’t?!). Take them to a boutique pet shop to pick out a fun new treat! Some
restaurants have outdoor dog-friendly patios, so look into that as well.
Does your pet like meeting new people and animals?
Look into local fests that are dog friendly and go check them out with your
furry friend.  

    3) Consider a photo shoot with your furry friend.
Take lots of pictures of all the good memories you’re making, as you’ll cherish
these moments after they’re gone.  One
complaint I hear sometimes is that owner’s wish they had more pictures of
themselves with their pet, so don’t be afraid to take some selfies with your cat
or dog!

4   4) Try to spend a little time every day doing
something enjoyable for both of you. Perhaps your dog likes getting out of the
house, so taking them for a walk or drive around the block could be fun. Play
with toys at home. You don’t always have to do something big; remember, these
daily moments are just as important as the big gestures!

 5) Take comfort in doing nothing. Sometimes just
relaxing at home with your pet can mean everything to them! Turn off your
phone, put on a movie, and just cuddle on the couch and enjoy each other’s

  6) Consider a farewell party. Invite the people
(and perhaps other pets!) that are close to your pet to come say their
goodbyes. Try to make it a celebration of life! Reminisce about your favorite
moments with your pets, what you love most about them, and just enjoy being
surrounded by people that love your cat or dog as much as you do.

Remember to not push your pet to do anything they are 
uncomfortable with; the goal is to do things that are fun for BOTH of you! While
saying good bye to your pet will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have
to do, having these memories to look back on will help to ease some of the

Written By: Dr. Erin Walsh
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

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