What is Hospice Care?
As pet parents, one of the most difficult choices we face is when to let our beloved companion go.
Whether your four-legged friend is in their golden years or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, dealing with their impending loss is a sad and draining experience.
This is where hospice and end-of-life care at Shane Veterinary Medical Center can help.
Our vet team does everything in our power to help ensure that your pet's final days and weeks are calm, free from pain and comfortable. This can include comprehensive quality of life exams, prescription foods and medications for pain management and humane euthanasia.
Preparing for Hospice & End-of-Life Care
Also referred to as palliative care, pet hospice care is administered as a pet approaches the end of its life.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from clients about hospice and end-of-life care.
Hospice & End-of-Life Care FAQs
- What is pet hospice care?
At this phase, pet owners have made the decision to withdraw or decline the pursuit of curative therapy for illnesses that limit an animal's life.
Our vets bring decades of skill and expertise in veterinary care to help you develop a compassionate end-of-life plan customized to your pet's needs.
- What are some signs my pet may be ready to pass?
Some behavioral and physiological signs that your pet may be ready to pass include:
- Is in pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
- Erratic breathing
- Change in appetite or loss of appetite
- Hides or withdraws from people
Keep in mind that each animal is unique, and your pet may continue to eat or drink despite disorientation or pain. They may not display outward signs normally associated with pain, such as crying or whimpering.
Please consult your vet, as they will be able to tell you whether these symptoms are abnormal or alarming based on your pet's medical history.
- How can I help my pet feel healthy and comfortable at home at the end of their life?
During this time, you can make your pet more comfortable by making sure they aren't in pain or experiencing distress.
Your vet will complete an exam to make sure that your pet doesn't have any underlying health issues that require treatment or medical intervention.
Make sure they have their favorite items or toys within close reach.
Since your pet may spend a significant amount of time in bed, make sure this area has lots of cushions and is comfortable.
If your pet is incontinent (has lost control of her bladder), check their living area often to make sure it isn't wet or soiled. You may choose to use a towel or sling to help get your pet up to urinate or defecate if needed.
- How can I prepare for euthanasia?
After the quality of life assessment conducted by your vet to make sure all other alternatives have been exhausted, you may be sent home with some pain medications for your pet until your appointment.
We may be able to arrange your appointment time when it is likely to be quieter at the clinic, such as at the very beginning or end of the day. However, with unpredictable illnesses or injuries, this is not always possible.
If you have children, it can help to provide age-appropriate explanations of what will happen in advance to prepare them for losing their furry friend.
You may consider bringing your pet's bed, or a comfortable blanket or pillow, with you for them to rest on.
if you have other pets, you may want to bring them to the appointment so that they can understand the loss and sniff your pet's body after their euthanasia.
You may decide to sit with your pet so you can comfort them while the vet provides the medicine via injection.
- What will happen during the euthanasia process?
You will be asked whether you'd like to stay with your pet for euthanasia. This is an important point to consider - some people are not emotionally capable, and whichever choice you make is okay.
You may choose to be present while your pet is sedated, but you do not have to be. You can also remain while euthanasia is injected. You may also want to invite a friend or family member who your pet knows and who would like to be with you or your pet at this time.
A consent form and estimate of cost will be emailed to you through an electronic document signer ahead of time. The consent form will include a question about what you would like to do in terms of aftercare. We offer:
Private Cremation — Your pet will be privately cremated and the ashes will be returned to you in a customized cedar chest. We will contact you when your loved one is ready to be picked up. The cost of private cremation is based on your pet’s weight.
General Cremation — Instead of being returned to you, your pet's ashes will be spread at sea by Tides to Tranquility and Ocean Defenders.
No Aftercare — You can take your pet’s remains home with you.
Hold — If you are unsure what you would like to do with your pet's remains, we can hold them until you are ready and able to decide. We ask that you please call us within 7 days to update us regarding your wishes.
Hold for Pick-up — Choose this option if you will be picking up your pet's remains at a later date or if you will be contacting an outside company to pick them up. If another company will be picking up your pet, please provide us with their name, phone number and approximate pick-up date (if available).
Paw Print — If desired, we can make a clay impression of your pet's paw as a keepsake for your family. Once it dries, it will be painted and glazed. If you are electing private cremation, the paw print will be available for pick-up with your pet's ashes. If you have chosen any other aftercare option, the paw print will be shipped to the home address on file once it is finished unless you specifically request to pick it up instead. Once it dries, it will be painted and glazed. If you are electing private cremation, the paw print will be available for pick-up with your pet's ashes. If you have chosen any other aftercare option, the paw print will be shipped to the home address on file once it is finished unless you specifically request to pick it up instead.
The entire euthanasia process typically takes 30 minutes to 1 hour. When you arrive at the hospital, our caring staff will bring you to a private, quiet, and peaceful room. Your pet will be brought into the Treatment area, where a veterinary technician will place an IV catheter in order to provide your veterinarian with unimpeded access to your pet’s vein when it comes time to administer the necessary injections.
Once the IV catheter is placed, we will bring your pet back to you, and you will be allowed to spend as much time as you need to say goodbye.
When you are ready, the veterinarian will join you in the room. She will first administer an anesthetic agent called Propofol which will be injected directly into your pet's vein to cause the nerves in your pet’s body to cease sending signals (including pain signals). This medication takes effect quickly and once it does, your pet will lose consciousness and essentially, fall asleep. Your pet's breathing and heart rate will slow.
The euthanasia solution will then be injected. Your pet's breathing, heart rate, and brain function will eventually stop. This is a relatively quick process that only takes a few seconds or minutes depending on your pet, their condition, and other factors.
Many pets take a final, deep breath as they pass away. Some will urinate or defecate when they are euthanized due to the total relaxation that occurs.
Euthanasia is not painful for animals. Afterward, your pet's eyes may be open. If you wish, your vet can close them.
The vet will listen to your pet's heartbeat with a stethoscope to make sure they are gone. The vet will listen to your pet's heartbeat with a stethoscope to make sure they are gone.
Afterward, you may spend as much time as you need with your pet’s remains. When you are ready to leave, a staff member will escort you out through a private back door. We are committed to treating every pet owner with as much sensitivity and compassion as possible.
- What happens after euthanasia?
You can choose what happens to your euthanized pet's body. You may keep the body to bury personally, have it buried in a pet cemetery, or choose cremation. It may be helpful to consider this decision well in advance.
People, like pets, are so unique and each will respond differently to loss. Expect that your children may have questions or feel very sad for a few weeks.
Adults may feel a range of emotions, from heavy grief to guilt, sadness or emptiness, or relief that their pet is free of pain and that their condition will no longer have to be managed. As vets, we have seen the entire range of emotions, and all are valid and normal.
Remember to take care of yourself afterward. Talk to friends and family, or you may choose to join a pet loss support group. If you notice persistent feelings of grief that are interfering with your or your family members' mental health, you may wish to consider mental health counseling.
Memorializing Your Pet
Saying goodbye is a difficult decision. Sometimes, while it is the kindest choice we can make in an animal's final stage of life, the process can still feel difficult and be heartbreaking.
You may want to honor your companion's memory by memorializing them in a way that keeps them close to your heart. This may include a memorial service with friends and family, a headstone, a living memorial, or a designated spot you can visit when you find yourself missing your four-legged friend.
The option you choose can be as unique as your pet's personality and provide comfort to everyone who knew, loved and cared for your furry friend.