One of the saddest days we experience is when we lose one of our beloved pets. Coping with the loss is one of the toughest things a pet parent has to handle. It’s truly heart-breaking!
Whether your pet is nearing the sunset years of their life…. or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness….you, as the pack leader…. must be the one to direct the end-of-life experience. At the end of this article I will tell you the #1 think you need to know when your dog is dying.
You’ll need to be strong and ready, so your dog can transition as comfortably and stress-free as possible.
Sometimes Your Pet Dies Naturally
Here’s the fantasy that all of us want to believe. The myth is that our dogs can have a nice long life and then as she gradually ages, she’ll pass comfortably, peacefully, and naturally in the home where she lived with “her pack”.
All of us pray for this kind of transition… because we love them. This is similar to how many of us would like it to be… when our human family members pass after a long and vibrant life.
Sadly, this outcome is very unlikely. Yes there are times when a pet “closes his eyes” and doesn’t wake up- but that is a rarity.
Unfortunately, some pets are left to experience an agonizing end to their life due to family members wishing to keep them home. Without supervision and direction from your vet… your dying dog may be subjected to unnecessary pain. Your family may have to witness a living nightmare as your pet suffers greatly at the end.
Sick and dying animals in nature do not experience a prolonged decline in health. As they give in to their maladies they become the weak ones in nature and turn into prey.
If your pet is elderly or ill and you opt for a natural death at home instead of euthanasia be sure to consult your veterinarian on administering adequate pain medication and prepare for the process.
Also, be sure to formulate a backup plan should your pet take a turn for the worse and he slips into a suffering death. You’ll need something in place for a 24/7 crisis should your pet need mercy euthanasia.
Hospice Care – palliative care for your dog
Pet hospice care, known as palliative medicine is a philosophical form of care where the shift in the treament of your pet moves from curative measures to comfort. Hospice care usually last a few days to a few weeks.
In other words you are no longer treating your dog for her incurable conditions. Instead, you are in full mode of giving her quality of life for her remaining time.
Typically, with hospice care you are your pets primary nurse and caregiver. There are companies for hire who can assist with in-home hospice care for your pet… but it can be expensive and it doesn’t change the outcome. There also are veterinary practices who do in-home euthanasia as well. Check with your vet if this an option.
Handling Hospice for Your Dog Yourself
Most of us do not realize how much work is involved in caring for a terminal pet until we’re doing it. In addition to providing food, water, and medication… you’ll need to have a plan for their waste elimination.
If they are able to go outside with your assistance do they need to navigate stairs?
Will you be able to help them if they have trouble keeping balance while the squat? You’ll need a sling or large towel under the hips to help.
Who will care for your pet while you are at work?
These are questions to ask yourself before you are dealing deal with them
If they are unable to go outside then you will need diapers, pads, and wraps… to keep a handle on sanitation.
Also there is the pain management aspect that can be difficult to witness.
Sadly, many older dogs also slip into doggy dementia… and have spells where they do not recognize you or their surroundings. As you can imagine, this adds to their fear and stress.
Comfy and Cozy at the End
It’s a top priority to minimize your pet’s distress and pain at the end.
- Surround him with his favorite things like toys or a blanket
- Make sure their sleeping spot is warm, free from drafts, and with a very thick cushion to prevent sores.
- Treat any health problems that pop up (with your vet’s supervision)…. to prevent rapid deterioration and discomfort
- At the end your pet will have incontinence and loss of bladder control. You’ll need to check her often for wetness or soiling. Using pads and wraps are helpful. Keep bedding dry by using extra pads.
The Final Journey Home
So for this article, I purposely didn’t spend a ton of time discussing euthanasia. Whatever your opinion is on that topic I believe that at times it is a necessary thing to ensure that there is no suffering.
I’ve had to put quite a few of my pets to sleep over the years and it’s just awful. So this brings me to…..
When Your Pet is Dying here’s the #1 thing to know!
Many of my veterinarian colleagues have shared with me the worst part of their job. It ISN’T the euthanasia procedure itself.
The thing that really breaks their hearts is when a family resigns that euthanasia is necessary for their dog… and they do not go to be with their beloved pet in the final moments.
Seemingly, they are too devastated to watch the process so they let their pets pass on… with strangers.
I’ve heard too many stories of frightened animals… looking around the examination room searching for a familiar face. They are stricken with fear and confusion. Their whole world —YOU—is gone.
When it’s time for your pet to take her final journey- don’t you want to be there to let her know “it’s alright”?
She knows your face, recognizes your voice, and is comforted by your smell. She can feel your love…and experience your sense of calm. Most importantly, she can know peace.
Your biggest goal will be minimizing pain, distress, and fear for your dog at the end.
This will be your ultimate test.
No matter how hard it may seem at the time- please be with your pet… when they transition from this world.
This truly is when they need you the most.
A New Beginning
When we say goodbye to a pet is a heartbreaking event.
It delivers such a blow that we usually will tell ourselves “never again”.…meaning — we swear we won’t allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable again, to such a loss.
And then….life goes on and find ourselves in a situation… to meet and commit to another furry face looking for love.
We adopt a new bundle of energy and welcome them to the family fully aware,that most likely, we will outlive them.
Thanks for reading and please share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the “Comments” area below.