No one wants to think about the death of a pet, but it is an inevitable event that you need to be prepared to handle when the time comes. If your pet is nearing the end of his life, work with your veterinarian to make the dog's last days as comfortable as possible.
It is absolutely essential for your veterinarian to be actively involved in your dog's health care up until the last day of his life. Your veterinarian needs to be aware of the exact health problems your dog is suffering from to prescribe the right medications to manage the pet's health problems. If your dog's health condition is terminal, your veterinarian should be able to give him medications, such as painkillers and appetite stimulants, that will minimize discomfort.
Signs of Pain and Discomfort
In order to make your dog more comfortable, you will need to be able to recognize and address signs that he is uncomfortable. Signs of pain and discomfort include changes in personality, lethargy, loss of appetite, changes in bathroom behavior, whimpering, whining, growling, and a lack of willingness to perform activities he previously enjoyed such as playing, jumping up or climbing stairs. Once you have noticed signs of pain, try to figure out what is causing the discomfort and work to modify your dog's environment for his comfort.
Try to make your dying dog's life as easy and uncomplicated as possible. Put his food dishes, water dishes, bedding, favorite toys and other supplies in one relatively small area so he does not have to travel across the house if he wants a drink or to lie down comfortably. If other pets or small children bother your dog, remove them. If your dog has difficulty climbing stairs, keep him in an area where he does not have to climb stairs, as long as you can be there with him. If he has difficulty going outside to use the bathroom, you may want to lay down puppy pads or newspapers so he does not have to try make his way outdoors. If he seems cold, give him additional blankets. Most importantly, spend lots of time with your dying dog. Give him favorite toys, treats and lots of love.
Veterinary Hospice Care
Some veterinarians provide hospice care for terminally ill pets. These services help pet owners monitor the condition of dying pets and administer treatments to keep your pet as comfortable as possible until your pet passes. If you elect to provide hospice care for your pet, you will need to work with your hospice team to make end-of-life decisions for your dog. In the event that your dog can not be kept comfortable and is suffering, choose to euthanize your dog rather than wait for him to die naturally.
- American Animal Hospital Association: How to Tell if Your Dog Is in Pain
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Pain Management for Dogs
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Guidelines for Veterinary Hospice Care
- Peaceful Passings, Inc: Things to Watch for and Things You Can Do
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: End-of-Life Care FAQ