After months (or more) of caring for a dog in declining health, it can often be difficult to decide when the end has come, which is why it is helpful to determine ahead of time at what point you feel your dog’s quality of life is no longer acceptable. This may be when he or she ceases to find joy in eating, no longer enjoys interaction and connection, can no longer stand or walk, or when pain begins to be difficult to control. It is often helpful to consider good days versus bad days; more bad days than good is another indicator that the time is near. By establishing these criteria in advance, you are better prepared to make the appropriate decision, since emotion can cloud your thinking during the difficult final days of your dog’s life.
Hospice can be a wonderful, caring option. Regardless of how you choose to navigate this stage, it is good to know that it exists. Whether we opt for a natural death or a peaceful euthanasia, hospice care not only allows our dogs to live out the remainder of their lives as fully as possible, it also allows them to embark upon their final journey with dignity while surrounded by love in the comfort of their familiar home environment. Hospice care is truly a gift, both to our dogs and to ourselves.
The American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians aahabv.org
Numerous information links for human as well as animal hospice issues.
Argus Institute, Colorado State University argusinstitute.colostate.edu
This vet school program is a pioneer in helping pet owners manage the caring for a sick animal.
International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care iaahpc.org
A listing for hospice-care help in your area; see “For Pet Parents.”
Franklin D. McMillan, DVM, DACVIM Lecture Notes: “Quality of Life in Animals” dcavm.org/06sep.html
Though his comments are to veterinarians, he also provides insights for you.
Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP pawspice.com
She is best known for treating cancer; you’ll also find the details of her QOL scale, search for “Quality of Life Scale.”
This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 73: Spring 2013
Veterinarian Shea Cox has enjoyed an indirect path through her professional life, initially obtaining degrees in fine arts and nursing. She later obtained her veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine solely since that time. In 2006, she joined the ER staff at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley and cannot imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling place to spend her working hours. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb, cook up a storm and sail. Her days are shared with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman children that curiously occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum.