End-of-Life Care: How to Help Pets — and Owners

Keeping the Pet's Owner in Mind

Learning about the pet's special needs during this stage is every bit as important as it is during the formative puppy and kitten years. Veterinarians can play a key role in helping pet owners understand the processes a body undergoes as it shuts down, from restlessness and agitation to rattling breathing and gasping. Being prepared ahead of time can help pet owners navigate this stressful process.

The IAAHPC also calls for a mental health counselor to be a part of the veterinary hospice team. Pet owners may find themselves struggling with the decision to euthanize a pet or unsure of how to talk about an impending death with their children. Often they're taken by surprise by the depth of their grief. Though some veterinarians are not trained to help clients in these situations, having a mental health professional available can be an invaluable service.

When I speak to clients and colleagues, I regularly hear that the hospice care available consists of pain medications, fluids and not much else. It’s time we evolve and recognize that, as much as we are saddened by a pet’s end-of-life process, there is so much more we can do to make it better for both the pet and the family who loves her.

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