Caring for senior dogs and cats can be difficult if you’ve never had an elderly pet before. Lifestyle modifications are usually necessary to care for senior pets, as is making arrangements when it’s their time to cross over the rainbow bridge.
There are many scenarios possible, depending on the health of the pet. Get to know the options so you can provide great end of life care for pets – and allow yourself the ability to grieve after their death.
Caring for Elderly Pets
Just like people, pets experience unique challenges in old age. Not every animal is the same, but these are some of the most common issues with senior dogs and cats.
- Mobility – Joints get stiff or lock up. Pet steps and ramps can help dogs and cats access higher surfaces, like a couch or bed, without jumping. Foldable gates are useful for blocking off dangerous areas, like staircases.
- Bowel Loss – Going potty indoors can become an everyday occurrence for older pets. While it can be frustrating, try not to get mad, as older pets can’t help it. Animals may need to be restricted to certain areas that are easier to clean, like rooms with tile flooring.
- Behavioral Changes – Senior dogs may become snappier, so respect their space as needed.
Pet Palliative Care – Hospice for Dogs and Cats
While there are many illnesses that vets can diagnose and treat, there may come a point when a cure is no longer realistic. Pet palliative care – or pet hospice – is rooted in this acceptance. Instead of making the dog or cat endure stressful treatments to no avail, pet owners shift the focus to helping the animal stay as comfortable as possible, recognizing that death is imminent.
Pet palliative care is only recommended for animals who are not experiencing urgent pain. It’s better suited for animals with a long-term illness that is not curable, when discomfort can be managed with medication.
Having a Pet Put Down (Euthanasia)
Euthanasia may be the proper response when suffering has become unendurable. The process is usually painless and involves the vet injecting a substance that puts the dog or cat down. Typically, the animal becomes very sleepy, very quickly – similar to undergoing heavy anesthesia. It only takes 20-30 seconds. Euthanasia is usually undertaken at the vet’s office, though some vets offer home services as well.
Euthanasia is considered a humane choice for animals enduring significant pain or mobility issues that cannot be managed by their pet owner. It is not a solution for senior pets who are simply slow or incontinent. A veterinarian can help you determine if euthanasia is an appropriate option for your pet.
What to Do If a Pet Dies at Home
Whether your pet dies at home or at the vet, having a plan is essential. One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is what to do with the body. Some bury pets in their backyard and build special pet memorials, but more pet owners are now choosing to have their pets cremated so that they can keep their ashes in pet urns or have them turned into keepsakes.
Any vet office will be able to provide you with information about local cremation services for dogs and cats, even if they don’t offer the services in house. You can then coordinate with the crematorium to arrange drop-off and the delivery of ashes.
Keeping their Memory Alive
Keeping pet urns at home has become a preferred option, as you can take pet urns with you when you move. There are many types of unique pet urns available, including dog urns, cat urns, and bunny urns. Pet urns are smaller in size, making them the perfect option for holding the ashes of dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, or other family pets. A wide variety of pet urns is available, showcasing many beautiful styles.
Caring for elderly pets is challenging, but rewarding. With a solid plan, you can provide the care they need and honor their memory after death.