Chronic Disease & End-of-Life Care
Chronic Disease and End-of-Life Care
Treating aging and chronically-ill pets in their home has many benefits for both patients and their parents. HousePaws brings high-quality, compassionate care where it is needed most and works best: your home.
Treatment for Chronic Conditions
At some point, pet health problems can reach a point where considerations have to be made for more advanced, dedicated, and daily care to help the pet be as comfortable as possible. We commonly see this in cases of chronic disease, cancer, pain, or senior health issues such as joint degeneration or cognitive issues. Some pets require palliative care, others hospice care, and in cases where there is no hope, euthanasia. Home is usually the best place for a pet in all of these situations and possible through our mobile practice.
Pawspice (Hospice) Care
Pawspice refers to the care of a pet when we know the end of life is near. Often palliative care is an important part of a hospice care plan. When there is no option for a cure, the goal of hospice care is to make the pet’s life as comfortable as possible in the context of the upcoming end of the pet’s life.
In cases where pawspice is being considered, we feel that it is important that a pet parent consider their pet’s Quality of Life as well as their own. Consideration of the issues related to a very sick loved pet is a challenge for many pet parents and something that many people avoid due to the substantial and serious emotional issues related to this decision-making process. Guilt, fear of loss, and struggle with hope can impair a pet parent’s ability to cope with this process, even when your veterinarian provides a clear medical rationale for the decision to help your pet transition out of his or her suffering. Decisions become even more difficult when the medical explanation is complicated, or isn’t a straightforward single issue at hand. We understand the dread that this decision-making process brings to the vast majority of our clients, and respect that this is a deeply-felt and complicated process–and one that many on our staff struggle with in the cases of our own pets. Monkey’s House Hospice is a wonderful example of how planning, a positive outlook and quality veterinary care can make the difference not only to one pet, but many. Michele Allen of Monkey’s House offers advice to pet parents in this feature on our website.
A Plan for Quality of Life
Palliative Care refers to managing the symptoms and side effects of a chronic illness or life- limiting illness. It is a customized care plan for the pet’s conditions and can be done better when the living conditions of the pet are clear to our veterinarians on the mobile visit. For instance, a pet with kidney disease may need fluids and medications to control the nausea and anemia the pet may experience. Treating health-compromised pets in their home usually reduces the amount of stress they feel during treatment, and this ability to minimize stress can make diagnostic procedures more accurate which can improve the accuracy of pet treatment on a palliative care plan.
Palliative care can be performed on pets who do not have a life-ending disease, but need a chronic care plan to help them live longer, happier and healthier lives. One example of a very successful palliative care plan was in the case of a patient named Perks, who lived many months of quality life after being diagnosed with end-stage cardiac disease. Every case is different, but in a case like Perks’, a comprehensive palliative care plan extended the time and quality of life the pet had with his pet parents–and vice-versa.
In short, palliative care plans are devised to improve both the quality of life for the duration of a pet’s life. Some pets with terminal diseases also will be given a unique palliative care plan to maximize the reduction of pain, and the creation of comfort for the remaining time you spend with your pet.
A Tool for Decision Making
The Quality of Life Scale, created by Dr. Alice Villalobos, is a tool that allows owners to quantify what they are seeing at home to help determine the pet’s comfort level as an aid to the decision-making process. This scale is often used before starting a palliative or hospice care plan so that we can establish a baseline and reassess after the plan has been implemented to see if the pet’s quality of life has improved. Because of the emotional nature of the decision-making process, it is recommended that you fill out this scale three times on three successive days to get a more objective and accurate appraisal than might be possible if filled out only once.
Quality of Life Scale
Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine
the success of Pawspice care. Score patients using a scale of:
0 to 10 (10 being ideal).
Original concept, Oncology Outlook, by Dr. Alice Villalobos, Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN,
09/2004; scale format created for author’s book, Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human/Animal Bond, Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Revised for International Veterinary Association of Pain Management
(IVAPM) 2011 Hospice Statement. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alice Villalobos & Wiley-Blackwell.
Client Quality of Life
We feel strongly that the client’s quality of life is also an important factor to be addressed in this decision-making process. Sometimes caring for a pet with serious disease or in an end-of-life situation can affect the homeowner’s sleep, mental health, family dynamics, musculoskeletal health, and more. Stress impacts human health just as it does animal health. These issues can impact the client, and can also circle back and directly and indirectly impact the quality of life of the pet when his or her parent suffers, or who’s decision-making is impaired as a result of the emotional toll created by a beloved pet’s deteriorating condition. Everyone’s quality of life should be considered when caring for a pet requiring advanced and dedicated care.
End of Life
A time will come when you need to contemplate end of life decisions for your pet. Euthanasia can be the kindest gift you can give to a pet who is suffering from an incurable or painful disease. Depending on the situation, we can perform euthanasia in your home or at one of our facilities. Home euthanasia for the pet is often the most comfortable option as there is no driving to the vet or displacing them from the security and familiarity of their own environment. Some owners prefer hospital euthanasia as they do not want to remember the sadness of the process happening in their home. There are other times when the euthanasia procedure will be urgent and the hospital location will be the soonest or perhaps only option to help the pet.
We encourage you to think about what location would be best for your family. There is no “right way” in something like this. Some families choose to have an appointment with us first to discuss the procedure and meet the veterinarian. Other families choose to set up an appointment at the right time for the pet without an appointment prior. If you are interested in reaching out to us directly to discuss end of life services, you may call us and speak with a patient care coordinator, or if you find speaking about this topic very difficult, you can fill out the form below and we will contact you about setting up a time to discuss when it is comfortable for you. Please visit our Euthanasia page if you would like to know more about scheduling this appointment or would like to know more about the procedure, itself. Families with children considering a pet euthanasia appointment may wish to visit our special page Children and Pet Euthanasia.
If you need to get more information on setting up a euthanasia appointment and anticipate having a difficult time speaking about this topic on the phone, please use the form below to contact us.
Euthanasia Consultation Request Form