It is hard to even think about life without your dog. As difficult as losing your best friend may be, preparing for that time and learning about your options and what to expect as your dog ages may give you some comfort. There are lots of things you can do to prepare as your dog ages to make this phase of both of your lives better. There are things you can do to help you get through the grieving process once your dog has passed away too.
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What Happens When Your Dog Has a Terminal Illness?
If your dog develops a terminal medical illness or is severely injured, you will need to think about what you can do to relieve his pain and suffering. Euthanasia is the last resort and is often recommended by vets when there are no other solutions that will improve your dog’s quality of life.
If your dog has a terminal disease, he may respond to treatment positively in the beginning. Eventually, dogs tend to stop responding or will develop worse conditions due to medications. You may want to keep a log of daily notes on changes in your dog’s appetite, energy level, and behavior.
If your dog has a severe injury that drastically alters his quality of life and is not curable, some vets will recommend euthanasia. Some injuries are less destructive. In these cases, you can often keep your dog’s quality of life up with some adjustments to your dog’s routine. Other injuries are more severe and may cause your dog permanent pain and suffering. If this is the case, you may want to talk to your vet about euthanasia as the most humane solution.
When your dog gets older, it is natural for him to develop more health conditions. For this reason, it is crucial to take your senior dog to the vet regularly. Some dogs will start slowing down as they age, but will not have any specific illness or treatable condition. If this sounds like your dog, the best thing you can do is try to make his senior years as comfortable as possible.
Older dogs can still have a high quality of life even though they have slowed down. The key is to watch his vitals ans behavior, and if he takes a dramatic turn for the worse, take him to the vet.
Your Dog’s Quality of Life
When you have to make the painful end of life decision for your dog, the vital thing to consider is his quality of life. If your dog is losing the ability to function in a way that he is no longer able to enjoy a good quality of life, you may need to start thinking about the possibility of euthanasia.
Conditions like kidney failure, impaired mobility, lack of appetite, pain, confusion, severe vomiting, and dementia are all indications that your dog’s body is failing him. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet.
Your vet can help you determine how severe your dog’s condition is and what the best course of action may be. In some cases, there may be treatments to extend your dog’s good quality of life and make him more comfortable.
Many times, though, there are no treatments that can help, or the procedures may be painful for your dog and may extend his life, but not increase his quality of life. The important thing to keep in mind is that you want to do what is best for your dog.
It is not a good idea to force your dog to endure painful procedures to extend his life so that you don’t have to lose him yet. Your dog will expend tons of energy, just trying to be well for you for as long as he can. Don’t make your dog suffer just because you are avoiding making a difficult choice.
Deciding whether to end your suffering dog’s life through euthanasia humanely may be one of the hardest choices you will ever have to make. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The decision is ultimately going to be based on you, your dog, and what you feel is the right thing to do.
For some pet parents, euthanasia may be the right thing to do. For others, letting your dog pass away naturally is the right option. If you are unsure about what is the best thing for your dog, speak with your vet about your concerns. They may be able to give you information on both options and provide recommendations based on your dog’s condition.
The key to assessing your dog’s quality of life is the idea of “more good days than bad.” If your dog is experiencing more days in which his quality of life is still good – his behavior, energy level, and appetite are all good – you may have some more good times ahead. However, if your dog starts to experience more bad days than good, it may be time to consider euthanasia.
Pain and Trouble Breathing
Being able to relieve your dog’s pain is the number one priority. Trouble breathing, this is one of the most painful conditions, even more so than a broken bone. If your dog can’t breathe, getting in that next breath is the only thing that matters. Respiratory distress is an emergency, and you will need to take him to the vet right away.
Other Signs Your Dog is in Pain:
- Excessive panting and breathing open-mouth
- Being irritable or biting when you pet him in specific spots
- An increase in whining, whimpering, yelping, or growling
- Changes in sleep habits and appetite
- Incontinence problems, accidents
- Scratching, biting, or licking a specific part of his body excessively
- Restlessness, difficulty getting up and down, limping
Loss of Appetite
Dogs may lose their appetite. It is vital to keep an eye on your dog’s weight and eating habits. If won’t or can’t eat on his own, take him to the vet. Your vet may be able to give your dog an appetite stimulant.
Signs your dog may be dehydrated include a dry nose, sunken in eyes, and tacky gums. You can check your dog for dehydration by gently pulling up on his skin right between his shoulder blades. If his skin bounces back to resting position quickly, he is adequately hydrated. If his skin moves back into place slowly, he is likely dehydrated.
Talk with your vet if your dog is not drinking water. Your vet may advise that you provide your dog with subcutaneous fluids for hydration. They can show you how to administer these at home.
Mobility is an essential factor for your dog’s quality of life. Some dogs may not be able to go for walks like they did when they were younger. They also may not be able to maneuver stairs or jump up on the couch like they used to.
Dogs with limited mobility can still have a good quality of life. You can help them move around when they need to. However, if your dog can’t move on his own at all. If he can’t get to the food, or out of his waste, this kind of mobility issue has a negative impact on his quality of life.
If your dog is not able to get up, causing him to lie in his own waste, you will especially need to focus on hygiene. When dogs are not able to move out of their waste, they are likely to develop sores. To clean a dog in this state, use wet a sponge with diluted hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice.
Enjoyment of Life
Your senior dog needs mental stimulation and fun, even as he slows down. Keep him involved in family activities. Give him attention while you are watching TV. Make time to play with his favorite toys for as long as he responds to them.
What Can You Do to Make Your Senior Dog More Comfortable?
If you have a senior dog, or your pup has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, there are some things you can do to make your home more accessible and more comfortable for him.
Get a Comfy Bed
When your dog gets older, or if he is ill, he will want to sleep a lot more than before. You will want to make sure your dog has a comfortable, supportive bed on which to relax. Older dogs need orthopedic beds to help relieve joint and arthritis pain. Make sure your dog’s bed is in an area that is easy for him to get in and out of.
Slip Resistant Rugs
It is a smart idea to get some slip-resistant rugs to put on the floor where your dog frequently walks so he does not slip and fall. Place these rugs on your dog’s path to his bed and his food and water dishes.
Get a Ramp for the Couch
If your dog is used to curling up on your couch or bed, you may want to get a ramp. He can use a ramp to get up and down, so he does not have to jump.
Absorbent Pads for Accidents
When dogs get older, they often develop incontinence issues and have accidents easily. You might want to keep absorbent pads next to his bed and any other spot around the house that he frequents. Doing so will give him an easily accessible place he can relieve himself when he can’t make it further.
Make Changes to Your Dog’s Diet
As your dog ages, he will likely have less of an appetite than when he was younger. Your dog may be pickier about his food choices. He may not like some of the food he used to enjoy. Senior dogs also have different nutritional needs than younger dogs. Watch your dog’s eating habits as he ages, and adjust your feeding routine accordingly.
Older dogs have a slowing metabolism. With this, comes the need for less calorie intake each day. Your dog will likely need a smaller portion size. Your dog may also need soft foods that are easy to chew and easy to digest.
Some dogs may benefit from supplements to control pain and aide in energy and mobility. See your vet to determine what supplements may be right for your dog.
Make the Time You Have with Your Dog Count
Make the time you have left with your dog count. As your dog ages, you may not know how much longer you will have with him. Every moment is a chance to make precious memories. Give your dog his favorite treats, take him to places he enjoys, and take lots of photos of him with your family.
When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Your Dog
If you are unsure whether your dog should be euthanized or not, talk to your vet for guidance. It can be a really tough decision, and your vet can help you make the right choice for your dog. Some dogs pass away naturally when they are ready on their own. If your dog is terminally ill or is in severe pain, euthanasia may be the most humane option to release him from his suffering.
Euthanasia is typically done at the veterinary office. Your vet should explain the procedure and what you should expect. Many pet parents choose to stay with their dogs through the process. Some vets will even come to your house to do the procedure.
Time to Grieve
Losing a pet can be just as devastating as losing a loved one. After all, your dog is a member of your family. A lot of times, people will not be emotionally prepared for the impact. It is natural to feel grief for your beloved friend. It is essential to give yourself time to grieve.
Memorialize Your Dog
Whether you choose euthanasia or your dog passes naturally, you will need to decide how to memorialize him. In some locations, you are legally allowed to bury your dog on your property, while other places restrict this practice. You may want to consider burying your dog in a pet cemetery. A lot of pet parents choose to have their dog’s remains cremated. If you choose cremation, you can have your pet’s ashes returned to you in an urn, or you can request to have the crematory spread the ashes in a designated location.
No matter which option you choose, there are things you can do to memorialize your dog. You can have a grave marker made or an urn with an inscription. You may want to get a personalized item to keep as a reminder of your dog. Some ideas include an ornament, key chain, or an engraved photo frame in which you can put a photo of you and your pup. Small things like this will help you through the grieving process and will provide you with fond memories of your best friend.