In your pet's final days, the team at South Sacramento Pet Hospital are here to provide you with compassionate hospice and end-of-life care. We strive to always treat your dog or cat with dignity and provide them, and your family, with comfort through this sad process. 

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What is Hospice Care?

As pet owners, one of the most difficult parts of living with pets is letting them go. 

Whether your four-legged friend has reached their golden years or has been diagnosed with a painful, terminal illness, dealing with their impending loss can be an incredibly difficult experience. 

This is where hospice and end-of-life care at South Sacramento Pet Hospital can help. 

Our vets do everything in their power to help ensure that your beloved companion's final days or weeks are comfortable, calm and free from pain. 

This includes completing a comprehensive quality of life exam, prescribing medication and food for pain management and offering humane euthanasia.

Hospice & End of Life Care, Sacramento Veterinarians

Preparing for Hospice & End-of-Life Care 

Hospice and end-of-life care is also called palliative care and is administered by our vets as your pet approached the end of their life. 

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from clients about hospice and end-of-life care. 

Hospice & End-of-Life Care FAQs

  • What is pet hospice care?

    At this phase of a pet's care, an owner has made the difficult decision to decline the pursuit of curative therapies for an illness that threatens their pet's life. 

    Our vets bring decades of skill and expertise in veterinary care to help you develop a compassionate end-of-life plan customized to your pet's needs.

  • What are some signs my pet may be ready to pass?
    Some behavioral and physiological signs that your pet may be ready to pass include:
    • Weight loss 
    • Depression
    • Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
    • Loss of bowel or bladder control 
    • Change in appetite or loss of appetite
    • Erratic breathing
    • Is in pain 
    • Hides or withdraws from people 

    Keep in mind that each animal is unique, and your pet may continue to eat or drink despite disorientation or pain. They may not display outward signs normally associated with pain, such as crying or whimpering.

    Make sure you consult with your vet since they will be able to tell you whether your pet's symptoms are worth worrying about based on their medical history. 

  • How can I help my pet feel healthy and comfortable at home at the end of their life?

    During this time, you can help your pet feel more comfortable by helping reduce their pain and stress. 

    Have your vet perform a complete physical exam to ensure there are no underlying health issues that need to be treated. 

    Make sure your pet has their favorite toys within their reach. 

    Since your pet may spend a significant amount of time in bed, make sure this area has lots of cushions and is comfortable. 

    If your pet is incontinent (has lost control of her bladder), check their living area often to make sure it isn't wet or soiled. You may choose to use a towel or sling to help get your pet up to urinate or defecate if needed. 

  • How can I prepare for euthanasia?

    After our vets have completed a quality-of-life assessment to ensure that your other alternatives have been exhausted, we may send them home with you until your appointment.

    We may be able to arrange your appointment time when it is likely to be quieter at the clinic, such as at the very beginning or end of the day. However, with unpredictable illnesses or injuries, this is not always possible.

    If you have children, it can help to provide age-appropriate explanations of what will happen in advance to prepare them for losing their furry friend.

    You may consider bringing your pet's bed, a favorite blanket or a comfortable pillow for them to rest on.

    If you have other pets, you may choose to bring them to the appointment, so they can understand the loss and sniff your pet's body following euthanasia.

    You may choose to sit with your pet in order to comfort them as your vet provides medicine via injection.

  • What will happen during the euthanasia process?

    You will be asked whether you'd like to stay with your pet for the euthanasia. This is an important point to consider - some people are not emotionally capable, and whichever choice you make is okay.

    You may choose to be present while he or she is sedated, then leave the area during the euthanasia itself. You might also ask a family member or friend that your pet knows and likes to take your pet to this final appointment or to stay with your pet while you leave the room.

    A powerful sedative will be injected directly into your pet's vein to cause the nerves in your pet’s body to cease sending signals (including pain signals).

    Your pet's heart rate and breathing will slow until they eventually stop. This can take as little as a few minutes and as long as 15 to 20 depending on your pet, their condition and a number of other factors. The euthanasia solution will then be injected. Brain function will then stop.

    Many pets take a final, deep breath as they pass away. Some will urinate or defecate when they are euthanized due to the total relaxation that occurs.

    Euthanasia is not painful for animals. Afterward, your pet's eyes may be open. If you wish, your vet can close them.

    Our vets will listen to your pet's heart with a stethoscope to make sure they have passed. Then, we allow owners as much time as they need following the procedure. Our vets are committed to treating each owner with as much sensitivity as possible. The entire process will generally take between 30 minutes and an hour. 

  • What happens after euthanasia?

    You can choose what happens to your euthanized pet's body. You may keep the body to bury personally, have it buried in a pet cemetery, or choose cremation. It may be helpful to consider this decision well in advance.

    People and pets are unique, and each may respond differently to the loss of your pet. Children may have questions or feel very sad for a few weeks.

    Adults may feel a range of emotions, from heavy grief to guilt, sadness or emptiness, or relief that their pet is free of pain and that their condition will no longer have to be managed. As vets, we have seen the entire range of emotions, and all are valid and normal.

    Remember to take care of yourself afterward. Talk to friends and family, or you may choose to join a pet loss support group. If you notice persistent feelings of grief that are interfering with you or family members' mental health, you may wish to consider mental health counseling. 

Memorializing Your Pet 

Saying goodbye is a difficult decision. Sometimes, while it is the kindest choice we can make in an animal's final stage of life, the process can still feel difficult and be heartbreaking. 

You may want to honor your pet's memory through memorialization in a way that keeps them close to your heart. 

You may want to do this by hosting a memorial service with family and friends or by creating a headstone, a living memorial like a tree or plant, or designating a special spot where you feel close to your pet.

The option you choose can be as unique as your pet's personality and provide comfort to everyone who knew, loved and cared for your furry friend.

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