Dealing with a cancer diagnosis would be a challenge for any pet parent. As a pet owner, you’ll have to process your emotions while addressing the needs of your pet at the same time. What’s truly important during this time is that you are helping your pet live out the rest of their days in comfort. Dogs with cancer have special needs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still enjoy life with you.
It’s important to make the most out of each remaining day left with your canine companion. Here are some ways you can make your furry friend comfortable and happy even as they battle cancer.
Be Open and Communicate With Your Veterinarian
Pets are experts in hiding their pain, so you may need to rely on your veterinarian for insight and advice. If you don’t have an open relationship with your vet, you may feel uncomfortable asking important questions. There are often multiple treatment plans to address cancer in dogs, and your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on the benefits and side effects of each. Don’t be afraid to ask important questions, get clarification on treatment options, or ask for alternatives when discussing treatment options with your vet.
Consider Hospice Care
Hospice care for pets is growing in popularity, with many organizations offering end-of-life services for pets. As a working pet parent, you may not have the time to provide care throughout the day—and even if you don’t work, you may not know exactly how to best care for dogs with cancer. Hospice organizations focus on the comfort and quality of life of your pet. Just because there are no other treatment options for your pet, doesn’t mean that euthanasia is the only option. With hospice care, professionals will manage your pet’s symptoms, and help them maintain happiness for as long as possible.
Veterinary hospice care typically includes:
- Education about the end-stage disease process
- Pain recognition and treatment
- Supplementary nutrition
- Management of incontinence
- Bandage and wound care
“The final moments we have with our pets stay with us forever. There’s no going back—that’s why it’s so important to create a good memory, and hospice care can help with that,” says Dr. Ella Bittel, holistic DVM and owner of Spirits in Transition.
Perform Quality of Life Tests Regularly
It’s important to evaluate and keep track of your pet’s quality of life. While it’s normal to want to extend your pet’s life for as long as possible, you also want them to not suffer during this time. As the pet parent, you should monitor the following to assess your pet’s quality of life: pain, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness and mobility. Your veterinarian can tell you how to perform these tests, and what to look for. Performing regular quality-of-life checks will make it easier to determine when it is time to say goodbye.
Help Them Live Life to the Fullest
Improve your dog’s quality of life by exposing them to their favorite activities as frequently as possible. Whether it’s taking them to the park for fun in the sun, going for long drives and allowing them to put their head out the window, or giving them a good back rub—you can help your dog live out her final days to the fullest. Dog toys are another treat to help your pup keep her mind off the side effects of dog cancer. “Take walks together, go to the dog park, and cuddle with your pooch as often as possible,” advises Dr. Rugh MacPete, DVM and television personality.
Make Your Pet Feel Secure
As your pet battles cancer, it’s common for them to feel anxious. Keep your pet calm by surrounding him with his favorite things—a favorite blanket or a special plush toy. Pressure sores are common in dogs who have limited mobility. A warm, comfortable sleeping spot with cushioning is essential during this time. If your dog’s cancer has led to incontinence, or the inability to get up to use the restroom, a sling can be used to help her go. “Home care for a pet that can’t walk or eliminate can be tackled with the help of dog diapers, pet wheel chairs, ramps and egg crate mattresses,” advises Alice E. Villalobos, DVM at VCA Coast Animal Hospital and Cancer Center in Hermosa Beach, California.
These final days with your pet don’t have to be sorrowful. Make the most of this time, and enjoy every minute with your precious pet.