We are so fortunate that our dogs and cats are living longer than ever before and have access to the highest levels of veterinary care. At some point, though, just as with people, nothing more can be done. That doesn’t always mean that euthanasia must be the next step. More and more, people are turning to end-of-life programs that help to ease a pet’s journey out of life in a way that maintains comfort, while giving his family extra time with him.
Known as “pawspice,” a term coined by veterinary oncologist Dr. Alice Villalobos, it allows people and veterinarians to work together to increase survival time, ensure quality of life, relieve pain and recognize when it’s time to say goodbye. That philosophy of maintaining quality of life honors the human-animal bond, Dr. Villalobos says.
“Pawspice is not abandoning the disease,” she says. “It’s palliative medicine that involves treating the disease.”
Palliative medicine includes pain management, infection control, nutritional support and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or massage. Pets who receive it often have longer survival times, giving human and animal more time together before the pet’s death.
If you have a terminally ill pet, talk to your veterinarian about a pet hospice plan. One of the things you’ll need to do is to assess your animal’s quality of life. Answering the following questions can guide you. Score criteria on a scale of 0 to 10. A score of 35 or higher suggests good quality of life, while a lower score may mean you need to make changes to improve your dog’s or cat’s situation or consider whether it’s time to let him go.
Find out if your pet is a good candidate for pawspice care, and how to discuss it with your veterinarian, in this week’s Pet Connection.