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Pet Hospice Care: Helping to ease suffering for dogs and cats with cancer & other terminal illnesses.

Jul 19, 2023

As told through the story of sweet Rylie, a Caring Pathways hospice patient.

Rylie was always a happy dog — arguably one of the happiest dogs that ever lived. She always had a smile on her face and such a wiggly nubbin of a tail that her whole bottom swayed back and forth when she greeted her friends. This is why Rylie’s guardian, Ryan, was concerned when she noticed that Rylie was less exuberant than usual. She also started vomiting and was just not herself. Ryan rushed to the ER where, after some testing, Rylie was diagnosed with cancer affecting one of her adrenal glands inside her abdomen. The tumor was aggressive and was also seen, via an ultrasound, to be invading the largest blood vessel in her abdomen, causing bleeding and fluid buildup inside her belly. At the time, it wasn’t known how long Rylie might make it, but Ryan knew that for whatever time she had left, she wanted her to feel as good as possible.

An elderly labrador is dozing in his bed.

Seeking Support for Rylie’s End-of-Life Care

All of the veterinarians that worked with Ryan and Rylie were wonderful. They stabilized her at the ER and gave her pain medications to make her more comfortable. Ryan continued to work with her regular veterinarian and also started Rylie on holistic cancer treatments with an Integrative Veterinarian. However, Ryan still felt a little lost as far as how best to support Rylie until it was clear that it was her time. She did not want to let her suffer, but she also felt that it wasn’t time to let her go yet. She needed someone to step in and provide her with not only medical treatment but guidance that was aimed at improving her quality of life in the face of her diagnosis. She also needed help learning how to assess her quality of life as her disease progressed. This is when Ryan reached out to Caring Pathways to help guide her in providing the best end-of-life care possible for Rylie.

An elderly labrador is dozing in his bed.

Caring Pathways’ Approach to Pet Hospice Care

The day I met Rylie, she was almost too sweet and too cute for words! I could also immediately see how much she meant to Ryan. One of the aspects I love most about what I do is having the privilege of witnessing the beauty and the depth of the human-animal bond. Without a doubt, Rylie was Ryan’s whole world.

Addressing Rylie’s Comfort and Quality of Life

The main problem that Rylie was experiencing as a result of her abdominal tumor was a huge buildup of fluid in her abdomen that was pressing on all of her organs and making it difficult for her to breathe normally. Because she was carrying so much extra weight with the fluid, and because of the difficulty it was causing her, she was very tired. She was also having trouble eating full meals and had become a very picky eater.

cat lying on the man's shoulder

A Tailored Care Plan for Rylie

I took the time to examine Rylie in the comfort of her home, on her terms. She was a very willing patient, but it was obvious that just having to stand for the exam exhausted her. It was clear that I needed to address the fluid in her abdomen to improve her quality of life. Ryan and I talked about different strategies to help get rid of the fluid, and we ultimately decided to try a diuretic medication. We also put her on a medication to improve her appetite. It was important to Ryan that she stay as active as possible, and since her current pain medication made her sleepy, we decided to switch her to another medication which does not carry that side effect.

Rylie’s Progress and Continued Care

Rylie’s fluid buildup began to gradually dissipate over the next week and was almost completely gone within 10 days. Rylie’s appetite and activity level improved as well. She was able to jump up on the couch and play with her squeaky ball again. Rylie’s favorite nurse, Becky, checks up on her frequently, and overall she continues to do quite well. We don’t know how long she’ll be with us, but we know her time here will be good time.

elderly pets

Embracing the Beauty of Pet Hospice and Palliative Care

Pet hospice and palliative care are aimed at improving a pet’s quality of life in the face of a terminal diagnosis. We take all the factors involved in their care into consideration and then partner with you to come up with a plan that fits them best. We do this with a 5-step approach that includes the following:

  1. Evaluation of your needs, beliefs, and goals for your pet.
  2. Education about your pet’s disease process.
  3. Development of a personalized care plan for you & your pet.
  4. Instruction on how to carry out the care plan at home.
  5. Emotional support during your pet’s care, as well as after their death.

Honoring the Bond Between Ryan and Rylie

It is truly an honor to be able to support wonderful pet guardians like Ryan and their sweet fur-babies, like Rylie, through their last chapter together. During a time that can be filled with fear and uncertainty, we aim to provide peace and comfort by linking arms with you and taking that final walk together.

elderly pets

Written by: Mindy Brewster, DVM, CHPV

Dr. Mindy became aware of Caring Pathways in 2011 when she had to say goodbye to her first pet, a very special senior cat named Jack. That experience taught her the value of a peaceful, at-home passing. The experience impacted her so much that she knew she wanted to help others in this way too. Dr. Mindy is truly honored to be able to provide this service for people and their beloved pets as part of the Caring Pathways Team. Dr. Mindy is committed to life-long learning and is always looking for ways to better serve her clients and their pets. She recently completed over 100 hours of continuing education in end-of-life care and earned her certification in hospice and palliative care (CHPV).

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