By Courtney Prue | July 12, 2022

What Is Palliative Care for Pets?

Why Is It Important?

Palliative care for pets is a specialised approach to veterinary care that focuses on improving the quality of life for senior pets or those with serious illnesses or conditions. It aims to provide relief from pain, discomfort, and other symptoms while addressing the emotional and social needs of the pet and their human family.

One of the most challenging parts of owning a pet is caring for them when they’re older and have illnesses affecting them daily. Modern veterinary medicine has many different treatment options available, but that does not mean that pursuing more and more treatments is always the right decision for our pets. At Rest Your Paws, we’re here to help with in-home palliative care for your pet’s final days, weeks, and months – however long that might be. So what is hospice care – and is it the right decision for my pet?

How Should I Treat My Pet with a Terminal Illness?

When our pets reach a certain age or have a serious illness, there may come a point where we must stop trying to cure their condition (that is, to get rid of it entirely) and instead look to manage their symptoms and focus on comfort. This allows them to live a good-quality life for as long as possible.

Palliative care” is the name for treatment that focuses on keeping the patient as comfortable and stress-free as possible for as long as possible. It focuses on the quality of your pet’s life rather than the quantity, making it less intense than standard medical treatment. This care optimises comfort and allows you to enjoy time with your pet without regular diagnostics and vet visits.
Treatment away from home is usually more stressful for our pets, so we offer pet hospice care at home, where your pet is comfortable and stress-free. In humans, palliative care is usually given at home or in a hospice facility rather than a hospital, and we want to give our pets the same high standard of end-of-life care. 

When is Palliative Care Right for My Pet?

The decision to move from standard medical treatment to palliative care is always challenging. At Rest Your Paws, we’re here to help you make these difficult decisions. There are a few reasons why you might choose palliative care for your pet:

  • Your pet has an illness that cannot be cured or treated, and you want to focus on making them comfortable.
  • Your pet has an illness where treatment is available but unlikely to succeed, and you feel it is not in their best interests to proceed.
  • Your pet has a condition that can be treated, but it is not in their best interests to give them the treatment.
  • Your pet has a condition that is very expensive to treat, and it is not financially possible for you to do this.


There are many understandable reasons why it might not be in a pet’s best interests to proceed with treatment, even if it is available. These include:

  • They get very stressed when coming to the vet clinic for treatment
  • They have a bad reaction to the medication or develop severe side-effects
  • They have other illnesses that mean treatment is not possible – for example, a heart condition that would make a general anaesthetic very risky
  • They have other illnesses that mean that even if treatment is successful, their life expectancy is not long, and you feel that the improvement from that treatment would not be worth it.

Your regular vet may have already suggested that you consider palliative care. However, suggesting it to them is also okay if you feel the time is right. You will be more aware of how well your pet is coping with their illness at home and how they feel about coming into the clinic for treatment, so it’s essential to listen to your instincts about what’s best for them. At Rest Your Paws, we are happy to discuss the transition to palliative care if you’re undecided about the right course of action.

What Does Palliative Care Involve?

Palliative care focuses on relieving the symptoms of your pet’s illness to keep their physical and emotional well-being as good as possible for as long as possible.

In the early stages of many illnesses, your pet may experience few symptoms. At this stage, you can focus on helping them to enjoy their life as much as possible and make some good memories with them. You should also try to encourage them to eat regular meals. Many illnesses will lead to weight loss, so helping them to maintain their weight will keep them strong for as long as possible. 

As your pet’s illness progresses, there are many different types of treatments to help with their symptoms. These might include:

  • Painkillers
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Medication to increase their appetite
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Special foods to relieve the symptoms of illness
  • Special diets

In the more advanced stages, your beloved pet may benefit from more intensive treatment, such as more potent painkillers or fluids given under the skin or into the vein (“intravenously”). Feeding tubes can also be placed to help your pet take in food, even if their appetite is poor. We will support you with deciding whether to undertake any of these with your pet and help you to manage them at home. We will visit as often as necessary to ensure your pet receives the required medications and care.

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When is it Time to Say Goodbye?

We are fortunate to be able to offer our pets relief from their suffering with in-home pet euthanasia (“putting them to sleep”). Knowing when to make this decision is one of the hardest things that we do. The best thing to do is focus on their quality of life – are they still able to enjoy spending time with you, or going out, or playing with their toys? Or are their symptoms getting in the way of them having a good life? Regular discussions with our team will also help you to consider how well your pet is coping. You can make the decision to put your pet to sleep at any time during the palliative care journey – just because there are more treatment options available, it does not mean that it is the right decision for you and your pet to go through them. When you decide it is the right time, speak to us. We will make all the arrangements and visit you at home to help them pass peacefully, surrounded by their loved ones.


Palliative care involves keeping your pet comfortable, rather than trying to treat their condition. Because of the stress of the vet’s office, palliative care for pets is often best done at home, in their home environment, and surrounded by their loving family. Our vets can help you decide when to start palliative care for your pet, and what treatment is right for your family. We will then visit you as often as is needed to help you with medication and caring for your pet for their final months, weeks, or days.

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