What Is a Hospice Puppy?

what is a hospice puppy

Up until recently, I have never heard of the term “hospice puppy”. I saw a friend mention it on social media, so had to find out what it meant. I assumed I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know what a hospice dog or puppy is, so decided to research it, then write this quick explainer. 

A hospice puppy is a puppy suffering from an incurable illness and is nearing the end of life. The terminal condition can be anything from an untreatable cancerous tumor to kidney failure or a neurological disorder that will eventually cause death.  

Yeh, it’s actually very sad.

I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to write much more, but it’s important for people to know about, so here’s what you might need to know about hospice puppies. 

Hospice puppies and dogs

Loving, adorable, and full of life. These are just a few highlights of the heartwarming qualities that puppies have. We all look forward to watching our puppies blossom into adults and creating many cherished memories together. 

The thought of death isn’t something that crosses any puppy owner’s mind. After all, puppies are young and have a whole life ahead of them. 

Sadly, the universe sometimes has other plans. And this dreaded “plan” happens when we least expect. 

One day your puppy, who’s been in a happy, healthy state right from the moment they walked into your home, falls ill. You tell yourself that it can’t be anything serious and that your vet will get it all under control. 

But after several vet visits and tests, your vet utters the heart-wrenching words that no puppy parent ever wants to hear, “your puppy has a terminal disease.”

The hardest thing any puppy owner can ever come to terms with is the reality that their puppy is terminally ill. If your puppy is approaching the end of life due to an incurable disease, this makes them what is known as a hospice puppy.  

They could have a few months, weeks, or even days to live after the diagnosis depending on how advanced their condition is.

There are common symptoms hospice puppies experience when nearing the end of life:

  • Disinterest in daily activities: A hospice puppy will likely spend their entire time sleeping as they’ll lose interest in playtime, walks, or activities they once enjoyed.
  • Not eating as much as they used to: Their loss of appetite will lead to weight loss.
  • They have a hard time maintaining their balance: when walking.
  • They have frequent potty accidents: It’s common for hospice puppies to relieve themselves on their resting spot.
  • Unusual breathing and excessive vocalization: they may whine a lot out of pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting: They might even have frequent diarrhea.

Caring for a hospice puppy

Hospice puppies can benefit greatly from hospice care. The goal of this type of care isn’t to find all possible cures for a puppy’s condition. 

Rather, it’s focused on providing the highest level of care and comfort — right from when they’ve been diagnosed with the incurable disease to when they finally breathe their last.  

Hospice care simply ensures that a puppy’s final days are filled with love and less pain by addressing their physical, psychological, and emotional needs. 

Hospice care will also help you prepare to come to terms with your hospice puppy’s impending death and encourage you to make the most of your limited time together.

If your puppy has been diagnosed with a terminal condition, it can be tough to care for them without professional help. 

Your vet will likely suggest an at-home hospice care plan where the hospice puppy receives professional care in an environment where they feel most secure: home. 

They will guide you on how to cater to your puppy’s end-of-life care needs and make regular house visits to check on your puppy. Your vet will also share what to expect as your puppy’s illness progresses and respond to all your concerns.  

A typical hospice care plan often includes:

Dietary support 

Your puppy might have lost interest in food and water, but going hungry or without water will make their end-of-life experiences unpleasant. 

Most vets recommend using a feeding tube to help a hospice puppy eat, and mixing their dry food with broth or warm water to make it more enticing.  

Creating the right environment

Simple things such as providing your hospice puppy with a quiet, warm resting spot, avoiding loud noises in the house, putting them in diapers, and adding carpet runners (if your home is tiled) can go a long way in making your puppy feel comfortable.

You should also consider brushing their coat often and giving them sponge baths to freshen them up.

Pain management strategy

One of the most essential aspects of hospice care — both in terminally ill puppies and adult dogs — is pain management.  

Pain can make your hospice puppy’s end-of-life experiences unbearable. So throughout the entire duration ofhospice care, your puppy will take certain pain control medication to relieve them from too much pain.  

Your vet might also prescribe anti-nausea drugs as well as appetite stimulants for your hospice puppy and teach you how to administer these medications. Massage therapy may also be part of your puppy’s hospice care plan.

Since you will be around your puppy more often than your vet, you must keep a close eye on them and report any symptom changes to your vet. This will help your vet make necessary adjustments to your puppy’s hospice care plan.

Emotional support

Away from your caregiving tasks, keep your puppy company as much as you can. 

Your presence will mean the world to them, and you can do this in the simplest ways. For instance, if they have difficulty climbing the couch, make a cozy spot on the floor next to them.

Knowing when it’s time to put your puppy down

Some hospice puppies die while receiving hospice care. They simply exit the world naturally after receiving the best care they could ever ask for.

There’s no denying that hospice care is truly a wonderful gift for any hospice puppy. But it can only serve its purpose up to a certain point.  If your puppy can’t hold on any longer, hospice care won’t take away their suffering.

Making the decision to euthanize your hospice puppy can be a difficult one — we are never ready to let go of our pets. 

But if their quality of life continues to deteriorate with each passing day (and death doesn’t seem to arrive), euthanasia might be in your puppy’s best interest.  

A hospice puppy might completely refuse to eat, drink or take their medications, can’t stand or walk, is vomiting persistently, and no longer interacts with you. 

When this happens, it may be time to consider a peaceful death through euthanasia. Your vet will administer a euthanasia injection to finally end your hospice puppy’s pain-filled days.

Most puppy parents opt for cremation after euthanasia, which the vet often arranges. Others choose to bury their puppy either in their home or a pet cemetery recommended by their vet.  

Being your puppy’s primary caregiver, only you can decide what to do with your puppy’s body after euthanasia.  If you’re undecided, don’t fret. Vets often offer to preserve the body as you weigh your options.    

More FAQs on hospice dogs and puppies

What do you do with a dog at the end of life?

As noted earlier, you can consider giving your dog hospice care to ensure their final days are filled with painless and happy experiences.

How do you know when a dog is at the end of life?

You can know a dog is at the end of life if their quality of life deteriorates with each passing day.

What do vets do when a dog dies?

Depending on what the dog owner wants, the vet may arrange for cremation or help the owner find an appropriate pet cemetery. 

But if the dog owner hasn’t decided what to do with their dog’s body, the vet can offer to preserve it temporarily as they await the owner’s decision.

When should a dog be put down?

As discussed earlier, it’s best to put a dog down if their quality of life has completely deteriorated.

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Hospice puppy image from https://unsplash.com/photos/fk4tiMlDFF0

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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