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Creating a Peaceful Environment: Adapting Homes for Comfortable End-of-Life Care

Old dog sleeping on a bed

As pets approach the end of their life, it is crucial to guide and support pet owners in creating a home environment that maximises comfort and peace for their ailing companions.

This phase, inherently delicate and emotional, calls for a compassionate approach that considers not just the medical management but also the emotional and physical well-being of the pet. 

By advising on practical modifications to the home, we can significantly enhance the quality of life for pets in their final days.

This article outlines key recommendations veterinary professionals can share with pet owners, aimed at fostering a comforting and peaceful atmosphere for pets receiving end-of-life care.

Simple Changes, Significant Impact

The transition to providing end-of-life care for a pet at home involves numerous considerations, from managing pain and discomfort to ensuring emotional support. However, making this phase as peaceful as possible doesn’t always require grand gestures or significant modifications. 

Sometimes, the most profound impact comes from simple, thoughtful changes to the pet's immediate environment. These adjustments can provide comfort, ease mobility issues, and create a serene space where pets can enjoy their remaining time with dignity and love.

Comfortable Bedding

Cat sleeping in a comfortable bed

One of the simplest yet most effective modifications is ensuring the pet has access to comfortable, supportive bedding. As pets age or become ill, they may spend more time resting, and hard surfaces can exacerbate pain from arthritis or other conditions. 

Recommend orthopaedic beds or even thick, soft blankets, which can provide much-needed relief and support. Placing beds in quiet, low-traffic areas of the home where the pet can still observe family activities can help them feel included and at peace without being overwhelmed by noise and activity.

Remember that cats generally prefer to be high up, so make sure you recommend  facilitating an acceptable resting place by using steps or ramps.

Temperature Control

Discuss with pet owners the need for maintaining a comfortable temperature. Illness can affect a pet's ability to regulate body temperature, making them more susceptible to feeling too cold or too hot. 

Recommend potentially using pet-safe heating pads or cool mats, and be extra mindful of the ambient temperature in their home. Adjust heating or cooling as needed, and recommend providing extra blankets or access to cooler, tiled floors depending on the pet's needs.

Noise Reduction

A peaceful environment is often a quiet one. While some household noise is inevitable, reducing loud sounds can help keep your pet calm and comfortable. 

Soft music or white noise machines can mask disruptive sounds from outside or other parts of the house, creating a serene backdrop for their pet’s rest.

Accessibility Modifications

An accessibility ramp for senior pets

As pets become weaker or less mobile, navigating their environment can become challenging. Inform pet owners that making their home more accessible can significantly improve their pet’s quality of life. 

  • Ramps or raised feeding or water stations

  • Rugs or mats over slippery surfaces

  • Multiple food/water bowls

Ramps for pets that struggle with stairs, raised feeding stations for those with neck or back pain, and easy access to their favourite resting spots without the need to jump or climb. All of these modifications can massively improve their pet’s quality of life.

Slippery floors, such as laminate, tiled or vinyl floors can make getting around difficult for older pets with reduced mobility and muscle mass. Creating pathways around the home using rugs, yoga mats or 'jigsaw style' gym mats are cheap and easy ways to make a home more accessible.

Keeping necessities like food, water, and litter boxes (for cats) within easy reach of your pet is also super important. This may mean creating multiple stations  around the home for them.

Soft Lighting and Scent

Bright lights can be harsh for ailing pets, especially if their eyesight is declining or if they’re trying to rest. Soft, natural lighting can help create a soothing environment. 

During the day, recommend allowing natural light to filter in without overwhelming the space. In the evening, recommend using dimmer switches or soft lamps to maintain a calm, tranquil atmosphere. Light may also be necessary at night for some older pets who may become disorientated in the dark.

While it can be tempting for owners to fill their  house with scented candles or air fresheners, be mindful that these scents can be strong and offensive for your pets. Instead, recommend airing out homes naturally with fresh air.

Maintaining Routine

While physical modifications are essential, maintaining a sense of routine and normalcy is also critical for a pet's emotional well-being - even more so if their body and mind is already stressed. 

Stress the importance of keeping feeding, interaction, and, if possible, light exercise schedules consistent. This routine provides a sense of security and normalcy, helping to ease anxiety and discomfort.

A Labour of Love

By equipping pet owners with the knowledge and tools to create a peaceful environment for end-of-life care, veterinary professionals play a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for terminally ill pets. 

These recommendations not only address the pets' physical needs but also support their emotional well-being, facilitating a more gentle transition for the pets and their families. 

In doing so, we honour the profound bond between pets and their owners, ensuring that the pets receive the dignity, comfort, and peace they deserve at the end of their journey.

Are you looking to improve your knowledge of end-of-life care for your patients? In our short three-part course, our lead veterinarian and end-of-life care vet, Dr Emma Clark, teaches you all about caring for elderly and/or terminally ill pets. From supporting geriatric pets, covering the different elements of hospice care, to giving the most empathetic ending through euthanasia. Learn more here.
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