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Hollistic approaches to End of Life Care

Faced with a terminal illness there are some options you might not have considered. Ask your vet for a referral to an oncologist or a specialist who might have another treatment option or a way of helping.  These days many vets offer complementary medicines that can enhance quality of life. Acupuncture is one such treatment. Acupuncture can alleviate pain, improve circulation and help improve wellbeing for animals that have poor mobility, or discomfort and geriatrics or animals with cancer. Ask your vet if they offer it, or ask for a referral to a vet who is qualified.

A number of other remedies are available to ease discomfort and help with transitions through this difficult time.  Holistic veterinarians are those that practice conventional as well as complementary medicine like homeopathy, flower essences, herbal medicine and other treatments.. These treatments rarely interfere with conventional pain drugs, so your pet can receive additional treatment and support alongside regular veterinary care. As a veterinarian of over 25 years, I can truly say I am amazed at the potential of these therapies. Sometimes animals that are terminal will rally and respond in ways we can’t predict. Provided their quality of life can be maintained or improved, and you are willing to work with a veterinarian, some animals can live successfully with illnesses like cancer and kidney disease for a long time. 

It is also important to recognise an animal’s right to die, by not keeping them alive for your own sake, especially if their Quality of Life is compromised. Keeping them on a drip in hospital when they have advanced or terminal organ failure alive is not always the best thing. It might be kinder to let them go.
Some animals will often need constant monitoring to ensure they are not suffering, and to give you, their owners, an accurate gauge of their condition. For your pet to have a positive and peaceful death, you want to get the timing and the environment right for you and your family.  Ask your vet for a referral to a vet who works holistically or specialises in end of life care.  There are vets who specialise in offering euthanasia at home, or other options when euthanasia is not an appropriate choice for religious or spiritual reasons.

Death is final. But it can be so beautiful and so releasing. When you have considered every option, been fully present and put your pets needs first and foremost, you will be supported by the fact that you have done everything in your power to give your pet the best possible transition from life to death. In the process, you will also have provided yourselves a solid foundation from which to grieve them and their absence in your lives.

Author Dr Barbara Fougere