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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

End of Life Care in Dog Cancer

Updated: December 7th, 2018

The end of life stage can be very hard on everyone. It often is gut-wrenching to see your dear companion start to say goodbye.

Like any weighty decision, sometimes the emotions involved can paralyze our ability to choose.

During these times it is so important to gain some clarity by seeking support in counselors, support groups, spiritual leaders, old friends and the like.

For more on gaining some clarity during these difficult times, see The Dog Cancer Coping Guide.

If a decision is made to try to make your dear friend comfortable during the departure stage (as opposed to letting him or her go), I would like to go over a few items.

a. Diet: at this point we forget about the standard dog cancer diets. Most dogs in this state don’t want to eat much and appetite stimulants (B complex, prednisolone, anabolic steroids, cyproheptadine) don’t do much to help. Go ahead and tempt your dog with the good (tasty) stuff.

b. Pain control: essential. Try Tramadol, amantadine, NSAIDs like Metacam or Deramaxx, gabapentin, fentanyl patch, and long-acting morphine.  Combinations must be used, and these drugs require veterinary supervision.

c. Hydration: you want to give your dog about 1 ounce per pound in a 24 hour period. So a 12 lb dog gets 12 oz over 24 hours. Try flavoring with a little low sodium broth or bullion. Have your vet teach you how to give subcutaneous fluids if you can’t hand-hydrate.

d. Prevent bed-sores: decubital ulcers (bed sores) happen in large dogs who don’t move much laying on hard surfaces. Roll your dog over, by rotating the legs under the belly/chest to flip, at least every 8-12 hours. Pad the surface well.

e. Prevent urine scald and fecal soiling: sponge bath at least two times daily if your dog cannot make it outside.

f.  Improve life quality: bring your dog outside, go for a drive, massage, brush, stroke, talk to, sing to, tell your dog his or her life story from start to finish, and play with toys if possible.  Apologize for anything and everything you could have done better. Touch therapies and acupuncture are options too.

This is a very tough time. However, if you are able to take the time to do things the right way, your dog’s goodbye can seem more like a farewell for now, my friend.

All my best,

Dr. D


Leave a Comment

  1. Tena Starrr on October 15, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    Thank You for your devotion & for the Information to help me & my baby dog in these last days we have left together on earth. I am a Christian & believe with all my heart that all dogs do indeed go to heaven. The loyal & faithful heart of the dog I believe is a gift from God, and God didn’t create that greatness of the love of the dog to one day leave this earth only to no longer exist.No they all go to heaven and I know I will only day be with God & my furry friends.
    Thank you,
    Your article & information has given me a better understanding of what to expect in these last day I have to spend together Me & my baby dog

  2. Sharon on August 30, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    My 12 year old Multipoo was diagnosed with liver cancer July 3rd, I had no ideal he was sick I took him in for teeth cleaning. My vet wrote a script for him to take 2x’s a day for 7 day & refill in 30 days. He is also taking Denamarin, Milk Thistle, CBD oil daily. His appetite is good & he is still his goofy self but I notice he is a little more clingy then usual. Last 2 days he has had an accident on the floor. This concerns me his condition is worsening. His belly looks full but his back is bony, im also beginning to see his ribs & he is loosing his beautiful fluffy tail.
    I dont want to take him in & have him put to sleep, I want him to be home with his brother & sister until his last breath but at the same time I dont want him to suffer. As of now I do not feel he is hurting or in pain, what can I do for him to keep him comfortable at home until the end?

  3. Carmen Arreguin on May 31, 2019 at 6:49 am

    A week ago I notice a hand fist size lump on my dogs, near a nipple. I’m so sad that due to my unemployment I don’t have the money to take her to the vet nor do I know what to do to. Could she be in pain and how can I keep her comfortable. Today, I saw that she isn’t moving much nor wants to eat I picked her up and took her to her food she didn’t eat but did drink some water. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, currently I’m just holding her and talking to her and letting her know I love her.

  4. Nony Tarcsafalvi on July 25, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Hi everyone
    My dog is a shiba inu beautiful boy who give me 15 years of happiness
    He was feed the best food ocean fish always never had any health issue
    All the sudden he was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma I am devastated because I know must let him go
    I understand he is 15 but this was shocking news
    Why so many dogs get cancer ??
    What is the real truth here ? So unfair !!
    I am only handfeefing him with baby food and in couple of days sure I will have to let him go ! I am shocked to read about so many pets are getting cancer
    My heart goes out for all of you !:-(

  5. Emily Rose Merrick on July 17, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    I was just told today that my dog has multiple tumors (some the size of my doctors fist) all throughout her body. I have no idea how to deal with this it’s so hard. We opted not to run any tests because the doctor was extremely sure that because of the time line we gave her, she doesn’t have much time left. We’ve decided not to let her die painfully from the cancer, but to do euthanasia instead. But she seems so happy still, while most of her body weight is cancerous tumors. I just don’t know what to do. Right now I’m enjoying my last few days with her and making her comfortable and spoiling her. I guess that’s all I can do

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