A Guide to Palliative Care for Dogs and Cats

Klarisse Galido - Editor in chief of Knose Pet Insurance

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Klarisse Galido

As the content curator of Knose, Klarisse is all about blending vet advice, practical pet tips, and stories from the pet-loving community. Her passion for pets brings to life the everyday joys and challenges of pet ownership.

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Caring for a senior pet brings a different mix of joy and challenges. As our beloved companions enter their golden years, their needs evolve, and so should we. In this final stage in our senior dog or senior cat’s life, it’s important to adapt our care to ensure their remaining days are comfortable and filled with love. This guide aims to walk pet owners through the essential aspects of palliative care for dogs and cats, emphasising the importance of comfort, dignity, and quality of life in their final stages.

Older pets need extra care, which is why palliative pet care is so important.

Shifting to palliative care

Why is it important to consider palliative care for dogs and cats? Palliative care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness or from natural ageing. In pets, this approach is centred on comfort care, pain management, and emotional support, tailored to the pet’s individual needs as they age.

At this point, you may find yourself booking more appointments with the vet rather than the groomer. Although it’s great to see your pet looking fabulous as usual, there may be more important factors to consider given your senior pet’s age. Maintaining your pet’s quality of life as they age requires invested time and finances. By setting a clear palliative care plan for your pet, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress when the time comes.  

When does my pet become a senior?

Recognising when it’s time to transition to palliative care is crucial. There is no one clear signal as to when, but all senior pets need a palliative care plan whether or not they’re ill. The goal is to ensure that your furry friend remains as comfortable and happy as possible through their remaining years and despite any scares.

Here are quick estimates to know when your pet becomes a senior:


  • Small breeds: 11 years (Smaller dog breeds tend to live longer than bigger ones.)
  • Medium breeds: 10 years
  • Large breeds: 6-8 years
  • Giant breeds: 7 years


  • 7-10 years
Dog and kitten playing in the grass outdoors - Knose
Here are at-home tips to make your senior pets feel more comfortable.

Signs of ageing in pets

There’s a fine line between adulthood and seniority when it comes to our furry friends. In the previous section, we have age estimates. However, old dogs and old cats can be considered senior pets much earlier based on the quality of their lives. We list a few signs that can help you decipher whether you need to provide palliative care for your dog or cat.

  1. Changes in activity level

Senior dogs and cats sleep for longer periods of time and nap more often. Even though they’re still eager for a walk or playtime, they’re out of breath much faster than before.

  1. Joint stiffness and mobility issues

Senior cats and dogs slow down and may think twice before walking up the stairs or hopping onto your lap. Remember to be patient when you call your old cats and dogs because although they may hear you, it might be much more difficult for them to rise up from a resting position. Encourage them to lie back down if you notice your pet’s limbs shaking.

  1. Vision and hearing loss

Adult dogs and cats suffer from gradual hearing and vision loss. Because of this reduced sensory perception, they can seem clumsier and slower to respond. Make sure to always check in on your pet in case they need assistance.

  1. Digestive issues

Constipation, diarrhoea, and decreased appetite are some digestive issues to watch out for in your senior pets. Although these are common signs of pet ageing, it helps to check at the vet if these are symptoms of more serious underlying conditions.

You can check out this pet quality of life calculator designed to help you objectively assess your pet’s overall health.

Female veterinarian with a cat - Knose
Talk to your local vet to personalise your pet’s palliative care plan.

How to create an in-home palliative care plan

Collaborating with your veterinarian is key to developing an in-home palliative care plan that addresses your pet’s specific needs. This plan may involve managing chronic pain, rearranging your home to improve accessibility, and providing nutritional support tailored to their changing health status. Regular check-ins with your vet will help you adjust this plan as your senior pet’s condition evolves, ensuring they receive the most appropriate care at every stage.

1. Pain management

It’s important to closely monitor your pet for signs of discomfort or pain. Aside from the obvious, like whimpering or limping, pain can also be manifested through irritability, pet aggression, withdrawal, loss of appetite, and constipation. Any of the above listed signs of pet ageing could also be manifestations of pain.

A variety of options are available, ranging from conventional medications to alternative therapies like acupuncture or massage, depending on your pet’s condition and how they respond to different treatments.

2. Nutritional support

As pets age, their dietary needs can change dramatically. They may require foods that are easier to digest or have different nutritional needs to support their ageing bodies. Your vet can recommend specific diets or supplements to address these needs. Additionally, keeping your pet properly hydrated is crucial, especially if they suffer from kidney issues or other common conditions in older pets. Implementing creative strategies to encourage eating and drinking is sometimes necessary, as appetite can wane with age and illness.

3. Enhancing mobility and accessibility

Mobility issues are common in ageing pets, but several strategies can help mitigate their impact. Ramps or steps can make it easier for your pet to access their favourite spots, while orthopaedic beds can provide comfort for those with arthritis or joint issues. For pets struggling more significantly with mobility, harnesses for wheelchairs can offer support, enabling them to continue enjoying walks and exploration.

4. Preparing for goodbye

One of the most challenging aspects of palliative care is knowing when to say goodbye. Euthanasia is a compassionate last resort to end a suffering pet’s pain. This decision is deeply personal and requires a consultation with the vet, based on your pet’s condition. Preparing yourself and your family for this is also essential, and many resources are available to help navigate this emotional process. For those considering euthanasia down the line, it’s important to keep immediate aftercare after losing a pet in your planning as well.

5. Pet insurance for financial support

One aspect of palliative care for dogs and cats that you need to consider in planning is the cost. It’s no secret that pets, at any age, can be expensive; older and sickly ones moreso. Thankfully, pet insurance exists to make life easier for you and your older pets.

Investing your senior dogs and cats early will substantially alleviate the cost and stress that comes with end of life pet care. For those seeking financial support, why not try Knose Pet Insurance? They stand out as a premier choice for pet owners looking for extensive end-of-life pet care coverage. They are award-winning exactly for this – compassionate care for dogs and cats at any stage. Pet owners who have a Knose Dog Insurance and Cat Insurance can get 24/7 online vet support up until it’s time to say goodbye. You can get a quote from Knose in less than two minutes.

Your senior pets can live long and healthy lives with the right care and attention.

Prioritising your pet’s happiness and well-being

Maintaining your pet’s emotional well-being is as important as their physical health. ageing doesn’t diminish a pet’s need for love, companionship, and mental stimulation. Make your household aware of your old pet’s conditions to make sure that your furry family members continue to feel engaged and part of the family.

Palliative care for dogs and cats is a journey that requires compassion, patience, and love. By focusing on your pet’s comfort and quality of life, you can help ensure their final days are filled with peace and dignity. 

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey—veterinary professionals, pet loss support groups, and a community of fellow pet owners are there to support you every step of the way. While you may face difficult challenges, Knose shares your commitment to provide proper pet care. Contact Knose and see how they can help you. 

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Post by Sofia Francheska Insua in collaboration with Knose Pet Insurance

Sofia is a fulltime mom to her rescue senior dog, Baebae, a 16-year old Japanese Spitz. She learned a lot about pet care through her volunteer work with PETA, assisting in medical missions for pets, stray cats, and stray dogs. While her passion leads her to strongly advocate for volunteering as a way to help animals, she also contributes insights and tips for pet owners seeking to provide proper pet care.

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