Palliative care is described by the World Health Organisation as improving the quality of life (QOL) of patients and that of their families who are facing challenges associated with life-threatening illness, whether physical, psychological, social or spiritual.
A palliative care plan can be offered at any point following the diagnosis of cancer and may be utilised for patients who do not undergo treatment for their cancer and can give owners time to come to terms with their pet’s diagnosis before euthanasia has to be considered.
There are many reasons to choose palliative care over treatment including where the primary cancer, or its metastasis, are too far advanced for definitive treatment, the presence of other life-limiting comorbidities and the patient’s emotional health/behavioural welfare, being a poor candidate (behaviour), no existing treatment options, patients who are no longer responding to treatment or due to owners wishes.
Palliative care may not slow down the disease progression or prolong life, but it essentially should restore and maintain an excellent QOL and to allow them to function as normally as possible.
It should not be offered if the patient is currently suffering and there is no chance of improving their QOL.