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Pet Cancer Awareness and Palliative Care

Pet Insurance Australia discusses the prevalence of cancer in our pets, particularly considering it is the leading cause of death for many companion animals. 

Plus, what is pet palliative care? Dr. Jackie Campbell from Sunset Vets discusses the important support and care available for our beloved canine and feline companions.

"We have seen the rate of cancer increase in our pets over the past few decades," Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. "This is mainly due to the amazing diagnostic and treatment options now available to our companion animals, combined with the fact our pets are now living much longer, healthier lives due to the incredible veterinary advancements."

These advancements allow our pets to enjoy longer, more fulfilled lives. However, the cancer rate continues to rise, particularly in older pets. With cancer being the leading cause of death for many pets. Terminal diagnosis of pets due to their age or illness can be incredibly stressful for pet owners. Many top veterinary clinics now offer palliative care options to allow pet owners to enjoy their last moments with their pets, knowing they are not suffering.

"Palliative care is a way of delivering individualised support to pets approaching the end of life, either due to a terminal diagnosis or age-related decline," Dr. Jackie Campbell from Sunset Vets says. "It's about ensuring we are focused on maintaining the best quality of life we can for the pet while guiding and supporting families through that entire care journey."

Sunset Vets offers comfort-focused medicine during palliative care, with the central aspect being pain relief and control of any symptoms the pet is experiencing. While also educating loving pet parents on their choices and preparing them as much as possible for the inevitable loss of their beloved pet.

"At Sunset, we are also a mobile veterinary team, so often, in addition to the medical care and emotional support we provide, we are also helping families to be able to say a gentle and peaceful goodbye from the privacy of home. It's a holistic model of care that puts the pet and the family at the centre of all decisions we make."

This model allows pet parents more options and much less stress and heartache during the goodbye process.

"This is a vital service for pet owners," Crighton says. "Many pet owners love their pets as they would their child. They are an integral and important part of the family, and all pet parents know the painful process of saying goodbye. This service allows owners to be more supported and prepared while also having peace of mind that their pet is in good hands regarding pain management.”

Pet Insurance Australia covers palliative care, which generally consists of medications and then euthanasia once quality of life deteriorates, provided the condition is coverable and no other general exclusions apply to the treatment.

“Similar to people, these are generally chronic end of life diseases leading to palliation, such as cancer,” Crighton says.

For many families, receiving a terminal diagnosis or seeing their pet age can be devastating. Pet owners must understand that palliative care is not about extending the pet's life at all costs. It's about providing medication, comfort, professional support, and guidance alongside realistic timelines.

"We know that people are often overwhelmed with the choices they are facing and benefit from the support of a dedicated care team who can help them navigate palliative decisions," Dr. Jackie says.

"Often, when facing that goodbye, the question becomes about how we ensure everyone is supported and prepared. We make sure we spend time talking with families about their care goals and helping them plan ahead of time to prevent any crisis. It's about making those final weeks and months the best we can and that their final days are peaceful."
Saying goodbye can be a hugely traumatic experience for families and pet owners. Having support and guidance during this time is incredibly valuable.
"As a pet owner, I know of the pain that saying goodbye can evoke. I think every pet owner can attest it is one of the most painful situations in life," Crighton says. "Professional support and guidance during this time can help prepare pet owners while knowing their pet is not in any pain."

Palliative care is also for pets of all ages.

"Sadly, we do see some families with younger pets who are facing a terminal disease. This situation can be even more of a reason for us to work with those families," Dr. Jackie says. "In those cases, we often need to carefully work through what the best medical decisions might be and make sure we are managing any pain or distress."

Palliative care is also about helping families through grief and the sadness of losing their pets before they are ready to say goodbye.

"With Pet Cancer Awareness Month in full swing, it's a great time to highlight the importance of services such as palliative care that give owners more options than ever before when it comes to supporting and caring for their terminal pets," Crighton says.

Palliative care is fast becoming an increasingly important part of care veterinarians deliver.

"We also are seeing more pets live longer with other illnesses that are well managed and controlled through the sheer dedication of their owners and their veterinary teams," Dr. Jackie says.

MEDIA RELEASE, November 2022

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