NS SPCA Palliative Care Program helps animals live final days in loving environment

NS SPCA Palliative Care Program helps animals live final days in loving environment
Just over a week ago, Bud officially moved out of the shelter for good to start a new chapter in his life.

“As soon as I met him, I knew he was our guy,” said Marcia Brookbank, Bud’s fur mom.


Brookbank came to the SPCA to look for a dog. Most of the younger one were already spoken for, then she saw Bud’s name on the adoption board.

Bud was looking for a place to call his own through the SPCA’s Palliative Care Program.

The program started in 2009 and to date has helped place 40 animals – both dogs and cats – with families.

“It kind of came about organically,” said Sandra Flemming, provincial animal care director with the Nova Scotia SPCA.

“We had a very senior dog that was dropped off at our shelter. The owner could no longer care for it and it wasn’t really a dog that we kind of consider adoptable because of its age but also still had a great quality of life and we wanted to see if we could find a home for it. So we put her name on the adoption board and we ended up finding somebody.”

Flemming says it’s sometimes difficult to find homes for senior dogs or cats that don’t have much time left.

The solution? If the animal fits the criteria, the shelter can look for a home for them under the Palliative Care Program.

“It’s a great way for volunteers and staff to have an animal that gets to go and live its final days in an environment that is very loving,” said Flemming.

“We say to our palliative care homes that all you have to do is provide the love. We cover all the other costs.”

Since the Nova Scotia SPCA has a hospital on site at the two largest shelters in the province, they are able to offer veterinary services at an affordable cost. Under the program, the SPCA still maintains control of the animal so it is able to get proper vet care for free while they live in a long-term foster setting with a family that loves them.

“Most of the animals that are in the palliative care program are on different kinds of medication, either for pain management or to offset maybe the diseases or chronic illnesses that they do have,” said Flemming.

“It takes a lot of time and expense to manage a condition like that,” said Brookbank.

“We’re extremely lucky that he’s been adopted under the pallative care program. It has made it possible for us to adopt an amazing dog.”


Flemming says a lot of animals that come into their care through cruelty cases are there because they have not been properly cared for and haven’t received the veterinary care that they require and can be in a state of compromised health.

Once the animal’s environment is changed, they are eating the correct food, being administered the right medication and in a loving home, Flemming says they get their energy back and their personalities start coming out.

“Sometimes we think that they’re going to be in palliative care for a short period of time but they end up staying maybe even a couple years longer than what we thought,” she said.

“It allows that animal, in cases where the animal has not had the best life, to spend their last couple of years in a home with lots of love and the proper care and it’s just a really nice way for them to have that love and affection.”

Although he’s not a young pup anymore, Brookbank says Bud is the perfect addition to her family and has already brought a lot of joy.

She encourages others who may be looking to add a four-legged friend to their home to consider a senior pet or animal in palliative.

“It’s a bond when you can give them a new home and give them what they need. They really appreciate it. They let you know in a way that a young dog can’t because they don’t have enough experience in the world, so it’s a very emotionally complex experience,” Brookbank said.
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