“There is a wide range, but typically elderly dogs who have surpassed their life expectancy,” Ottstadt says. “We have also sponsored several younger dogs with inoperable or terminal conditions coupled with a poor prognosis.”
To be placed in a fospice program, the animal must have a life-limiting, noncontagious condition — but should not be suffering or in pain, notes the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA). Conditions can include “renal failure, early heart failure and non-painful types of cancer,” Usually no one knows how much time the animal will have left, but volunteers can expect a range of weeks, months — even, possibly, years.
When animals are brought into the shelter environment, often little is known about their past, so no prognosis is airtight. Some fospice animals may outlive expectations, or have an indefinite fospice timeframe, such as Bart, a 6-year-old shepherd-collie mix who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Though his skin cancer hasn’t metastasized yet, it eventually will, so it is hard to tell how long his fospice parents will have with him.