Hospice care for dogs and cats

What is veterinary hospice?

Veterinary hospice care is designed for pets who have a terminal illness and are no longer pursuing a cure. Hospice does not mean “giving up” or no longer providing medical care for a pet, it simply means the purpose of the care has changed from curing a disease to providing comfort, pain control, and nursing care for a pet. Hospice is also about proving regular communication and support to the family members. Hospice is not just about the pet- it’s about the entire family.

Who chooses hospice care for a pet?

All sorts of families! While some families elect to pursue curative therapy throughout the course of a terminal disease such as cancer, other families elect not to do so for a variety of reasons. This does not mean they love their pet any less or are less distressed about the situation. It simply means they have chosen to pursue a different goal, in this case, providing comfort care.

What are the benefits of hospice care?

There are so many wonderful benefits to hospice care for pets! The number one benefit of it is education- providing families with extensive information about the progress of a pet’s disease. Giving families this information early in the course of a terminal illness allows them to make informed decisions throughout the entire process. Decisions such as when to stop aggressive therapy and when to elect to euthanize a pet are some of the most agonizing decisions a pet owner makes, and often this happens in the very last days of a pet’s life. Thinking about these things ahead of time makes for a more peaceful process for both pets and people.

In hospice care, we focus on the comfort of a pet- through multimodal pain management, nutrition, and comfort care. Studies in veterinary and human hospice indicate that pets in hospice care actually live longer than their counterparts, because we have greater success in preserving a pet’s quality of life in the last days and weeks!

As part of our commitment to comfort, we also provide medical care to pets either at the Helen Woodward Companion Animal Hospital or in the comfort of a pet’s home.

What family members participate in hospice?

All of them. We believe in making this a family-centric experience and involving all family members as long as the parents are all right with this. We work with counselors and grief support specialists to help parents work through the grieving process alongside their children in age appropriate ways. Oftentimes the death of a pet is a child’s first experience with loss, and seeing healthy grieving modeled can set the stage for the rest of their life.

Categories: Pet Health Tips from the Helen Woodward Animal Center