We believe that a pet’s life can continue for as long as there is good quality of life for both the pet and his or her human family. Therefore a terminal diagnosis does not have to signify the immediate end of a beloved pet’s life, but rather a period of time to say goodbye and a time to prepare for life without one’s beloved pet.
The hospice movement originated in England in the 1960’s during a time of rapid medical advances and aggressive treatment of terminal illnesses. Hospice instead uses an approach called palliative care. This term means “to comfort not to cure. “ In other words, the patient is given food, medicines and nursing care designed to maximize quality of life and minimize pain or discomfort. Although there are institutional hospices, a great deal of hospice work is done in the home where the patient will be most comfortable.
Hospice care for pets is a relatively recent concept. In the past, euthanasia was usually considered to be the most humane decision to end an animal’s suffering. However, with advances in pain management and veterinarians increasing willingness to work closely with clients to nurse their pets, hospice has become a realistic option for people seeking a dignified, loving approach to the end of life.
Many people have described the experience of caring for a dying animal as life changing. Although it is intense, absorbing of mind body and spirit, it is often a time of deep bonding, thankful reflection of the time shared and the beginning of the grieving process as the owner prepares for the pet’s passing. By the time that the pet is ready for euthanasia, people tend to report feelings of readiness for the pet to pass, acceptance of the situation and preparedness for their own life to resume.
Some of the specific palliative care treatments utilized by our doctors include:
- Pain relieving medication
- Nutritional assessment and recommendations
- Steroids to decrease inflammation and increase appetite
- Massage therapy and acupressure
- Subcutaneous fluids
- Anti-nausea medication
Inpatient Hospice Care
Although the vast majority of our clients manage hospice care at home, we do offer inpatient care for pets whose owners may need a break from care, have a trip that cannot be delayed, or need help while they are at work. Cats and small dogs are housed in large cages in a quiet room to maximize their comfort and permit a nurse to get into the cage with them to administer treatments. Larger dogs are housed in a quiet room, un-caged, with constant nursing care including padded beds, blankets and raised food and water bowls.