Animal Hospice is best regarded as a philosophy of care. Hospice focuses on a patient’s comfort rather than treatment aimed at a cure when that is no longer expected. The goal in animal hospice is to maintain the animal’s well-being and dignity at the end of its life.
As a pet’s condition requires treatment, preserving quality-of-life takes precedence over extending life. Hospice is not denial of treatment. Hospice recognizes dying as a normal process, whether or not resulting from disease, and sees the end of life as an opportunity for growth. Hospice exists in the belief that pets in the last phases of life deserve this care so that they might live as fully and comfortably as possible. Through appropriate care and the promotion of a caring community sensitive to their needs, patients and their families may be free to attain a degree of mental and spiritual preparation for death that is satisfactory to them. The terms “animal hospice” and “veterinary hospice” are interchangeable. By supporting both the pet and family, the human-animal bond can remain strong throughout the dying process and beyond.
The exact services provided through animal hospice are case-dependent. Examples could include:
Veterinary Care for Patient
• pain relievers
• anti-nausea medications
• anxiety relief
• nutrition and hydration support
• palliative surgery or radiation therapy
Nursing Care for Patient
• medication administration
• assistance with movement, eating, drinking, urination, and defecation
• information sharing
• grief counseling
• respite care
• assistance with decision-making and planning
• body care after death
In truth, defining animal hospice and determining how it differs from conventional end-of-life care is still a work in progress. But regardless of its ultimate definition, animal hospice should be seen as an alternative to premature euthanasia and to the prolonged suffering that can result either from isolating an animal in intensive care or from inadequate treatment. Hospice emphasizes the terminally ill pet’s quality-of-life, provides the family precious time with the pet, and helps the family cope with the approaching death of their beloved companion.