Whether your furry friend is aging more quickly than expected, or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, facing the end is full of emotion. It’s difficult and stressful to maximize the time you have left with your pet while minimizing her pain and suffering. Fortunately, the veterinary profession has embraced the ideas and ideals of human hospice care, and many veterinarians now offer pet owners forms of hospice support to help them manage their pet’s end-of-life care in a calm, dignified, and organized manner. If you are facing the loss of a pet, and you are not ready for euthanasia, hospice care may make sense for you and your beloved friend.

What is animal hospice care?

Animal hospice care is a service dedicated to maintaining a geriatric or terminally ill pet’s comfort and quality of life until natural death occurs or until the family elects euthanasia. This care is focused on the comfort of your pet, not on finding a cure for her disease. With animal hospice care, our team can help ensure your pet’s end of life is as comfortable as possible, and that the human-animal bond is maintained. Hospice care also helps you prepare for the loss of your beloved furry companion.

When is hospice care a good idea for a pet?

If your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, has a prognosis of less than a few months, and is declining slowly, our veterinary team may recommend hospice care. Hospice care can also help if you are unsure whether your pet is in pain or needs a change of treatment plan or medication. Typically, hospice care is tailored specifically to you and your pet.

What does pet hospice care typically include?

Hospice care differs among providers. Some pets do well with hospice care provided in the veterinary hospital, which can include medications to keep the pet comfortable and humane euthanasia when the family decides it is time. For pets who require in-home hospice care, a hospice service, like Lap of Love, may be a good option. These types of services often provide:

  • Nutritional support and dietary management
  • Hydration, including administering subcutaneous fluids
  • Waste elimination, such as helping with bladder and fecal management or bathroom mobility
  • Help with creating quality-of-life lists and assessments
  • On-call symptom management, including adjusting medications, treating nausea or decreased appetite, and alleviating discomfort
  • Environmental management coaching, including keeping your pet safe from falls or trips
  • Counseling sessions for processing pet illness and grieving pet loss

How will pet hospice care differ from regular veterinary care?

Deciding when, or if, to humanely euthanize a pet is incredibly difficult. Owners should keep a list of their pet’s milestones, such as whether she has the energy to play ball or go outside for a bathroom break, or if she gets excited at meal times. Keeping a journal also can help objectively measure a pet’s quality of life, because day-to-day changes can be subtle, and a journal can show changes over time and log good days and bad days. For a pet owner who is against premature euthanization, hospice care will provide support until the pet dies naturally. If an owner wishes to wait until her pet’s quality of life declines, hospice-care staff are trained to recognize the balance shift and advise when euthanasia may make sense. You will always make your own decision—hospice-care staff are there to provide support and education so that your decision feels right for your family and your beliefs.

Nothing can help you avoid the sadness and loss when you learn your pet is terminally ill, or she dies, but hospice-care services can help ensure the process is as easy and comfortable as possible for you and your pet. We are here to help, so contact our hospital if you have questions or are interested in hospice care for your pet.