Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, our furry friends have access to superior diagnostic techniques and treatment options. But sometimes, despite our very best efforts, pets are diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
Even as recently as a decade ago, owners whose pets faced a terminal illness had limited options. Often, a terminal diagnosis meant immediate humane euthanasia. Today, more and more veterinarians are following the trend in human medicine of offering owners and their beloved pets veterinary hospice care: the option to remain at home during the last days of treatment.
So often, owners are blindsided in the exam room, and having to make an immediate decision regarding a pet’s life adds stress and guilt to an already heartbreaking time. Veterinary hospice can help alleviate these feelings by giving the entire family extra time together to prepare for the coming loss.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes veterinary hospice as a growing field and your own vet hospital may have implemented the AVMA’s guidelines for hospice care, which include:
- keeping terminally ill patients free from pain and in a sanitary state
- ensuring regular contact between hospice care providers and pet owners
- discussing the severity of a terminally ill pet’s disease and his or her expected outcome
- making the pet owner’s responsibilities clear
- offering extended hours or referrals for after-hours care
Pet parents seeking veterinary hospice care have a variety of options. Keeping your pet at home with you during his final days can be a gift, but if the care required sounds like more than you can handle, palliative treatments can certainly be provided in your veterinarian’s office.
While hospice care can comfortably extend the lives of our four-legged family members, it’s not for everyone. Some key points to consider are:
Cost. Veterinarians who provide hospice care are virtually at your beck and call. In addition to services provided, home visits also factor travel time and expenses into the cost.
Mental toll. Caring for a terminally ill pet can be exhausting and emotionally overwhelming.
Imminent death. Your pet will die at home, either naturally or because the decision was made to go forward with humane euthanasia. Talk to your veterinarian (preferably at the start of your hospice journey) about final arrangements regarding your pet’s remains.
Veterinary hospice care is a beautiful option, and many find those final days or weeks to be the some of the most special times they share with their pet. If your pet is facing a terminal diagnosis, talk to your veterinarian about the hospice options available to you.