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Animal Hospice Care

Animal Hospice is a relatively new concept that has come on board in recent years. Taking a model from human hospice care and adapting the same principles it is an approach to end- of -life care. The main focus and attention is on ensuring to the best of your ability that your pet is as comfortable as it possibly can be during its remaining days in this world.

When your pet becomes sick especially with a disease that may be considered terminal you are faced with difficult decisions. You may have an animal that is entering an advanced age and is no longer capable of doing the things it once did. .Hospice care in its essence means that you as a pet parent are moving from a remedy or cure for your pet to provide relief and comfort for it before it passes on.

Your pet is unwell

Medical conditions that prompt or justify the need for hospice in the first place, cognitive dysfunction, dementia, cancer, organ failure,[heart,liver,kidney] osteoarthritis, any complex life-limiting condition which is contributing to excessive demands on a care giving family member, or treatments and or surgeries which are unacceptable or deemed ineffective to your pet.

Your Veterinarian’s Advice, Why Not Take It

You have exhausted all reasonable possibilities of a cure or fix for your companion animal, medications, invasive surgery, holistic treatments, specialists and your veterinarian has uttered the words “there isin’t much or anything else I can do”

Your pet is unwell and really the last thing it needs is the extra stress of  being  repeatedly bundling  into a car and driving it to the veterinary  surgeon.  They like to be in the familiar surrounds of home with its family at such times.

Has the time arrived where your pets quality of life is compromised due to a severe bodily injury, disability, or any one of the above mentioned diseases? If you feel you have a moral duty to do the best you can or a feeling of guilt in taking the step to euthanize your pet then it may be time to seek out help from professional hospice veterinarians, nurses and caregivers.About 5% of veterinary centers can facilitate end-of-life care inside their own practice.
On a broader scale there are a few organizations that cater to this namely the – International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, Lap Of Love Veterinary Hospice and some smaller independent groups. Although there are a few actual animal Hospice centers springing up practically all hospice takes place in the family home.

They provide in-home consultation and discuss things like, symptoms management, explain the condition and possible progression of a disease, prescribe and advise on medications to help in pain reduction. Other forms of therapy can also be considered in alleviating tension,  and discomforts like – acupuncture, chiropractic, massage.
You will be educated and you will learn all about the health or medical condition that your pet suffers from. This may include recognizing pain and how to treat it, supplementary nutrition, change of diet, the management of incontinence, administering subcutaneous fluids, gaining knowledge on the end-stage disease process.
The ultimate objective is to minimise the  pain, discomfort, and  suffering and provide support, compassion, and comfort to it in its final days, weeks, or months.

Natural Death or Euthanasia

There will come a time when your pet’s quality of life may be dramatically reduced, example – breathing problems, trouble in defecating or urinating, vomiting or diarrhea, difficulty in walking or standing. Your consulting team of hospice care workers can now advise you on the next best step to take.They are there to guide you along and are open to and will encourage the option of euthanasia if and when the time is right.
Do you continue with the caring process and allow the life of your pet to terminate in a natural way or do you let the veterinarian intervene and euthanize it. This is the dilemma you now find yourself in. Only you  can  make  that  personal  decision.

In deciding to go ahead with  pet hospice care, these  are  some  of  the  question you  should  ask  yourself

  • Are you willing to deal with the emotional, spiritual and physical strains that will now be posed on you?.
  • Are you prolonging its life just for the sake of having it around to look at?
  • Is it based more on selfish needs like being unable to face up to letting it go?
  • Could it possibly be  motivated  by ethical or religious beliefs?

To Summarise
Its among one of the most difficult aspects of owning a companion pet that knowing one day you could be confronted with a situation like this. Its heartbreaking to see and deal with what was a glowing ball of life and boundless energy now reduced to lethargic, helpless state.We don’t want them to die and it kills us to see them unwell and suffering. Our pets and animals in general don’t exhibit pain and anxiety in the same way as humans do thus we need to pay special heed to their reactions and behaviour.From our own sphere of thinking its comforting to know we have done a noble thing and contributed  our  utmost  to help it live as long as it can. We can be  blinded by a wave  of  different  emotions and  clear thinking  is  required. There are no rights or wrongs on this but don’t look back with any regrets.

It  may sound a little  simplistic  but our final decision on what course of action to take  must be based on  what  is  best at  that  time  for  our beloved pet.

What  are  your  thoughts  on  Animal Hospice care?

Oliver

26 Comments

  1. This is a great article, Number one you have elaborated very well that as human animals too can be in Hospice and this brings a new way of thinking to Pet parents on what to do when their pet becomes “bedridden” due to terminal illnesses.On Euthanasia though a very tough choice you have given a very smart advice that it should be based on what is best for the pet at that time.Thank you for that!

    • Hi Mercy,
      Thank you for the input.
      Life is full of uncomfortable decisions and sometimes we are only left with the lessor of the two evils.

      Oliver

  2. Hi, Oliver,
    It’s true our pets become family members. They live with us for 10 -15 years and this is a massive part of our life when we take care of them and give love and happiness each other.
    It’s a matter or a civilized approach and compassion to give them the best possible care until the end of their life. Their old age is as hard as the old age of a human being.
    Thank you for writing this post about animal hospice care! The way we treat animals is indicative of the way we treat the other people!
    I am very much for euthanasia, as well, when all other ways to help are exhausted. What is your opinion on this?

    • Hi Valerie,
      I totally agree with you on all you’ve said.
      There is a guy in my neighbourhood right now who is severely mistreating his dog, this same man is divorced twice and his current girlfriend just left him. I believe there is a direct correlation between how people act around animals/pets and how they interact with people in general.
      As much and all as it may hurt at the time one cannot see their pet
      struggle and suffer and the humane thing to do would be euthanasia. This is my viewpoint.

      Oliver

  3. Hi Oliver,
    I have never heard that animal hospice care even exists. I do not believe I could find any in my town. Though the idea might be great for some pet owners.
    Watching your pet suffering and knowing that the end days are there is very hard. We lost 2 pets last year and it was heartbreaking for our family to make any decisions at that time.
    I think having a professional help who would come to your house and help with valuable advice and with the ability to prescription painkillers or other medication is definitely a great thing!

    • Hi Anna,
      Yes you are right, its definitely a positive thing to know there is help of some kind available to pet owners in their time of need.
      As of now this concept is only gaining momentum and its not readily offered in every town or even city.

      I found this service offered in the Province of Alberta – http://homevetcare.ca/about-us.html

      Oliver

  4. Your post nearly brought tears to my eyes! We actually went through a hospice-like situation with our 13-year-old pup, last July. I was in the middle of battling breast cancer, and our pup had begun having issues with sebaceous cysts on his back as he grew older. After cleaning and bandaging many of these cysts, we had one that became “stubborn”. It would not heal and started to grow in unexpected ways. It became a multiple times a day task to cleanse and rebandage the area. Due to the location of the lump, we could not safely transport our pup to the vet, so instead, we called one of the only ones in our area that made house calls. She took one look at it and was quite sure it was cancer. She performed a checkup, and it seemed that cancer had already spread to other parts of his body. Neither my husband nor I were ready to say goodbye. Even with all the pain, our pup was probably in, he always did his best to be in whatever room we were in to be with us. In the end, we made the tough decision to put an end to his suffering via euthanasia. He passed in the comfort of home on his bed. We knew it was for the best, but it still hurt to lose him. It is nice to see that hospice care is becoming more mainstream, because our pets are family and they deserve to spend their remaining time on this earth in comfort and surrounded by those who love them, than in an unfamiliar place.

  5. Hi Jennifer,
    Your story now in turn has almost caused my eyes to well up.
    That is a gut wrenching read, I’m really sorry to find out about the little puppy. I think intuitively pets and animals in general know when that are sick and really try to put on a brave face mostly for the sake own their owners. You feel as though you made the correct decision so you cannot regret any of your actions then you can be at peace with that.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Oliver

  6. Hi Oliver,
    My beautiful 20 year old cat died in my arms from kidney disease. We had care for him and controlled his disease for quite some time. However, when we heard the final words “he only has a few weeks to live” and that we should think about putting him down, my heart broke into a million pieces. The worst part was that my cat heard those words too. So when they took him to do the routine blood test, he fought for his life…I think he thought they were going to put him down right there. He was extremely gentle and had never behaved like this before. It was clear to me that he did not want to be put down. So, for the next weeks I took care of him, like I had never taken care of anyone before. We got to be closer emotionally and spiritually. He would sit on my lap as I meditated. He died peacefully in my meditation room. If it had not been for my spiritual and meditation practice, I don’t think I would have been able to handle it. Thank you so much for sharing this article, I hope more people can rely on hospice care for their loved ones. We all have to die one day. Birth is a natural process and so is death. May everyone that have lost their pets have peace and love in their hearts.

  7. Hi Carmen,
    That is quite an amazing story. I’m really sorry for your companion cat, that was a difficult emotional journey but you did right by him so that has given you comfort and strength. I can see your spirituality really gave you understanding and eased the pain for you throughout.

    Oliver

  8. Your article tears me up a bit. It reminds me of my beloved Merlin. Unfortunately, he developed bone cancer. He was only 7. It started in his hip and quickly spread through his body. It was so rapid. I wanted deeply to hang on and do whatever I could to prolong his life. The vet, a long time family vet, and friend told me I was prolonging his pain for my own needs. I was angry then that he could accuse me of being selfish in this way. It took only another week to realize how very right he was. As I listened to my beloved furbaby suffer. I knew I could have prevented his pain, and it was only my need that prolonged this. I had him put to sleep for his benefit. Sorry long story.
    I think Hospice care is a wonderful thing for our pets. I would though as you so nicely shown, consider the entire picture of happiness for your pet as well. Be sure they are not suffering for our own benefit. Sometimes our greatest love is allowing them peace.

  9. Hi Christina,
    That is a heart breaking story and my guess is that its unfortunately common place.
    I would consider Hospice care as a form of halfway house and a service which can come between people who hastily just settle for euthanasia and the people very likely prolong the pain, misery and distress of their pets.
    In one sense animals are probably fortunate compared to humans in that they don’t have to suffer on indefinitely and the choice of another alternative is presented to them.

    Oliver

  10. In-home hospice-type care for animals – interesting idea. I had a beloved cat that got mouth cancer, and did some hospice-type care for him but when he could no longer eat, I opted for euthanasia. Just couldn’t see any reason to make him starve to death. Thanks for this interesting article.

    • Hi Kathee,
      Yes it would be even more heartbreaking to submit your cat to a period of starvation and watch it fade away in agony.

      Oliver

  11. Hello!

    Oliver, I found this article to be very informative. Honestly, I was unaware that this was available at some veterinarian offices. So, whoever reads your article will know this, in addition to the different facilities that offer this care. Would you know if these hospice-centered facilities are located in the U.S., as well as in Europe?

    This past summer, I lost my very best friend, my precious dog of 15 years. She passed away at home and sat right next to me during the time she was very ill. It is heartwrenching, for sure.

    Thank you so much for providing us with this valuable information for our beloved pets!

    Cathy

    • Hi Cathy,
      To answer your question, yes absolutely these facilities are available in US and North America in general. These two I mentioned – International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care and Lap Of Love Veterinary Hospice are probably the most well known but there are many more coming into existence as this practice become more popular.
      Sorry to hear about about your special dog, I can only imagine how devastating that was for you.

      Oliver

  12. I was not aware there is hospice for animals. I don’t have pets, so I don’t have much understanding about them. My friend has a dog, I will share this with her, I am sure she is going to find the article interesting. I really enjoyed reading this article and I learned something new today. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Thank you Oliver.
    It never occurred to me to take come of the end of life caring that we apply to people and then transfer the best parts of that system over into the world of pet car.
    It just makes sense right? I mean especially if our pets are contracting diseases like cognitive dysfunction, dementia, cancer, organ failure, osteoarthritis, etc just like people do.
    I am glad that services like this exist. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Hi Glenys,
    I guess the reason that Animal Hospice care hasn’t existed until quite recently is because owning pets in general wasn’t as common many decades ago as it is now. Pets have become such an integral part of peoples lives that they are now considered an extended family member. So it was natural that the next step forward was to offer a similar service to what’s available to humans.

    Oliver

  15. Hello Oliver.
    Very interesting article indeed. I have never of hospice care for animals. I really like the idea that they come into your home and assist you by showing you what methods to help your animals along with what to expect at each stage. I am so glad to hear that have come with this business. Many pet lovers want to help our pets as much as possible. Thank you for bringing this business to my attention.

  16. Hi Melissa,
    I am glad that you are now aware that a service of this nature is available.Perhaps you can make it known to any friend,family who are pet owners and are unsure what to do in the event of a sick or terminally ill pet companion.

    Oliver

  17. Great article Oliver! To be honest, I didn’t know that hospice care was available to our pets. What a great idea!

    I am currently the proud owner of a thirteen year old Afghan Hound that is starting to show signs of discomfort. Difficulty in raising off the floor, lack of energy, etc. and I am doing all I can to keep her comfortable.

    My pet is at a stage where a trip to the vet has become very stressful on her so I try to keep her comfortable at home in the best way I know how. The thought of losing her is tough to stomach.

    Are these hospice centers available throughout the country? Thanks for sharing Oliver, I’m sure this article will be beneficial to many pet owners.

    Luke

  18. Hi Luke,
    Although the Animal Hospice service may not be readily available in every town or even city, it is catered for throughout North America. Two of the biggest organizations are the – International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care and Lap Of Love Veterinary Hospice care. There are many more regional independent facilities which may provide an even more personalized approach. A small percentage of Veterinarian’s now also have an in-house end -of – life centre for their clients in this time of need.
    An on-line search should reveal if there are any services in your local area.

    Oliver

  19. Wow, what a great article. I can relate to all of it since I just put down one of my dogs in November due to cancer. We had 3 months giving pain meds, and lucky for us, he told me when he was down. I’m thankful I didn’t have to wonder if the time was right, he made it clear to me that he was ready. It broke my heart, and still has a hole, but I’m glad I had him and will do it again. I had no idea that there was a hospice for dogs. Thanks for the information.

  20. Hi Marla,
    I’m sorry to hear about your cherished dog, but I suppose if there was any consolation to be taken from it its that you perceived all the vital signs and made that difficult decision based on that. You can take some solace from that. Thanks for sharing.

    Oliver

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