Hospice care for people is well established; families take advantage of this service when a loved one is nearing the end of their life. Many veterinary practices are now offering a similar level of care for elderly or terminally ill pets. This is a growing area of veterinary care because pets are very important to their pet parents, who want their last few weeks or months to be as enjoyable as possible.
The main role of a veterinary hospice service is to make sure that your pet is comfortable and to maintain their dignity as they approach the end of their life. This involves pain management, nutritional advice and, when the time is right, in-home euthanasia.
Hospice vets can make suggestions on how pet parents can make changes to their environment to make life easier for their ailing dogs and cats. Rubber flooring is easier for elderly dogs to walk on without slipping. Some beds are designed to be easier for weak or stiff animals to climb out of, and this allows your pet to retain some degree of independence of movement. The vets can also demonstrate to pet parents how to massage their furry friends to improve circulation and ease pain, and give advice on how and what to feed them to meet their nutritional needs. Sometimes, pet parents will need to give fluids under the skin to maintain hydration, and again, a hospice vet can teach you how to do this.
Another important part of a hospice is caring for the pet parent during this difficult time. A hospice vet can offer emotional support and help with the decisions that have to be made. Some pet parents just want to hear that it’s okay to say no to further testing and invasive procedures, and help their four-legged companion enjoy the time they have left.
Bringing your pet to the veterinary clinic can be extremely stressful, and if they have a terminal condition, they often need regular visits. The beauty of hospice care is that these treatments can be done in your pet’s own home, which is much more pleasant for everyone involved. Your pet will be more at ease and relaxed, and you won’t feel anxious about having to put them through the stress of a visit to the clinic.
Your hospice vet will be able to guide you on when your pet’s quality of life has deteriorated to such a degree that euthanasia is appropriate. They will also be able to provide euthanasia at home. This is the last act of kindness you can offer your furry friend, and by having your vet visit them at home, you can prepare for it in your own way. Perhaps you would like your dog to be lying in their favorite corner of the garden, or your cat curled up on their part of the couch.
Our pets’ lifespans are becoming longer. For many people, they are not just pets, but an important part of the family. It’s not surprising that you would want to have your pets with you for as long as possible, while making sure they are not in pain or distressed. Hospice care is a service that avoids premature euthanasia as well as drawn-out suffering. It provides comfort and dignity to pets at the end of their lives, and comfort to the rest of the family as well.