For most of us, the terminal diagnosis of a beloved pet is fraught with conflicting emotions, overwhelming information and difficult decisions. We often receive this news within the walls of a veterinary clinic or hospital, which can feel foreign and sterile, further adding to the disorienting and daunting task of making difficult medical decisions on behalf of our pets. For some, this burden may be eased with the ability to care for their pet at home. Most owners want to maximize the amount of time they have with their pets and make sure that time is as meaningful as possible for everyone involved. This is where hospice care comes in. Pet Hospice is a philosophy of care which provides pain management and end of life care for companion animals so they may continue to live their lives as fully as possible within the comfort of their own homes. Pet Hospice’s emphasis is also family focused; meaning YOU are in charge of the care of your beloved animal with the assistance of a medical team.
The concept of hospice care for companion animals is relatively new, however it is gaining in popularity largely due to pet owners wanting more options. We launched the Colorado State University Pet Hospice program and started seeing patients in 2004. Since that time the pet hospice movement has flourished nationwide.
If you are considering this type of care for your pet, the following questions can help you determine if hospice care is a good fit for you and your family:
- Has your pet received a terminal diagnosis?
- Do you have adequate resources to care for your pet at home, perhaps even 24/7? You might want to create a “care team” so that not all of the medical care is solely on your shoulders.
- Is there a local veterinarian that specializes in either pet hospice care or in pain management and that will come to the home to provide medical care and create a plan of care? Or do they have a team that can do so?
- Is your lifestyle and schedule as well as your pet’s temperament amenable to visitors coming into your home?
- Costs vary, do you have the financial means to support this type of care?
Here are some resources for you that can assist if you are considering pursuing pet hospice care:
- CSU Pet Hospice – learn more about CSU services and FAQ’s
- Programs near you. Many home euthanasia services also offer pet hospice services.
- International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care is dedicated to promoting knowledge of and developing guidelines for comfort-oriented care to companion animals as they approach the end of life.
Choosing pet hospice for your family and beloved pet is not an easy decision and deserves careful consideration. Terminal illness and the dying process profoundly impact not only your pet but you and your family as well. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about pet hospice and I’ll do my best to help. Gail Bishop, B.S., Pet Hospice advisor and director of the Argus Institute, 970-297-4578.