Simply, there are two components of successful pet hospice. First, the veterinarian and the pet family provide compassionate comfort care for the pet at the end of the pet’s life. The objective of providing this care is to minimize unnecessary suffering for the pet.
Second, the veterinarian and other caregivers support the pet’s families in the bereavement process. This helps minimize the pet’s family suffering as they experience the anticipated and realized grief for the pet, making the loss and grief as meaningful and positive part of pet ownership as possible.
The veterinarian and the pet’s family begin hospice care when the pet is terminally ill and hospice care appears to be a better choice than further attempts to cure the pet of the illness. Each case is different. Some pet owners, often those who have realized that their pet is terminally ill, find that considering hospice care comes as a relief. Others, those who have not realized the terminal nature of their pet’s illness, may not give up hope for a cure for their pet.
The pet’s veterinarians can help inform the decision to choose between ever intensifying medical treatment, hospice care or euthanasia. The veterinarian and the pet guardian work together to thoroughly explore the options and their consequences - ethical, medical and financial - as a part of this decision making process. Pet guardians may need time to reflect on the options and discuss them with the pet’s family prior to making a decision. Hospice care can provide the family more time with their ill pets and help the family adjust to the pet’s approaching death. It strengthens the bond between owner and pet and helps prepare the owner for the loss of a beloved friend. Hospice care allows the pet to enjoy the last days of life in familiar surroundings in the company of loved ones.
Hospice is not a good choice for all pet owners. It requires time and commitment from everyone involved and it can be expensive. However, our experiences support that if you choose hospice care as an option for your pet, it may be one of the most rewarding and special times of your life. It is a small price to pay for the years of devotion and companionship.