Hospice care in the veterinary world is making great strides forward as more veterinarians are offering alternative therapy options in the face of terminal diseases. Similar to human hospice and palliative care, animal hospice is supportive care provided in the final phases of a terminal disease, helping our pets live as fully and comfortably as possible. Hospice care recognizes that death is part of life, and it focuses on maximizing the quality of life and comfort for the patient throughout the final months, weeks, and days.
Pet candidates for hospice care
Your pet might be a good candidate for hospice care if she has been diagnosed with:
- A terminal illness
- A chronic, progressive disease, such as end-stage kidney disease, crippling arthritis, or congestive heart failure
- A chronic disability, such as intervertebral disc disease
- A terminal geriatric status, shown by wasting and failure to thrive
Key components of hospice care
If your pet falls into one of the above categories and you are interested in pursuing hospice care, there are several important details to keep in mind in order to provide the best care for your pet:
- We’re a team. Throughout the process, we’ll work closely with you, discussing the course of your pet’s disease and staying on top of the disease progression.
- Communication is key. Don’t be afraid to talk to us. Let us know how much you can emotionally and physically handle. Caring for your pet at the end of her life will not be easy, but we will be here for you every step of the way.
- Comfort is the goal. In addition to ensuring your human family members are taken care of, we must also maintain an acceptable quality of life for your pet. We’ll do that by:
- Controlling your pet’s pain
- Maintaining your pet’s mobility
- Providing adequate hydration and nutrition for your pet
- Preserving your pet’s happiness and including them as part of the family
- Providing a peaceful and comfortable end of life, whether that’s through hospice-supported natural death or through humane euthanasia when you feel your pet is ready
How to provide hospice care
Pain management is the most important facet of hospice care in pets. We may use a variety of techniques to manage your pet’s pain and help her remain mobile.
- Acupuncture can send signals to the brain and nervous system that change your pet’s perception of pain, helping to reduce pain and increase mobility.
- Massage is comforting for most dogs. It can be performed by a trained provider, but many massage techniques can also be taught for use at home.
- Laser therapy promotes circulation and reduces inflammation to keep joints comfortable.
- Chiropractic adjustment can correct many abnormalities in your pet’s health.
- Physical therapy provides several strategies for maintaining mobility and preventing and managing pain.
In addition to providing pain management, your pet may require other veterinary interventions, including anti-nausea medications, antibiotics, anxiety relief, nutrition and hydration support, and humane euthanasia. Many nursing techniques can be provided in the comfort of your own home, such as administering medications, keeping your pet clean and dry, and assisting with moving, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating.
How to make your home comfortable as your pet approaches the end of life
- Add non-skid floor surfaces. Use area rugs and the spongy, interlocking puzzle pieces frequently found in children’s play areas.
- Raise food and water dishes to a height that is comfortable for your pet to eat and drink from while standing. This keeps the spine in a neutral position and alleviates back, hip, and elbow pain.
- Block access to stairs, carry your pet, or use a sling to help large dogs handle these difficult-to-navigate areas.
- Create comfortable resting places where your family spends their time, so your pet can stay actively engaged as part of the family.
There are several challenges to arranging hospice care for your pet, including home renovations and medication administration, but it is worth it to enjoy more quality time with a beloved family member. Call us at 757-564-9815 to schedule your furry family member’s consultation.