Hospice and End of Life

What is Hospice?

Hospice is the philosophy of care that regards death as a natural process, prioritizes comfort and quality of life over quantity of life as death draws near, and supports the cultural and spiritual aspects of dying. Hospice, simply defined, is palliative care at the end of life. 

What is Veterinary Hospice?

There is not one single definition of veterinary hospice care; however, dealing with the end of an animal’s life is very familiar to many. Most people have experienced the loss of a pet, and have had to make difficult decisions on an animal’s behalf prior to and leading up to death – whether via euthanasia or unassisted death. Because euthanasia is deeply integrated into end of life care for animals, veterinary hospice care is often distinct from its human counterpart. Similarities exist in the overall philosophy of hospice, that is: respect for the family unit as “patient” in addition to the dying individual, acceptance that additional medical interventions are unlikely to change the outcome of a disease, desire to alleviate pain and emotional suffering, and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than aggressive treatment to extend it.

Veterinary hospice care can include all, or some of the following:

  • Goals of care conversations,
  • Education regarding death & the dying process,
  • Individualized medical care as death draws near,
  • Regularly scheduled home visits with provision of pain medications and nursing care,
  • Provision of palliative care within a veterinary hospital,
  • Palliated but not intentionally hastened death,
  • Personalized euthanasia services (often in-home),
  • Body care & ritual,
  • Memorialization & bereavement support

Hospice care plans must include all provisions delineated by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)’s guidelines

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