When Should You Consider Animal Hospice?
Hospice care for pets is still a new concept for a lot of people and even for some veterinarians. The bulk of the veterinary training is devoted to the goal of saving an animal's life. When all treatment options are exhausted, often the only humane option left is euthanasia to minimize prolonged suffering. However, this needs not be the case. Hospice care provides an alternative to the traditional approach of aggressively treating terminally ill patients.
Hospice care does not try to cure the incurable. Instead it focuses on caring and meeting the holistic needs of pets and their families during the final stages of life. It emphasizes managing pain and preserving the dignity of life using different palliative modalities. For many who revere modern medicine, it requires a paradigm shift to acknowledge that within reasonable human efforts to cure the disease, death is still a part of life and can be anticipated in comfort and with dignity.
Goal of animal hospice:
1) Focus on giving pets a safe, caring, intimate end-of-life experience in their familiar home environment
2) Focus on providing pain control and physical comfort to the pets, as well as educational support and emotional comfort for their families until natural death occurs or euthanasia is chosen
3) Educate and guide families to care for their pets' medical and emotional needs at home
4) Families are given time to adjust to their pets' progressive disease and say goodbye in their own ways in the comfort of being at home
Animal hospice should be considered if your pet faces the following situations:
1) Cancer with metastasis (spread to lungs or lymph nodes or other organs)
2) Treatment has been attempted but failed
3) Geriatric patient with multiple degenerative diseases
4) Trauma/disease that severely impairs pet's mobility or excretion control
5) Chronic illness that affects pet's routine
6) Owner decided not to pursue further diagnostic/treatment
You may want to consider these questions before committing to hospice care:
1) Do you have time and energy to care for your pet that may need multiple medications, wound care, and treatment that keep your pet comfortable?
2) Do you feel comfortable of administrating medication via injection or learning how to perform it? Most of the pets at their end stages would not want to eat or drink, and we will need to supplement them with fluid therapy by giving fluid under their skin.
3) Do you have time and resource to monitor your pet closely and report any changes to Dr. Ma as soon as possible?
4) Is your family on the same page about hospice care by knowing that this is not for prolonging suffering or out of guilt of avoiding euthanasia?