Many people consider their pets as family members. It is always difficult and painful to say goodbye when the pets get old or have terminal illness. Similar to human hospice, veterinary hospice addresses treatment of pain and other symptoms to achieve the best quality of life regardless of disease outcome, while at the same time, provide the emotional support to the pet owners during this difficult time.
Dr. Tiffany Ma launched Compassion Pet Hospice because she has gone through this journey in 2014 with her dog Lucky. It can be devastating to find out that your pet has only a few weeks to live, that there is nothing that can be done about it. However, there is always something we can do about it. We can evaluate the pain level and treat the pain. We can adjust some home setting to help the pet maintain the daily routine. We can also use acupuncture and herbal medicine as part of the multimodal approach to improve the quality of life.
Additionally, end-of-life care is a team effort involving the hospice veterinarian, the regular veterinarian (if there is one) and the pet owner. Together, a point-of-contact can be offered to families in need for consultation, hospice care, euthanasia, cremation services and most importantly, support during this difficult time.
One of the main focus of veterinary hospice care is to continously evaluate the quality of life of the patients. Since our pets cannot use language to communicate to us their discomfort and the pain points, it is important to have a veterinarian who is specialized in end-of-life care to educate pet owners on how to assess whether the pets are having good days or bad days. The goal is to avoid convenience or premature euthanasia. This will ensure that the pet is comfortable until the time has come, whether it is to die naturally, or until the need for euthanasia is determined by the family in consultation with a hospice care professional.
What to expect
During a hospice consultation, Dr. Ma will review your pet's medical records and perform a thorough physical exam of your pet. She would listen in order to learn your expectations and commitment in performing hospice care at home. She may evaluate your home setting and make suggestions to ensure your pet can still carry on the routines without difficulty. In a home situation, Dr. Ma can evaluate whether the animal is in pain with more confidence. In the clinical settings, it is more difficult to do so as stress-induced cortisol (stress hormone) can mask the animal's pain. Depending on each pet's situation, medications may be prescribed for pain control, appetite stimulation, and wound care. Dr. Ma will also provide you tools to monitor your pet's quality of life, discuss the end-of-life care plan, and provide emotional support.
Dr. Ma will arrive in normal casual clothing (no lab coat or scrubs) to make the visit as easy and low-key as possible. If your pet can potentially be aggressive towards strangers, please let Dr. Ma know in advance and she will discuss with you on how to prepare for the home visit appointment.