When a loved one is ill, in pain, and needs consistent medical care, many times hospice care is the answer for allowing that person to live out the rest of their life comfortably. This option is also available for pets when disease is too advanced for them to live, and ongoing medical care is too costly. This is also a time where the family or owner needs to make decisions for their pet and weigh the option of the animal’s quality of life. With the pet industry booming, including medical care for companion animals, hospice care is a new concept on the horizon that has been modeled after its human hospice counterpart, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.
Like with humans, the goal of hospice is to transition the pet from life to death comfortably by utilizing pain management practices and keeping the pet in familiar, relaxed surroundings. Also like human hospice, pet hospice removes endless trips to the doctor’s office and allows loved ones to spend time with the animal.
Families interested in hospice care for their pets need to be active in the process and work with veterinarians to formulate an end of life plan. The condition of the pet needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis, medication needs to be given consistently, and any physical changes must be noted and given to the veterinarian. Signs of deterioration should be observed, recorded, and communicated with the veterinary staff.
The pet should be kept comfortable as much as possible in physical surroundings. As senses fade, the sense of touch will still be prominent, and can be stimulated with gentle massage, providing a comfortable bed, and removing collars for extra comfort. A favorite blanket, especially one that is gently heated, will provide comfort for old joints. Some pets may also enjoy soft music, like slow, classical, piano music. There are also albums made especially for health, like The Healer’s Way, Volume I: Soothing Music for Those in Pain by harpist Stella Benson.
Hospice care for pets requires patience, and an abundant amount of both physical and mental energy. It is a time to not only keep a loved one close, but also a time to emotionally prepare for a difficult transition. While hospice care is a selfless act, it should not be used as a replacement for euthanasia. This is one reason having an end of life plan is so important. Pinpointing the deterioration of certain actions is one way to determine making that phone call, such as if a dog can no longer go down the stairs or if he refuses to eat. Until that time comes, hospice care is a thoughtful way to keep your loved one feeling peaceful.