Families often rely on hospice care to keep their human members comfortable and to allow a dignified passing when the time comes. Many people are surprised to learn that hospice and palliative care are also available for pets suffering from chronic, incurable, and life-limiting disease. The Mobile Cat & Dog Vet team is devoted to providing this care for pets, and supporting pet families during all stages of their pet’s journey. 

What is pet hospice and palliative care?

Pet hospice and palliative care go hand in hand—hospice is the process of providing care and comfort to pets after treatment for chronic or terminal diseases is discontinued, and support and guidance to pet owners and their families. Palliative care simply means relieving pet pain, and is a vital hospice component. Veterinarians can provide in-home care for a more peaceful experience than traveling to the veterinary hospital, and can teach pet parents strategies to provide comfort and care, which allows them to bond more deeply with their pets during their final days, while processing their own grief.

When should you consider pet hospice and palliative care?

Hospice and palliative care are an alternative to lengthy, expensive, or stressful treatment courses for a disease with a poor prognosis. Many pet owners choose to forgo treatment in these cases, and hospice is another option for proactively improving the pet’s quality of life, rather than waiting for them to pass away. Hospice is a good choice when a pet’s disease treatment causes more distress than the disease itself, or when treatment is no longer effective. Each pet, pet owner, and diagnosis are different, but a few common situations where hospice and palliative care may be considered include:

  • Cancer
  • Severe arthritis
  • Progressive neurological disease
  • Chronic organ failure
  • Dementia

What therapies are used in pet hospice and palliative care?

Hospice and palliative care focus on comfort and quality of life, using many different therapies, depending on many factors, including a pet’s diagnosis, temperament, and current condition, along with the family’s wishes and lifestyle. Care may take place at home or in a veterinary facility, administered by the veterinary team or the pet owner themselves, once they have been trained by their veterinarian. Potential therapies may include:

  • Medications for pain or nausea
  • Alternative therapies (i.e., acupuncture, massage, laser, herbs, chiropractic, Chinese traditional medicine)
  • Hot or cold therapy
  • Specialized nutrition
  • Hydration support
  • Mobility assistance
  • Grooming and bathing
  • Training and exercise for mental and physical stimulation

Does hospice care include the pet owner and the family?

Hospice focuses not only on pet care, but also on pet owner support. Pet owners and their families can expect to spend extra time at each veterinary visit discussing therapy options, and learning how to care for their pet and  to assess their quality of life. Most palliative care occurs at home, with pet owners participating as their pet’s primary caregiver. Many pet owners find this helps them deal with loss-related grief, which begins as soon as their pet is diagnosed, helps them feel closer to their pet, and have peace of mind knowing their pet is receiving the love they deserve in their final days. Your hospice veterinarian can also refer you to professionals   who deal with pet loss grief.

How do you prepare to say goodbye?

Hospice veterinarians encourage pet parents and families to discuss their final wishes for their pet before the time comes. Taking care of this difficult process early on allows you to focus more fully on your pet’s care without worrying about what will happen when the time comes. You will monitor your pet’s quality of life at home with your veterinarian’s guidance, and may choose to euthanize when quality of life declines. Our veterinary team can come to your home to provide this service in the most respectful, stress-free manner possible. Pet owners who feel strongly against euthanasia may choose to allow their pet a natural death if hospice care can ensure their final days are comfortable.

End-of-life care and decisions are challenging and emotional for pet owners. While nothing can take away the pain of pet loss, hospice and palliative care can allow pet owners to maximize the time left with their pet and help their pet pass peacefully. Mobile Cat & Dog Vet offers a full suite of hospice care, palliative care, and euthanasia services to meet your pet’s needs, and we can come to you. Contact our team for more information, or to schedule a consultation.