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End of Life Care for Pets FAQ

What Role Do I Play in My Pet's Hospice Care?

Hospice care requires an active commitment from pet parents, who work with their veterinary team to make sure their pet’s life ends comfortably. Your pet will require your constant supervision-from assessing his condition to pain management or, if necessary, making the final decision to opt for euthanasia.

If you decide pet hospice care is the right course for you and your pet, you will become your pet’s primary nurse and caregiver, as well as the link between your pet and the veterinary team.

How Is Pet Hospice Different from Human Hospice Care?

Human hospice care is available to people who have accepted the fact that they are terminally ill and want to stop further medical treatment aimed at a cure. Hospice care allows a person to be relieved of pain in a more comfortable and less expensive setting than a hospital.

Human patients and their families who opt for hospice care have a more developed support system than pet parents. When a pet parent chooses hospice care but cannot care for his pet at home, there are few places that will board and nurse the animal. It may also be more difficult to find a local veterinarian who is an expert in pet hospice care.

How Can I Find a Veterinarian Who Practices Hospice Care?

First consult with your primary veterinarian and see if she recommends hospice care for your pet based on his specific needs. She may already practice some form of hospice care or may refer you to another vet who will guide you through a hospice program.

What Do I Need to Know in Order to Provide Home Hospice Care for My Terminally Ill Pet?

Pet parents who opt for home hospice care will be taught how to administer pain medication, change bandages, provide fluid therapy and perform general nursing duties, including keeping their pets comfortable and clean.

One of the most important tasks as caretaker is to observe and report any changes in your pet’s behavior, weight, temperature, eating habits, mobility and overall well-being. If you notice any changes, immediately contact your veterinarian, who will adjust your pet’s medication and treatment accordingly. It’s also important to remember that euthanasia may still be necessary with hospice care. If a peaceful, natural end is unlikely or your pet is in pain, you may decide to end his suffering with euthanasia.

Will My Pet Show Signs that He Is Ready to Pass Away?

To be as aware as possible of your pet’s condition, you should:

  • Be able to recognize signs of physical suffering typical of your pet’s age and/or illness. Your veterinarian is the best source of this information.
  • Prevent unnecessary suffering in your terminally ill, injured or aged animal by finding ways to assess your pet’s quality of life. With your vet’s help, figure out the signs of a good day compared to a bad day and keep a record of how often the signs of pain appear.
  • Be as informed as you can about your pet’s behavior. Being unaware or unable to assess signs and symptoms will exhaust family members and put your pet at risk of lingering longer than is comfortable.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

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