Palliative and hospice care for pets

There is a growing movement to provide for needs of aging, sick and dying animals, in the same way that we provide for the needs of people. While we are fortunate in that we can ultimately spare our beloved pets suffering by way of euthanasia, and this for many will be their first choice, there is increased recognition of the significant benefits of animal hospice and providing palliative care to take care of symptomatic needs such as pain, poor circulation, respiratory distress or lack of mobility. 

Whether - and when - to choose palliative, animal hospice and/or euthanasia for a sick or dying pet is a very personal decision. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you as to what is best for your pet. However animal hospice and palliative care is a new concept and not every veterinarian will be familiar with it. There are however a growing number of veterinarians who specialize in this area and will be able to support your vet in advising you.

Palliative care and hospice care

Palliative care and hospice care are two separate concepts though often confused. Palliative care refers to relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease at any stage of an illness. It is particularly significant in the context of terminal illness and end-of-life care. 

Hospice care is palliative care but it is also about giving patients and their caregivers control, dignity and comfort during the time they have remaining to live and until the end of hospice-assisted death or planned euthanasia. It doesn’t signify a particular place as we have come to associate with hospices for people, although in some countries, these can be now found for pets. 

You can read more about animal hospice and palliative care on the website of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, www.iaahpc.org.